Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Flexibility you Need: Benefits of Home Equity Lines of Credit

However, you may wonder what the differences between home equity loans and home equity lines of credit are.

Home Equity

When you have a mortgage on your home but the value of the property exceeds the amount owed, the difference between the outstanding debt and the property value is referred as Home Equity. This remaining property value can be used to guarantee another loan: A Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit.

Home Equity Loans are secured loans with a fixed or variable interest rate, a fixed loan amount and a fixed, though negotiable, repayment program. A home equity loan is just like any other loan, only it is secured with the equity you have built on your home and thus carries fewer interests.

A Home Equity Line of Credit on the other hand, comes only with a variable interest rate, there is no fixed loan amount, though there is a credit maximum and the repayment is extremely flexible. The home equity line of credit is also secured on the home equity.

Interest Rate

Since both are secured, the interest rate charged is considerably low. Only home equity loans with a fixed rate can have a slightly higher interest. Home equity loans with a variable rate usually carry a somewhat lower interest rate. Home equity lines of credit, on the other hand, carry only a variable interest rate that is usually similar to the home equity loan fixed interest rate.

Loan amount

Home equity loans come with a fixed loan amount that can equal or be a bit higher than the home equity value. Home equity lines of credit are somewhat different: There is no loan amount, a credit maximum amount is set and you can borrow as much money as you need up to that amount. For example: If a $50.000 limit is set you could borrow $10.000 and a month later borrow $20.000 more. And so on till you reach the credit maximum.


Home equity loans come with a fixed repayment schedule which has to be followed strictly with some exceptions. Though, there are in some cases grace periods and waivers you could apply for, if you request a home equity loan you will probably have rigid installments or at least a fixed amount plus a variable amount depending on interest rate variations.

Home equity lines of credit let you repay the amount you owe they way you want to do it. You have an open line of credit where you can borrow and repay as much as you want as long as you do not exceed the credit limit. Moreover, as opposed to home equity loans, lines of credit do not require to be renewed as you can always borrow more as long as there is credit left. If your home equity grows either by an increase on your property value or because of a reduction on your mortgage debt, you can ask for your credit maximum to be recalculated.

Mary Wise

Hitting the 401K

There is sometimes a sense of panic that sets in when you see your credit card bills begin to spiral out of control. When you are fairly new to that sense of being trapped by credit, you may turn to a second mortgage. But then if the credit card bills continue to grow and grow, as they are designed to do, you suddenly realize you have put your home on the line and it might now be in danger if you default on those bills.

This is when that mountain of debt can begin to knock on the door of your last remaining resources to try to fight back and you have to make some important decisions. And one is whether it would be a good idea to cash in your retirement money or borrow on your 401K to get enough money to try to bring down your debt levels. So deciding whether this is a good idea is a huge gamble because if you win, you could eliminate debt entirely. But if you lose, there goes your protection for your senior years and maybe the little nest egg you wanted to pass along to the kids as an inheritance.

Hitting the 401K to pay off your credit card debt is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. The most obvious reason is that your retirement money is tax deferred so when you put it into that account, you didn’t pay any taxes on it. You don’t have to pay taxes on it until you take it out. On top of that, the money is intended to stay in reserve until you hit retirement age so in a lot of cases, if you take it out early, there is a big penalty you have to pay.

So right away if you cash out your retirement funds to pay down or pay off your credit card debt, you are losing a lot of money to those penalties and taxes. You might want to calculate how much that penalty is going to be compared to the interest you might save because it’s a big pay off just to get to those funds.

The prevailing logic of hitting the 401k is that in theory you will save more money from the interest than you would make from the investment. But there is some solid logic for leaving those retirement funds right where hey are. For one thing, debt will come and go but retirement funds have a tendency to going away and never coming back. Once you cash out those retirement funds and give the money over to credit card debt, your retirement is gone. But if you find ways to take care of that credit card debt and leave your retirement alone, it is there for you and you have that sense of ownership that the debt has not taken everything from you.

One possible alternative is to borrow against your 401K and use it as collateral. Now in this case you are still just swapping out debt for debt. But secured debt is often easier to get a favorable interest rate and you can cap it so the rate doesn’t float around like credit card debt. So there is some rational for going that route. But if that is an option, you are still putting a very important part of your financial future on the line so tread carefully.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home Equity Lines of Credit

Alright, you've been a homeowner for some 10 years now, and you've decided it's time for improvement and expansion. What is the best way to obtain the funding for home improvement projects? A home equity line of credit is often the most feasible and profitable way to access extra cash for home improvement.

How do you obtain home equity credit? What lenders provide home-equity credit? And who qualifies for home-equity created? All these questions will be answered in the following paragraphs, and hopefully from the information below, you'll be at a more educated consumer.

All the equity lines of credit are obtained based on the amount of equity you have built into your column. If you had your mortgage for over 10 years you have established a considerable amount of equity and should be able to draw on that equity to improve and make repairs on your home.

Fixed rate mortgages or adjustable rate mortgages provide a consumer with the greatest opportunity for building equity in their home while paying for their home interest-only loans, 125 loans, and balloon notes do not help the consumer build equity over a very short time.

Quite often as we shop for mortgage products we don't stop to think about the "down the road" needs we might experience as a homeowner. That's why today's market of interest-only loans and 125 loans do not seem to operate in the consumer's favour. As you make your mortgage payment each month a portion of the payment is diverted to the interest, and the remaining amount is applied to principal; it is through this process that we build 'equity' in our home.

Over the course of the life of the home, say 10 years from now, we manage to outgrow our homes, we manage to overuse our homes and we manage to create a situation that is in need of repair. If you have a fixed rate mortgage or an adjustable rate mortgage you have managed to build the equity in your home and you high on the opportunity to open a home-equity line of credit, provided you have also taken care to protect your credit rating.

The amount of equity of establishing your home and your credit rating will determine the credit limit you receive on a home-equity line of credit. Your lending institution, your local bank, or for whom ever holds your mortgage will be the entity you approach for a home-equity line of credit.

So long as your payments are up-to-date, your credit is good, and you have a substantial amount of equity in your home you will qualify for a home-equity loan that is comparable to an open line of credit. You withdraw from your line of credit as necessary.

If your loan limit is say $10,000, and you need $4000 for plumbing repairs, you simply write a check drawn on your line of credit account to cover the expense and you would begin to pay interest on the loan amount of $4000. Seems to be a very simple way to operate wouldn't you say?

Many of the leading institutions think so thus they created a home-equity line of credit; it's a benefit for the consumer and it's a benefit for the lending institution. The consumer has a quick way to draw on the equity in their home, and the late institution has a great way to make a profit. So what would be the downside of a home-equity line of credit? There doesn't seem to be one.

The only downside we've been able to find, with that of the consent of the purchases the interest only loan, the 125 loan, or any of the many variations from these bases that does not allow for the building of equity as the mortgage is paid. Quite often the consumer does not realize the potential danger when purchasing interest-only and 125s.

But the mortgage lender does, or should. It was for this very reason during the 1920s at the interest only loan was shelved and taken from the market. We seem to have forgotten the lessons learned. For the consumer a home without equity, is a home without protection. A home without equity is not a benefit for the consumer.

Uchenna Ani-Okoye

Your Secret Weapon Against Credit Card Debt

The television advertisements and dozens of junk mail advertisements you get all make big promises. They are real good at selling the idea that they can get you out of credit card debt with some phenomenal program or secret weapon that you can find only by coming to them. When you think about it, these people are pretty despicable. They are seeking to make money by preying on people who already are deep in debt. The want to victimize the victims and in many societies, they put people in jail for that.

Anyway, you and I both know that most of those slick marketing productions that pitch getting you out of credit card debt through some sophisticated and costly program are a bunch of hot air. But there is a secret weapon right under your nose that if you can set off its amazing power, it can get you out of credit card debt and keep you there.

