Sep 18 2013

I’m Hosting The Plutus Awards Again!

By |September 18th, 2013|Blog, Life|5 Comments|

If you are a relatively new reader, you might not even know that I do really embarrassing music videos. I’ve sung a love song to a Roth IRA and I’ve even dressed up like a girl. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had time to do music videos in the last 2 years. The last song I did was 11 months ago and it was at the Financial Blogger Conference as I was the MC for the Plutus Awards.

Well apparently FINCON is collectively tone deaf because they have asked me to come back and MC again for the 2013 Plutus Awards. Yes, that means another song and dance performance. Actually I don’t want to call any moments I make “dancing”, so let’s call it a song and awkwardly move around performance.

I’ve always been willing to embarrass myself in front of large groups of people, and I’m excited to do it again this year. If you are going to the Financial Blogger Conference, make sure you attend the Plutus Awards on Thursday night!

Now onto the more important stuff: there are some incredible websites that deserve to be nominated for Plutus Awards, and that’s where you come in.

If you are a fan of this and/or other personal finance blogs, it would be awesome if you nominated your favorite blogs for awards this year.

In the last year I’ve gone from posting 3-4 articles a week to just 1, and I don’t really feel like I’ve earned a Plutus Award this year so I would actually prefer if you don’t nominate me for anything. However, there are some really great blogs out there that deserve it.

As the MC I don’t want to name any names and play favorites, but you can check out my blogroll for some of my favorite blogs and I’ll definitely be hoping each of them wins something this year!

If you want to nominate blogs for awards this year, all you have to do is go to this link and fill out the nomination form. You can nominate blogs in as many or as few categories as you like, so don’t feel like you can’t fill out the form just because you don’t read tax blogs or Canadian blogs.

So hook a brother or sister up with a Plutus nomination, and then make sure to come to FINCON13 and watch me make a fool of myself!

Sep 17 2013

Buying a House in South Florida: 5 Things to Consider When Applying for a VA Loan

By |September 17th, 2013|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

As a Veteran, you are entitled to certain benefits during and after your service. Your benefits can differ depending on when you served, whether you served during peacetime or wartime, and how long you served. Among the benefits available to help you settle back into civilian life, is the VA Home Loan. As the real estate market in South Florida heats up, here are a few things you should keep in mind while you apply for your VA home loan.

Why is a VA Loan Better Than a Conventional Loan?

mortgagesign

Image via Flickr by 401(k)2013

The biggest perk about having a VA loan instead of a conventional home loan is that no down payment is required. Typically, you’re expected to put at least three to five percent as a down payment, although most financial advisors will tell you, the more you can put down up front, the better. If you’re unable to put down such a large