This secret weapon is pretty amazing and you know we aren’t trying to market anything to you because this secret weapon doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t require you send off for anything and you can find it right in your own home and put it to work immediately at no cost to you. But it is also a secret weapon that is not “sexy” and it will not make you go “OOO” and “AHH” by impressing you with its slick design.

The secret weapon is a budget. See, we told you it wasn’t a sexy solution. But when you analyze why you have the credit card debt in the first place, putting a rock solid budget in place is the foundation of a long term solution to your problem. The marketers can give you all kinds of fancy analysis and discussion on the cause of credit card debt in your life that will put the blame on everything from the foreign exchange rate to immigration to global warming. But it doesn’t do you a bit of good to point fingers about the problem. The only thing that will do you good is to give you the tools and weapons to fix it.

There is just no getting around it, you are in trouble with your credit because you are living above your means. In other words, you are spending more than you make. This isn’t to throw a lot of blame and guilt around. There are a lot of situations that can cause you to live above your means. You could lose your job or have an emergency in the family that can cause you financial worries. But when the money going out is the more money than is coming in, you have a problem that will drive up your credit card debt.

To write a budget, you simply sit down and take inventory of those two factors. You inventory how much money you have coming in. Then you inventory how much money you have to pay out. This step alone is a huge step forward toward getting your debt problem under control. A computer spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel is excellent for this kind of family budget planning and analysis because you can move things around and let the computer do the math for you.

Don’t make excuses about this. If you don’t know how much a certain kind of spending costs you, dig out your receipts for the last few months and get a feel for it. But once you know your income and your bills, you can tell if there is a gap. Then you can make plans to close that gap either by getting more income or by cutting out some bills or both.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun. But if you get on a budget and stay there, you have the basic foundation for a solid family financial plan and you can move forward from there. You may go on to use some other tools to bring your credit card debt under control such as credit card consolidation or balance transfers. But don’t do a thing before you find that secret weapon and make it start working for you. And that secret weapon is a realizing and reliable family budget.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Home Equity Line of Credit

To borrow a sum of money against your equity is popularly known as home equity line of credit. Home equity line of credit loans are a form of credit using one's home as collateral. Unlike home equity loans in which a homeowner receives a one-time lump sum of money, home equity lines of credit involve an approved credit limit that homeowners borrow money from. More and more financial lenders are offering a home equity line of credit. What is a home equity line of credit? The simplest definition is that it is a type of credit line that allows the property owner to obtain a loan using his home as collateral.

Since for most consumers homes are the largest asset they own, a home equity line of credit is used mainly for major expenditures such as home improvements and renovations, education, medical bills and others. A home equity line of credit is becoming more popular as property values climb, and consumers find out how they can manage their personal debt more efficiently.

How does a home equity line of credit work? A home equity line of credit uses the equity in your home as collateral for your loan. If you are planning to apply for a home equity line of credit, it is best to consult an expert in the field, so that you can discuss it in full detail. Lenders who offer home equity credit lines will be eager to explain every aspect to help you understand it and make the best decision.. Study thoroughly the credit agreement, as well as the terms and conditions of various plans. Take note of the annual percentage rate or APR, as well as other particulars.

If you are in need of money, Equity Line Of Credit might be a good solution to find a credit. First of all, they offer you big cash at comparatively low interest rates. But at the same time equity credit line takes your home as security. This step by the financial companies may put your home at risk. If you are unable to refinance within the specified time, you might end up losing your home. At the same time, home equity line of credit offers you easy access to money at times of need. So incase you are confused and cannot decide if home equity line of credit will benefit you in the long run, it is recommended that you consult a financial adviser before applying for a home equity line credit.


Avoiding Credit Card Debt Before it Sneaks up on You

In this modern time where the economy has been such a challenge for everyday people like you and me to keep up, it’s easy to get into credit trouble when your credit bills begin to stack up. So if you are in the position to just start learning the ropes of the world of credit cards, there are a lot of things you can do to avoid credit card debt before it sneaks up on you and keep your nose clean, as they say.

This is an outstanding goal for you if you are just getting your first credit cards. If you know or talk to anyone who is battling tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt, you know what a jail sentence it can be. Once that credit card debt gets that high, the time it will take even under the best of conditions to bring it down runs into the years if not decades. And for all that time, thousands of dollars of money goes down the drain to credit interest that doesn’t buy you any food, tickets to the movies or new clothes. It just goes away with no value to you at all.

But if you are new to the world of credit, getting a credit card is a good thing. But once you get one, keeping it under control is job one. You will find it amazingly easy to use a credit card once it comes. In fact, the retail world makes it difficult to conduct transactions any other way. You can pay for gas at the pump that way and even charge your groceries at the grocery store. And while all of these great uses for credit are helpful, you can end up with a whopper of a credit card bill at the end of the month. And if you don’t pay that bill off, that is the first step on a lifelong jail term in credit card debt jail.

So there are some guidelines you should follow to both use credit responsibly but also to keep building your credit rating which has a real value to you. Remember that what the credit card companies don’t tell you is that making a charge on a credit card is a loan. Even if you just charge ten bucks to go to the movies, you took out an unsecured loan to finance that movie ticket.

So once you start using a credit card, keep in mind that you will be paying back everything you run up on it. It is NOT free money. A good practice is to save every receipt every month and keep a running tally of what you have spent on credit. Now only can you use that to cross check your credit card, it keeps you honest because each time you add a charge to your credit card, you can update your tally so you know for certain that you will be able to pay it off when the bill comes.

Paying off the credit card each month is the number one best way to keep your credit problems under control. Now it isn’t a bad idea to let a little bit of the debt drift from month to month. This builds your credit history and credit rating which will pay you well down the road when you want to buy a larger purchase. But by staying on top of your credit and what is going onto your card, you will start out with the kind of habits that will lead to a life of good credit use without credit card jail. And that is a wonderful gift to give yourself early in life.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Route Out of Debt

There is no question that having some credit cards is a great way to pay for things that is more convenient and even safer than always paying cash. And it really isn’t practical to pay with everything by check because so many purchases would be slowed down by that method or retailers just don’t accept them like they used to.

In many cases, having a credit card is down right necessary. Any more buying gas involves using a credit card at the pump which saves time and effort. And because a credit card always delivers a report to you at the end of the month in statement, it’s an easy way to keep track of how you are spending your money.

The problem comes when you spend more on the credit card than you can repay. Unfortunately, credit card companies are not there to keep you from living beyond your means. If you make your payments on time and are a responsible credit card owner, they will keep increasing your credit limit so you can charge all you want. But when the debt level on those credit cards becomes a debt you carry from month to month, that is when credit card debt can get out of control.

You don’t need to be told that good financial management is the key to keeping your credit card debt problem at bay. But sometimes the bills stack up and circumstances beyond your control call on you to use that extra credit and you end up with a credit card bill that is becoming uncontrollable. That is when you have to turn to alternate methods to build a route out of debt and back to a firm financial footing.

One of the real culprits of getting out of debt to the credit cards you own are the high interest rates that are often charged to service that debt. If you have to pay 15%, 20% or more for a large credit card debt, the amount you pay in that actually brings down the principle is so small that the time when you can expect to be debt free is far into the future.

So the first step is to move that debt to a credit vehicle that is more manageable. There are a number of ways to do this using resources you may already have at your disposal. Many turn to a second mortgage on their home. By working with your mortgage company, they can advance you another loan based on the amount of equity you have in your house and that interest rate can be capped at a reasonable level so you can pay down that debt and not keep fighting that ever rising interest rate problem.

You can also look at your life insurance to see if you can draw a loan against that accumulated value. If you have been paying on it for many years, a life insurance policy that carries value such as a whole life policy may have enough equity that you can use that money to leverage your debt and retire the credit card debt entirely. You may still have to face a regular payment to pay off the life insurance loan but it is manageable and something you can budget against which puts the control back in your hands.

A third option is to use a professional debt consolidation company. This is yet another credit resource who will be making money from the loan via interest. But this kind of agency is not a credit card company so they will just loan you enough to retire your debt and then work with you to work down that debt while living within your means otherwise.

Once you select the right route out of debt you are going to use, it’s important you do not let that credit card debt climb up again. Learning good budget skills and working to keep your lifestyle within your means is crucial to not only getting out of debt but staying that way. But with good money management, a responsible debt consolation plan working for you and a mature approach to your finances, you can see daylight on getting out of debt once and for all.

Budget Home Makeover With Your Refinance Home Loan

Living in a house that's in sad disrepair can be a drag. It does sap your energy when you look at stained vinyl floors, peeling paint, and a gloomy kitchen. A refinance home loan can do wonders for a house that's screaming for a makeover.

Double Whammy with A Refinance Home Loan

If you're roused from sleep by the leak from the ceiling that's also showing signs of rotting and peeling paint, it's time to fix the roof, not push your bed to a corner to place a basin on the spot to catch the drip. Perhaps your kitchen is an eyesore with dishes and pans crowding out each other on a narrow counter and a jam-packed crockery cabinet. Don't let your mortgage sit prettily, get a refinance home loan to give your house a makeover it deserves.

A home loan refinance also gives you a crack at a mortgage with lower interest rates. If your mortgage is on its fifth year, you've already deducted thousands of dollars from your balance. This can maneuver a mortgage that's smaller than your initial loan. A lower monthly payment becomes possible because of reduced interest rates. Plus you can pay off your initial mortgage and have the cash you need to do some home improvements.

The further federal cuts in interest rates may be good for your existing adjustable rate mortgage. Interest rates are at the lowest. This is a good time to get a home loan refinance BUT approval will depend largely on your credit score. However, some banks or lending institutions may be able to work it out with you.

The amount of your home loan refinance will be determined by your credit score and the current assessed value of your home. Of course, you won't be doing a Hollywood makeover for your little home. But you can do a makeover that will be the envy of your neighbors - without cleaning out your pockets. A dash of creativity and ingenuity can stretch your home loan refinance proceeds.

Home Improvement on A Budget

If your roof has leaks, have it inspected and assessed by a professional. Perhaps it will only entail the replacement of roofing materials on a small area. The affected ceiling can be restored to its previous state with some tricks of the trade.

You can have the kitchen refurbished with more cabinets and the walls freshly painted with warmer hues. Have your cabinet refaced and drawers added. This is cheaper than having a new set of cabinets. Update your lighting fixtures and change the sink and kitchen faucet set. The baths can be buffed up with minimal cost. Change the toilet seat covers and re-grout dingy and chipped tiles. Rid the stained bath floor and install vinyl flooring and a fresh coat of paint on the bath walls will work magic. Voila! The transformation will be incredible.

Make the Switch Now

If the current value of your home is appraised at $200,000 and you own $100,000, your equity is $100,000. With your refinance home loan, you can opt for cash out to do some minor home makeovers. Who knows? You might be moving out of the house with a buyer ready to take over. Just in time when you've done a good job with your home improvement. It does pay to be ready for any eventuality.

Talk about your requirements with your loan agent to switch from an ARM to a fixed rate mortgage. You want an interest rate much lower than your current mortgage and the cash out option. Review or repair your credit score so you can get the best rates in town. Mortgage companies are adapting stricter controls and the best gauge to assess if you're a good risk is your credit score. If your credit score is good, your refinance home loan will be approved without a hitch.

Rony Walker

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Divorce and Credit Card Debt

When a marriage comes to an end, it’s always a tragedy. Of course the rending of the family unit and the difficulty for the kids is the hardest thing about separating at divorce. But the difficulty of separating one house into two can be difficult and tedious to say the least. You have to go from one checking account to two, two homes instead of one and separate accounts for everything from credit cards to utilities.

The is an additional overhead to how to handle a divorce situation if in addition to splitting your assets, credit card debt that may have been a part of the shared family financial picture also must be split up. To the credit card company, that family credit card is the property of that shared entity which was the marriage. So when the union splits up, the transition from a financial point of view of your accounts separating is not over night.

So one of the many issues to be discussed and a plan made for is how to separate that credit card debt. Whoever continues to hold the family accounts will continue to get those bills and be expected to pay them. Now the least preferable way to handle the debt is to build the payments into any forced settlement agreement such as child support. So at the time the divorce is final, the amount of the debt and the payments that must be made could be calculated and half of that put into the amount that the income generating partner must provide.

But that leaves the management of those credit card debts to one partner and the other one just has to pay a set amount. And if the credit cards get used by either partner, that legal amount would have to constantly be changed and that would prove to be a constant headache of administration.

If the divorce is a shared responsibility so each spouse can work with the other to adjust the financial picture in an advantageous way, then how to separate the credit card debt should be part of that planning. Part of that planning is how to use shared assets to pay down that debt. You may have a home that will be sold, retirement accounts or other assets that were set aside for the future of the marriage. Before you sell those things, close those accounts and distribute the funds, look at using the outcome to retire that shared debt.

But it’s likely some of that debt load will live on past the divorce. In those cases splitting into two individual accounts may be the way to go. In that way, if the family was carrying $10,000 in debt, if each marriage partner walks away with $5000 of the debt, that is at least fair and equitable and how each individual handles that debt is up to them.

There are two ways you can go about splitting the credit card debt. If the debt is with a carrier with whom you can negotiate and conduct a dialog, getting a meeting or having a conference call with the managers there would be productive. The credit card company would far rather negotiate with you how to handle this debt load then deal with it chaotically after the fact. So they may be willing to set up separate individual accounts and split the debt for you.

But you can always use the method many of us have used to manage credit card debt up until now. Each of you can set up some new separate credit card accounts. You no doubt have dozens of credit card offers coming in that you can use to kick off this process. Almost always part of the set up offers for these accounts are balance transfers. So if you take out individual accounts and use the balance transfers to move each partners shared part of the debt to those accounts, that would be a clean way to split the debt up.

There may be adjustments to be made to the 50-50 split idea based on who is the primary bread winner and maybe who ran up the debt and on what. But by negotiating the terms of how you are going to separate the credit card debt when you separate the marriage, that will be one more than that you are handling in a mature and responsible manner in the middle of a very tough situation.

100% Home Loan Financing - Flex your Muscle

With the current “mortgage meltdown” we hear so much about these days, your average consumer thinks that the days of 100% financing have gone by the wayside. True, you are hard pressed these days to find a bank or lender that will want to carry a second mortgage that combined with a first mortgage adds up to 100% financing. That’s because if there is a default, sitting in second lien position is particularly dicey. Too much risk is involved. And since, in recent history, that scenario of the 80/20 combo was the most common 100% financing vehicle available to a certain group of consumers (non first time homebuyers), there’s a misconception out there that 100% options are all but dried up.

But, a-ha! There is hope for someone who has great credit but prefers to invest his/her assets elsewhere when rates are so low. It’s called the Flex 100. And it can apply to purchases and refinance transactions.

I heard an analyst mention on television the other day that mortgage money is so cheap right now it’s like a sale at Macy’s. That made me chuckle, but it’s true. In which case, why not invest your money elsewhere if you qualify for 100% financing. After all, the homes are still appreciating in most areas, but not at the stellar rate we saw in the past.

The Flex 100 requires you to invest $500 of your own cash towards the transaction, so I guess it’s technically not 100% financing, but it’s pretty darn close. And no, you don’t have to be buying your first home to get this deal. You can actually have owned a home in the past three years! However, it does apply to financing your primary residence only. You can’t get this deal for that nice cabin in Gatlinburg you want to use on the weekends or for that great rental down the street you think you can get a good deal on. You’ve got to live in the house to qualify for this financing.

But you can do a refinance, as long as it’s not a “cash-out,” meaning you’re not paying off debt or taking equity out of the property. It must be a rate term refinance only. However, you can pay off that second mortgage or home equity line of credit you hate, IF you obtained that 2nd lien mortgage when you got your first mortgage (a piggy back closing, we call it). Or to make it clearer, you originally had that 80/20 combo mentioned earlier. If you got that home equity mortgage a month or two after your initial closing to build a deck or payoff a credit card, than it that won’t work for a Flex 100 refinance.

What about your credit score? Well, it will affect the price you get, but there is no “minimum” credit score required for this program. You just have to get an approval through the automated underwriting system required. But be realistic – if you’ve got “iffy” credit, you probably won’t get an approval. A borrower with a credit score below a 620 would probably have to have a low loan to value or debt to income ratio for a chance of an approval.

A Flex 100 may or may not make sense for you. But hey, at least you know it’s an option. Your lender should be able to help you determine if this opportunity to flex your mortgage muscle makes sense for you.

Kristin Abouelata

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Jail Cell of Credit Card Debt

There is a thing as what the experts call “the problem solving process”. This is a systematic method for solving problems that you always use to go from the starting point where the problem is to the ending point where the problem is resolved. There are six basic steps to the problem solving process and none of them can be skipped. They are…

1. Recognize the problem
2. Define the problem
3. Propose solutions
4. Identify risks and costs
5. Select the best solution
6. Implement the solution.

This process always works because there is no room for emotions, excuses or procrastination. You step from the first phase to the last in prompt fashion and the problem becomes solved.

Many times when it comes to credit card debt, people don’t like to recognize the problem. In 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is always to just recognize that you have a problem. And this is very often the biggest obstacle for someone who is seeing their credit card debt begin to take over their lives.

The credit card companies are no help. They like nothing more than to do all they can to make you incur more and more debt. It isn’t necessarily that they are evil but this is how they make a living. The money from the interest you pay on your credit card debt goes to pay for the houses, meals, college educations and fancy cars of many credit card company executives. That alone should make you want to pull the plug on this grand scam called credit card debt.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Credit card debt is a loan that you don’t have to fill out any more paperwork than just to get the card. Once you have it, the credit card companies are thrilled to jack up your credit limit to where you can buy more and more and more all the while your interest rate creeps up too. Before long the debt level is huge and you are sending them hundreds of dollars and a big part of that payment is the interest.

Interest is money that doesn’t buy anything. It is money the credit card company gets for doing nothing more than housing your debt. If we could get perspective on credit card debt, we would see that there is no rational explanation why one credit card can charge 5% interest and another one charge 25% interest. The credit card companies owe us no explanation of what that money goes for.

It’s not like when you buy a loaf of bread that may cost one dollar for one kind of bread but three dollars for another kind of bread. In those cases you can easily see that the higher priced bread is of higher quality, tastes better or is more nutritious than the cheap bread. You literally get more for your money. When a credit card company charges you a higher rate of interest, there is no increased value for what they give you. They don’t give you anything. If a credit card company raises your interest rate from 10% to 20%, you don’t get twice as much good service or any kind of product for that extra money that are taking out of your product.

Then how can they get away with it? They do it because they can get away with it and there’s no indication that any governmental body is going to make them stop. They get away with it because we don’t get outraged and drop them when they cheat us like that. And they get away with it because credit card debt is a jail cell and we can’t get out.

The purpose of this discussion is to get us to step one of the problem solving process. It is to make us aware that we are being had and to make you good and outraged. If you are outraged that you have a problem, then you can move on to step two and there and four and look for a solution and then do whatever it takes to make that solution happen. And when you do that, you are well on your way to springing open the door of the jail cell of credit card debt and walking away a free man or woman, hopefully never to go into that jail again.

How to Get That Dream Home Loan

You've been planning to buy a home of your own for such a long time now, but getting yourself into a home loan is the last idea on your mind. And so you wait forever until you have saved enough to buy it in cash at the same time you live terribly in your drafty apartment. The reluctance to get a home mortgage is understandable. I know how frustrating it is to be asked to pay for mortgage rates that we can hardly afford. But you also need to keep in mind that with the appropriate home mortgage lender, you both may work out what the great alternatives for you are. Home loan lending fees vary. Not all of them are expensive. You merely need to learn how and where to get them.

Before you decide to scout and search for a lender, evaluate your finances first. Know your paying capability. Deduct your regular monthly costs from your consolidated monthly household earnings and you obtain the accurate amount that you can afford for your monthly loan. When you have good credit score, you will most likely qualify for the lowest mortgage fees there is. But then, when you're in a poor credit position, you might benefit from other choices such as a no money down home loan or a secured home equity loan. Specific lenders also give home loans for women with bad credit. It's best to learn the available preferences for you and then search for suggestion from a professional on which option would work greatly for you.

Furthermore, it is a pretty logic to have an approximation of how much you're going to be paying each month for a certain unit by obtaining a free mortgage quote in the Internet. Gather as much loan quotes and related information as you could. Get knowledgeable on the ins and outs of home loan lending. If you're equipped with the correct information, you're less likely to be conned by loan sharks who are merely out to pursue you. There are several of them around, so get me a favor and be vigilant for them. Or at least be prepared must they try to place you into their trap.

Mortgage standards vary from state to state. California mortgage lenders might process a mortgage application differently from a Florida home loan lender. Thus, skim on mortgage laws on the state where you are thinking planning to purchase your house. The federal mortgage rules might be similar, but how each state perform things can vary. This would prevent confusion and conflicts along the way.

So you've analyzed your finances, your credit rating has been restored, or at least you've studied your choices, and you discover you can afford a mortgage loan. You got yourself a mortgage quote or an estimate of how much you'll be paying monthly and you're well learned on the prevailing interest rates. Thirty-year mortgage charges differ from a fifteen-year mortgage charge or lower. Plus, you have read up on loan laws of the certain state you have in mind as well as the kinds of mortgage loans and you know your alternatives. Thus, I guess now you are prepared to seek for a lender. Again, be firm. This is your future you're dealing with.

Rony Walker

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Getting Everybody Into the Act

In most families, there is one person whose job it is to take care of the family budget. It usually is dad or mom and it is that adult’s job to make sure all the bills are paid and that the family budget is healthy so the family can afford the good things everyone needs to live a comfortable life. This is an important job because no family can continue to function without a viable and realistic budget. Many have said that if a lot of companies or even our country were to be run with the same sense of reality and making the books balance that the average mom uses, we would all be better off.

The only problem with this system is sometimes its easy to look at the family budget as “mom’s problem” or the problem of whoever it is that takes care of paying the bills. So when a serious problem comes up like an explosion of credit card bills, mom can get pretty overwhelmed especially if there is no way to curb credit card spending so there can always be enough on hand to pay those bills off.

This is where taking on the challenge of beating high credit card debt has to be everybody’s job. For starters, everyone needs to know the limits on spending. It does no good if the person who does the budget knows exactly how much everyone can spend on food, entertainment and new things but nobody else follows those rules. If the other spouse and the kids are out on the town on a spending spree, that is going to overwhelm the budget.

So if that is one of the sources of credit card abuse in your family, its time for the family to get together and have a discussion. Each member of the family must understand that there is such a thing as fiscal responsibility and if credit card abuse is done by any one member of the family, the privilege of that credit card is going to be taken away.

But the family unit can really become a powerful force for change when it comes to taking on a mountain sized credit card debt. It will take some skill to present the challenge to the family that defeating this foe must be a family job and everybody has to get into the act. But if you do get everybody in on the challenge and take it on as a big adventure, not only will it bring about a lot of family unity, it can be a lot of fun too.

The attack plan must be seen as just that, an aggressive attack on the credit card problem that can threaten the family’s financial safety. That is cutting costs. Have everyone in the family come up with one way to save money each week. It might be as simple as turning off their lights before leaving for school or as ambitious as giving up cable TV or cutting in half the amount of times they have to go to the movies. If each person can contribute one big cost savings a week, that sense of accomplishment and self esteem for pitching in to win this war with credit card debt will pay off.

In the same way, if each member can think of ways to increase income, that can really help the budget out. It might mean the kids picking up more chores so dad and mom can work second jobs for a little while. It might even mean that the kids will do some chores or take part time jobs and add a little to the budget from what they make. But whatever the contribution, if everybody gets into the act, the family can win against credit card debt. And that is a worthwhile family project.

Using Home Equity Loans To Make Home Improvements

Home improvement loans can provide money for a complete home remodel or specific home improvements. These upgrades can transform your house into a home and increase your property value. Another benefit is that the money is tax deductible. As long as you carefully evaluate your fincancial situation, you may use a home equity loan to make home improvements.

Home improvement loans are not the same as construction loans. Construction loans provide financing for building and completion of a new structure. A home improvement loan is essentially a home equity loan placed on your existing home that you currently occupy. The lender generally pays you in one lump-sum at closing. This is also sometimes called a second mortgage loan.

Home equity loans are great if you only want to borrow small amounts of money for home improvements and pay off the loan in a short amount of time. A home equity line of credit can create flexibility and convenience by giving you the ability to withdraw money in varying amounts as necessary. However, home equity credit lines generally use adjustable interest rates and this carries the potential risk of increasing over the life of the home equity loan.

Lenders rarely place restrictions on home improvement projects as long as they are conform to your local building requirements. Depending on the size of the home improvement project scope of the job, you may do the home improvement work yourself or hire a general contractor. Be certain you read the fine print on your home equity loan for home improvements because some lenders may require you to hire a contractor for the project which can significantly increase the cost of your home improvement project.

Terms for home equity loans can range from 5 to 25 or even 30 years. Some lenders offer fixed rate as well as balloon rate options. The minimum amount you may borrow for a home equity loan is generally about $10,000. You can most often times borrow up to 100% or, in some cases, even as much as 125% of the value of your home. However, most lenders will limit a home equity loan for home improvements to a maximum of $1,000,000.

Rebecca Welch

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Time to Get Good and Angry About That Credit Card Debt

There is something strange about what happens to all of us psychologically when we see our credit card debt just keep climbing and climbing with no end in sight. For some reason, our emotional reaction is often one of ambivalence or even acceptance as though having a mountain of debt to credit card companies is a part of life and no big deal.

But it is a big deal. When a huge portion of your monthly budget goes to servicing debt, it’s a big deal because that money could be going toward a better house, a new car or even just for something fun for you or your family. Whatever it might buy is a lot better than it just being thrown away as interest on a ridiculously high credit mountain.

So as much as we all do strive for peace and keeping a positive attitude about life, in order to get some motivation to get out there and defeat this monster we call credit card debt, it might be time to get good and angry about the way credit cards handle our accounts and find the guts to finally find a way to just up and fire them.

In the retail world, it is a crime to use false advertising or pull off hat is called “bait and switch”. Bait and switch is a tactic where they advertise a price for a retail item and then when you get to the store, the price is wrong on the shelf or for some other reason (like, we ran out of the ones at the sale price), they bilk you into paying the non-sale price. That’s cheating and it’s wrong.

Credit card companies are the international grand champions of bait and switch. When they send you those glossy, well worded invitations to low interest, “no cost” credit cards, they have no intention of honoring that offer. Oh sure, they might set up the accounts that way. But if you read the fine print of what you are signing when you apply for the credit card, they retain the right to change the rules of how your credit bill is handled without notice and without restrictions. That means that even if they said there will be no annual fee, they can impose one and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it.

Even more outrageous is the fact that credit card companies can and often do raise the cost of what you are paying for the goods or services you bought using your credit card, again without any notice at all. So if you bought a refrigerator on your credit card which at the time was charging 8% interest, the credit card company can up and raise your interest level to 20% overnight, with no reason for doing so and with no notice to you. So what just happened is they jacked up the price of the refrigerator you bought and you have to pay it. If that doesn’t get you good and mad, well, it should.

If you watch how the credit card companies handle your accounts, you can tell they are looking for any excuse to raise your rates. If your payment comes in an hour late, they can double your rates. And guess what? They are the ones who determine if your payment came in late. So if you mail it a week and a half a head of time, they can still claim it as late and jack up your interest rate and impose a huge penalty for late payment.

It’s just amazing and completely outrageous that credit card companies are able to change the rules of how you do business with them with no respect for you as a customer and with no intervention by any federal agency. In fact, the concept that the federal government is in the pockets of the credit card companies is reinforced over and over again.

Getting good and mad about credit card debt can mobilize you to do some things that are long overdue. It might be overdue for you to contact your congressman and start putting them on notice that we aren’t going to take this anymore. But it is definitely overdue for you to see the credit card companies for what they are and fire them by getting rid of that credit card debt once and for all.

Pros And Cons Of Home Equity Loans

Home equity loan is one among the most popular home loans available today. It is a second mortgage loan with characteristic properties of a secured loan. The popularity of the home equity loan has attracted many people to home equity loan. In general, equity loans does not have arise much complaints from the people. However as any other coin, home equity loan also have two sides. Hence, the detailed analysis of the loan is essential to differentiate the features of the home equity loan. The cross analysis of the pros and cons of the home equity loan helps to avoid stepping in to the home loans with false expectations.

The pros of the home equity loans include the advantages that a borrower can enjoy from the home equity loan. The benefits of the home equity loan usually outweigh other secured and unsecured loans since it is a risk free loan for the lender. The home equity loan provides maximum amount, in proportionate to the value of the equity. For good houses situated in the real estate booming locations, home equity loan lenders used to provide high appraisal of even 125%. In most cases at least 80% appraisal is always provided. The attractive interest rate is another advantage of the home equity loans. Usually the interest rate of the home equity loan is selected in fixed rates.

Among the pros of the home equity loan, the most pronounced benefit is the tax deduction. The amount taken as home equity loan below $100,000 is exempted from the tax payment. Hence, the equity loan can be used to raise money for any purpose such as emergencies, debt consolidation, medical loan, home improvements, education or any personal reasons. The repayment schedule of the home equity loan can be conveniently selected as 10 years or more, which can be even extended up to 30 years. Moreover, the home equity loan processing has become easy and less time consuming with the introduction of internet and online lenders. The verification of the title deed and the credit score are usually the time consuming steps. However, in the online processing these verifications has become limited and the home equity loan approval is done with in minimum period of time.

However the home equity loans are not devoid of cons. One of the major cons associated with home equity loan is the risk of losing your favorite home, if you make any default in the payment. The lenders will not be bothered much about the repayment as they will be focused to foreclosure the property. Hence the borrower is advised not to take large amount as home equity loan. Home equity loan is also not advantageous for persons, who are in the beginning of their career since they cannot easily shift their position, if they have a liability. However, the people in the proximity of the pension also cannot manage a long run home equity loan. In the home equity loans, the borrowers have to keep in mind the fact that the long repayment schedule will cost you more interest. To add on, if you are unlucky the home prices will slashes down and when you are about to sell the home, it will be a loss.

In brief analysis of the pros and cons of the home equity loan, it is clear that home equity loan will be advantageous for the larger loan amount. However, you have to be careful about interest rate and other conditions involved in the deal.

Andy M

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting a Premium Interest Rate

The challenge of tackling a massive credit card debt can seem almost impossible at times. When you look at the many bills rushing in each month and then you start going through that credit card bill, the idea of actually starting to pay that bill down can be overwhelming. And part of the reason that uphill battle to win over debt seems so hard is those almost ridiculously high interest rates credit card companies are allowed to charge.

If you have a credit card debt in the thousands of dollars and that interest rate can get above 15%, that is going to mean that a large portion of your monthly payment is going to go toward the interest. And what that means is that your balance will go down slowly which is very discouraging especially if you are also using the credit card so your balance continues to go up and up and up.

How often have you looked at the average interest rate that the credit card companies are charging you and thought, “I sure wish there was some way I could but that interest rate in half or less”? If you could just get that interest rate down under 10% or even better, that step alone would help you put more of the payment money you pay out each month toward reducing the debt. And if that rate could be locked in so it isn’t constantly being jacked up by the credit card company, then you have a real path toward paying off what you owe once and for all.

There may be a way to actually get a credit card rate you can live with from the credit cards services you already are working with. It goes back to that old advice that your mom or dad might have given that goes – “You don’t know until you ask.” That’s right it is very likely that if you call the credit card company and explain to them the situation, they might have the resources to negotiate a rate with you that you can live with and offer you the same services a credit consolidation company would offer.

It’s good to take a moment and look at the world through the eyes of the credit card company. They are in business to keep good customers who pay their bills. For credit card company, the worst kind of customer is one who is constantly late on their payments or doesn’t pay at all so they have to go through the expense of nagging those customers for the money. And customers who have the resources to dump them because their rates are too high are also a big threat to their livelihood because they depend on you needing them and being willing to pay those interest rates and fees.

So rather than see you dump them or take your debt elsewhere like to a credit consolation service or a second mortgage, its better business for the credit card company to cut your rate and continue to make some money off of your debt. Competition is just as intense for the good customers in the credit card world as it is in any other business. So if you pay your bills and are the kind of customer these companies like, you have a bit of leverage with them that you may not have known you had.

Make sure when you call the credit card company to renegotiate your rate that you talk to someone who can actually change things. And bring some clout with you. Be prepared to cancel your credit cards or move your debt to another card or credit service. If you let that credit card company know you are unhappy because of the rate, they will have some kind of program to keep your business. They aren’t going to tell you about it but its there. And if you are persistent and want it bad enough, you can get the credit card companies to play ball your way and give you a premium interest rate you can live with.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Time to Get Help

Do you ever wonder if there should be a 12 step program for people who have a problem with credit card debt? The idea might not be as ridiculous as it sounds. The 12 step program is one of the most successful therapy programs there is for helping people with addictions. And in a lot of ways, our love of credit and of buying things using our credit cards amounts to an addiction.

And like people who are suffering with an addiction, many times the biggest step forward is when you recognize that you have a problem. Too often when someone has the beginnings of a credit card debt problem, there is a sense of ambivalence and “just let it go” because after all “everybody does it.” And when you have a problem that threatens to become a huge problem, that is no time to be lazy and decide to just let it continue because you think everybody does it.

That attitude of “oh well” is exactly why the credit card companies are making record profits. If we all would get mad because they are enslaving our family budgets, we would rise up and throw them off and the world would change dramatically for us. But we can’t fix the world. But you can fix our own world and start at home, with your own credit card “addiction” and maybe even use some of the principles of 12 step programs to get started.

Most professionals who work with people needing 12 step programs will tell you that the biggest obstacle is getting the troubled person to know they are in trouble. We all live in a bubble where we tell ourselves and each other that “everything will be all right.” 12 step programs use tough love to tell the people who come there that everything will NOT be all right unless they take steps to change their addictions because their addictions will destroy their lives.

Well folks, we might need some tough love when it comes to us not taking action to fix our credit card debt problem before it destroys our lives. We have to find a way to get over this idea that we should just endure credit card debt and get motivated to do the hard work to dig ourselves out before the task becomes insurmountable. In a lot of ways the problem is pride. We may suspect we have a credit card debt problem but we don’t want to tell someone else we have one. We are proud and we want others to think we always have it together.

That pride says “just take care of this yourself” and it will keep you from talking about the problem with your spouse, your family and then even going to someone like a credit card consolidation company to find out how to get this problem under control. The big moment when an “addict” becomes a recovering addict is when he or she recognizes that the problem is there, that it is huge, that it could destroy their lives and that it is time to seek help.

Maybe that time has come for you. Maybe its time to not let your pride be so stubborn that you wont turn and seek help from people who know how to help you get this problem under control. So let this little discussion be your “intervention” to give you a slap in the face that the faster you let that pride go and seek some help, the faster the credit card debt problem will go away and you will be back on a solid financial footing once again. And once you get this “monkey off your back”, you will never want to become enslaved to credit card debt again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Basics of Credit Card Debt Consolidation

Credit card debt consolidation is a term that gets thrown around on television quite a lot. You see so much advertising for this service that you have to know that someone is making a lot of money off of people like you and me that have serious credit card debt problems. But once you understand what credit card consolidation is and how it is accomplished, it is very likely you can accomplish the same goals and get the same benefits without paying anyone an excessive fee.

The reasons these services have sprung into existence is that with the economy being so difficult and with gas prices and prices for so many of life’s necessities going higher and higher, many people are spreading their debt over many credit cards. The result is an average family might have three or four or even more credit cards with high debt run up on them and the interest fees being charged can get quite high.

Despite the customer friendly language credit cards use when they try to lure you into running up your debt even higher, these credit cards are making credit card companies a lot of money and they want you to pay them down slowly so they can continue to charge big fees month to month. So the first of credit card consolidation is to get all of that debt into one account, get rid of the credit card debt and perhaps close those accounts entirely and get a reasonable interest rate you can deal with over time.

So the first core principle or “basic” of credit card consolidation is getting rid of multiple creditors and getting all of your debt into one account or at least fewer credit accounts. At the same time its preferable to work with a creditor who is willing to work with you with the goal of reducing debt so the interest rate can be set at a level significantly lower than what you were paying to the credit cards so more of what you pay goes to pay down the debt and less to interest and fees.

One tactic that is often used to move your debt to lower rate interest loans is to use zero percent short term offers from credit card companies. Now watch those because sometimes there are transfer fees that are as high as an interest payment. But if you can move several thousand dollars to a zero percent loan for six months, you can then work on paying off higher interest credit cards while that part of your debt is not running up the balances. But watch out because at the end of the zero percent period, sometimes the interest rate on that loan will shoot up higher than any of your other loans.

The important things that you take charge of your credit and not let it be in charge of you. Start a log or a spreadsheet where you document each credit card you have, what the interest rate is, the expiration date on short term low rates, what you credit limits are and what your payments are. This kind of consolidation of your records will tell you which credit cards need the most attention and where you should look to consolidate two credit cards into one or all of them into the one credit source that you feel you can work with long term. Then you have a partner to help you make a plan to get out of credit card debt and stay that way.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Working With Your Credit Score

When you see advertisement after advertisement on television of businesses who want you to find out your “free” credit score, that is a red flag that someone is looking to make some money off of you. The funny thing is they are not lying to you but at the same time, you are exactly right that those companies paying good money for television advertising are looking to make a buck off of you.

The truth is, you can actually find out what your credit report says about you. What they are telling you about that is true. Your credit report tells you your credit score which helps you understand how creditors see you which is important if you go to get a new loan. But your credit report also shows a detailed history of your past use of credit, currently open accounts and anyone who has checked your credit score in the last year.

This is important information for you because anyone can check your credit report anytime they want to. And if there are too many inquiries on your credit report, that itself can drive down your score. So if you find someone is checking your score too often, you can take action to put a stop to it.

But there are a couple things they are not telling you on those advertisements. One is that if you use their services, they will give you the credit report for free but not the credit score. They are going to have their hand out for that little tidbit of information. But the truth that those companies will not tell you is that you can get that score at least once a year absolutely free if you know how. In other words, those people hitting you up on television to check your credit score are relying on the fact that (1) you don’t know how to check it yourself and (2) you are willing to give them money for something you can get for free if you know how.

The basic information you should know about credit reports is that there are three agencies that maintain credit reporting and they are named Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can check on what each of these companies has in their file at any given time. In addition to a lot of detail about your credit history as we just discussed, your credit “health” will be represented in the form of a number of a “score”. That score will run between 300 and 850. The higher your credit score, the better you will be received by credit organizations who are deciding whether to extend you a loan.

Once you have this information, you can take action to improve how you stand on your credit history. First of all, review the credit detail in depth. You may find accounts still open that you have not used for years. Close those accounts. If you have a credit account that is not being used, it is of not value to you, it only runs down your credit score and there is always a danger someone will use it.

But the next step is to start being “credit smart” in how you use credit to help see that credit score go up over the next year. The steps to do that are….

  • Always pay your bills on time. Late payments are reported to the credit bureaus and it runs your score down.
  • Make more than the minimum payments. If you only pay the minimum on each credit card you owe, that will get noticed by the credit tracking software and make your credit score go down.
  • Cut down on the amount of times your credit score is checked. Excessive inquiries into your score indicate that you are looking at getting more credit and that hurts your score.
  • Close unneeded credit accounts.
  • Start closing some of your credit card accounts once you pay them off.
  • Don’t take out any new accounts.

Don’t let yourself get excited by the virtual nonstop advertising about your credit history. You do not need to know this information every day. But check it a couple times a year, no sooner than once every three months to keep tabs on what is going on with your credit history. It’s the responsible thing to do and you can just change the channel on those noisy commercials too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teaching the Kids About Credit

One of the ways some of us get into credit card debt trouble comes out of nothing more than lack of awareness of how credit cards can sneak up on us. The first time you maxed out a card and faced the overwhelming task of paying down a credit card and getting yourself back on firm financial footing, it can be a sobering experience. And if you have gone through this experience, the school of hard knocks taught you well that it’s easier to prevent credit card debt than to recover from it.

Maybe the best thing about getting hard won knowledge is that you can pass it along to your kids. So how can you go about helping your children establish a good relationship with credit and learn how to use it responsibly so they don’t have to learn about credit card debt and credit card abuse the hard way? Just like everything else in life, they depend on you to teach them how to function as adults. So we should take this responsibility seriously.

First of all, teaching kids to use credit effectively is not about keeping them from having credit. If anything, the opposite is true. A credit card is as essential a tool for modern living as a car and a cell phone. We would even make the bold statement that to send a child out to fend for himself or for herself without a working credit card in her pocket, a respectable credit rating already building up and the training in how to use credit is nothing less than irresponsible parenting by adults. It is equivalent of sending your child into a battle with no weapons. Credit is essential and smart use of credit is even more essential.

You can help your kids begin to understand the basics of getting good credit by getting them a credit card in high school or college. You can pay the bills but this is a good way for them to pay for what they need and you can keep track of their spending from that monthly bill you get. But make sure that credit card is in your child’s name so as you pay it off each month, they build up the good credit rating from what you are doing. Consider it another one of the many legacies you are passing along to your kids.

But don’t just let your kids go hog wild with their credit card. In fact, you can work with a credit card company to establish a credit limit and not allow it to go up. In that way, you can set a limit on the amount of credit they have each month. And if they go over it and suddenly cannot buy lunch because they abused their credit, that afternoon of going hungry will teach them more than two days of lecture about fiscal responsibility can do.

Make sure your kids are aware that you paying their bills is a privilege and that they are very lucky to be able to start their adult lives with a sponsor like this. Then give them three jobs they must complete to show they are worthy of this privilege.
  1. They must save all receipts of every purchase they make. If they buy something and don’t get a receipt, they must make one.
  2. They must maintain a ledger of spending. This is similar to a check book ledger but it must be complete with every purchase they made and a running total and it must be maintained daily. If an expenditure shows up that is not on that ledger, they will be required to pay that back to you or risk losing their credit card.
  3. They must sit you once a week to review the credit card bill and explain item by item what each entry on there is. This will do a lot to keep them from using the credit card frivolously.

These simple habits if done over a period of months will teach your children how to track, monitor and be aware of their spending and their use of credit. In that way, when you cut the apron strings entirely, they will not only have the credit they need to have a good adult life, they will be wise in how they use it. And there is no better gift you can give to a child than that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Playing the “B” Card

When you are trying to get out of credit card debt, sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. There is a progression of alternatives most people go through in trying to find ways to drive that credit card debt problem down and get it under control. At first just trying to pay them off month to month seems reasonable. But as the debts mount up, more creative measures are often tried.

It is when you take that next step of leveraging debt against debt that you know things are getting out of control. This is when you start paying off one credit card with another. Now there are reasons to do this such as moving debt from a high interest account to another that is doing business more favorably for you. But you have to watch those “deals” because often there are transfer fees or other hidden charges to sneak up on you. And if the lower rate is a “limited time offer”, the advantage of the lower interest rate for a few months may not be worth the extra fees. And if that new credit card carrier then jacks your fees up higher than they were on the old creditor, you are worse off than before.

When the credit card debt then begins to become a real problem the next level starts to take advantage of your assets. You can take out a second mortgage and get a pretty good rate that is controlled because that is what they called a “secured loan” which means you are using the equity of your house as collateral to fight the credit card debt. But these kinds of loans are risky because if you did default on them, you could lose your home.

When the credit card debt begins to get serious again, even despite all these serious measures you have taken, you can get pretty panicky. And you can get resentful because there is no question that the credit card companies seem to do all they can to keep you trapped in this debt as long as they can. And why shouldn’t they after all? They make a lot of money off of your credit card debt. And they don’t have to do anything to keep it rolling in.

This is why when it comes to making a decision between just starting to default on the credit card debt, it might be time to pull out the stops and go after the credit card companies to put a stop to the escalating bill. But you can put a stop to it by calling them directly and not being afraid to play the ultimate card, the “B” card – bankruptcy.

Now, declaring bankruptcy has become more difficult since the current administration in charge of our government made it harder for regular folks like you and I to use this tool to stop the constant escalation of our credit debt. But it still is possible to use bankruptcy and if you do, the credit card companies could lose all of that money. And they know it too. Now you don’t want to threaten bankruptcy unless it really is a possibility for you. But if it is and you call the credit card companies and let them know this is your next step, you suddenly have all kinds of leverage with them.

Once the credit card companies know you are serous about going that route, if you tell them you would like to work out a deal to pay off some of the debt you owe, they may be very open to reducing your debt by half or more. And if you can get that kind of deal from every credit card company you owe and you can get them to lower your interest rate to make your ability to pay more reasonable, you might be able to avoid the bankruptcy entirely. And if that is the outcome, you did a good job of showing the “B” card but never having to play it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stupid Credit Card Tricks

There has been an ongoing skit on the David Letterman Show called “Stupid Pet Tricks”. It was an aptly named bit because the things people teach their pets to do are truly silly. Letterman did so well with that skit, he followed it up with another series called “Stupid People Tricks.” Well, when it comes to the dozens of credit card offers that you get in your mailbox every week, you might think that some of these credit card companies would like to be on the next series called “Stupid Credit Card Tricks”.

These promotions that you get for credit cards seem to be playing on just about every tactic they can find to get you to take out yet one more credit card. You would think that the fact that credit card debt is a virtual epidemic in this country would let the credit card companies know that its time to get on the side of the consumer to learn responsible use of credit. Instead they do all they can to get you to have more, not less, credit cards and use them as much as you can.

We need to be smart consumers because as much as credit card companies try to make credit cards seem fun and happy and like big toys in your wallet, they are not toys. We should never forget that a credit card is nothing more than a way for the credit company to extend to you dozens of small unsecured loans that they will create credit payments on the fly to enforce through your credit card bill that will include high interest rates and additional fees as they see fit.

This is not to say that having a credit card is not a good thing. Good credit is one of the real assets any responsible adult will use to help make life easier and to make the necessary purchases in life. And more and more credit is becoming the currency of choice replacing cash and checks as the preferred method for paying for gas, at restaurants and any more even at retail outlets and grocery stores.

While the spread of credit as actual currency is a fact of life for us, it is also a major move by the credit card companies to take over the economy and to make you even more dependent on them. So the best defense is to take charge of your credit card life and make sure that you are the boss of your credit cards, not the other way around.

The stupid credit card tricks can be really fun to look at and sometimes enticing. They will appeal to your sense of school pride by giving you a credit card in your college school colors. You can get credit cards that give donations to save the environment, help the poor or create a college fund for your kids. There are all kinds of premiums, cash back concepts, frequent flier miles and gifts and toys that credit card companies will fork over just to lure you into getting more credit cards and using them a lot.

To put it bluntly, you and I need to learn not to be suckers for these deals. We can laugh at the stupid tricks they try to use. But if a credit card company is going to try to trick you into getting a card or using one, they are not doing business honestly with you. You want a credit card company that deals straight with you. They should offer fair rates that don’t change at the drop of a hat. They should sustain a reasonable credit limit and not always be jacking it up to try to get you to buy more stuff on the card. And they should have good customer service and be ready to renegotiate your relationship with them so you are getting good value from their service, not just paying for a bunch of toys and frills that do you no good whatsoever.

By keeping in mind what a credit card company actually does and that credit cards are mature adult tools, not games or toys, we can keep in perspective how to use our credit cards and how to keep from abusing credit which will lead to the nightmare of credit card debt.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taking Action on Credit Card Debt Before it’s Too Late

There may be some comfort for you if you are facing the rising threat of credit card debt in your family finances. That comfort might come from the fact that this is a problem for thousands of families in the country. But this is faint hope because it is still a problem that needs to be solved and solved by you.

But before you start to examine what you can do about your credit card debt problem, you have to ask yourself why so many people in our country have let themselves get into this fix. Well, there are a lot of reasons why a family’s economy goes negative so the bills overwhelm the income and the credit card debt starts to go up. It could come from a lost job, a health emergency, the need to get the kids through college or other reasons. It isn’t always that you got into credit card debt because you were lazy or because you are the type of people who just like to live high on the hog.

It might also be comfort to know that there are people further along in the credit card crisis that they are having to think about selling their homes or declaring bankruptcy. But again, that may not be as much comfort as a cold warning of what might be lying ahead for you if you cannot find a way to put a stop to this rising flood of credit debt. But there is one difference between those people who have reached that level of desperation and where you are today. And this is the difference that you can take comfort in because this one fact will be the one that will keep you and your family from getting to that level of desperation.

That comfort is that if you are this worried about credit card debt as it is just not starting to become a problem, they are not too late in getting with it to stop the problem before its too late. Its really an amazing thing but one reason so many people are in deep trouble over their credit card debt is partly because they looked away from the problem for so long and did not decide to take decisive and serious action to stop the problem from overtaking them when it was still possible to stop it.

Psychologists have a word for what happens when you are in big trouble and you refuse to believe it. That word is denial. And even though these thousands of people who let their credit card debt problem get out of control are not in need of psychiatrists, for some reason there is a real tendency to ignore this problem month after month and year after year until it overwhelms you and its too late for some of the solutions that could stopped the problem early.

So if you suspect you may have a credit card debt problem starting to grow under your nose, take action now. Don’t wait thinking it will somehow dry up and blow away on its own because it won’t. Don’t spend time thinking that a few thousand dollars of credit card debt will cap and you will slowly work it down. Go back to the basics and examine your budget and evaluate if you are living above your means. And if you are, well to put it simply, fix it! And when your lifestyle is in balance with your income, your budget will stabilize and you will be able to use credit cards wisely and not see massive debt result. It’s never too soon to take action and if by taking action, you stop the problem in its tracks, you will be one of the families who handled credit card debt wisely, by avoiding it entirely.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Taking on Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is the kind of thing that can go from a convenience to a cruel taskmaster in a short time. Very often the reason you may have a credit card debt problem may not be anything bad about you. It only takes a few bad breaks to drive your debt level dangerously high. Some unemployment, a few high medical or home repair bills or other unexpected expenses and before you know it, you have a big problem.

There are a lot of advertisements for credit card debt consolidation. The first word of caution we all should have about using these services is be careful. A good rule of thumb is that if they have money to advertise on television, they are going to make money off of you in some way shape or form. If you have bad credit and few resources to tap to get that problem under control, the interest rate on the debt consolation could be just as much of a prison as the debt itself. But there are good services out there too so just shop wisely.

So it’s a good idea to have a strategy for taking no credit card debt and starting to turn the corner on dealing with the problem. And part of that strategy is using the resources you have. The biggest asset you may own is your home. Now, most of us are hesitant to use our homes as collateral to get our credit levels down. But if you have a fair amount of equity in your house, it can be a tool to get a second mortgage that has a favorable interest rate that is capped so it doesn’t float up and down at the whim of the lender.

A good place to start finding a good home equity loan is the lender who is handling the loan now. If the company that handles your finances now is doing a good job and doing business with you openly and fairly, you can get to them to negotiate a loan that both gives them some interest to make the loan worthwhile to them but gets your debt level under control. So if you can put all of your debt under a 30 year home equity loan at an interest rate sometimes 5-10% lower than credit cards, that frees up your budget to handle your expenses and start to see daylight on getting out of debt.

Another option for getting your credit cards under control is a credit management service. These agencies will take all of your outstanding credit card bills and work with the lenders to come up with a payment plan so they know they will get paid but the amount you have to put out is manageable by you. Again, these services will have fees but if they can at least put a fence around your rapidly expanding credit card debt situation, it might be a fee worth paying.

The important thing about you taking the first step of seeking help with your credit card debt is that you are taking charge of the situation. Too often, we feel hopeless and develop a victim mentality when we see those debts just keep going up knowing full well that at some point the monthly payments will overwhelm us. Reaching out to skilled and qualified services that can give you back some feeling of control over your debt can be liberating to you and give you hope that there may come a time when the trap of credit card debt still holds you captive. And that will be a wonderful feeling of freedom when you finally get free and are able to live within your means again.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Taking Credit Card Debt Down the Way You Ran it Up

Sometimes we don’t take the time to get a real world understanding of not only what credit card debt is but how we got into this mess and what its going to take to get out of it. The first steps of solving the problem are the most important because by identifying what the problem is, you also identify what it isn’t. So if we can think logically about the problem of being buried in credit card debt, the path to digging out will become more clear.

It doesn’t take a committee to figure out the heart of how all this debt got started because it boils down to a very basic statement of economic fact. And that is that you got in debt because you spent more than you made. In other words, you are living at a standard of living higher than your income can support. And the overflow goes to debt.

It is pretty brutal when it gets to that level of honesty but when you look at it that way, then the solution begins to become clear to you. Now it’s important when doing this kind of analysis that no guilt is allowed. There are a lot of perfectly acceptable reasons you may have fallen into the debt. It’s not like you are necessarily running around spending lavishly on expensive cars and trips overseas.

Lots of things happen to a family budget that you have no control over and using your credit to handle it is the responsible thing to do. You may have lost your job or source of income. There may have been a family medical crisis that you just had to handle with credit funding. There are home repair emergencies, weather emergencies or trips you have to take to keep everything together. So for whatever reason as that credit hill turns into a credit mountain, then it becomes the family emergency to tackle.

The solution is evident from our diagnosis. It quite simply is not only to get to where you live within your means but to generate sufficient income to start paying that credit card debt mountain down the same way you drove it up, a little at a time. There are a lot of very adult things you can do and should do to make this dream a reality. You have to stop the debt from going up so to cancel as many credit cards as possible reduces the chance they will continue to accumulate charges.

Getting control over spending is going to take some family discipline. But if the whole family knows it’s also a family quest to get this debt off your backs, everybody can pitch in. You can eat at home and never out. You can scale back extras like cable TV or entertainment buying. You can let the holidays be about love and not gifts for a few years.

This also might be the time to think about adding some additional income to the family budget to get that overflow that you can use to attack the credit mountain more aggressively. One adult might take a second job and everyone agrees that every cent of that job will go against that debt. Keep good records and when the family sees that the debt is coming down, celebrate, albeit do so cheaply.

This is a hard step especially for the parent who has to work two jobs or if you have to send mom back to work for a little while to get this situation under control. Sometimes it can be made less harsh if the second job is something the adult going out likes to do like work a book store or a garden center which may be a hobby. Or if the job is on the internet, that parent could work in the comfort of home and make that extra money.

But as the size of that debt starts to go down and month after month it gets smaller and smaller and the interest payments get smaller and some of the credit cards get paid off and all of a sudden there is more money in the family budget, that extra hard work and careful cost cutting will have all paid off and everyone will breath a sigh of relief because you took the credit card down the same way you ran it up, one month at a time.

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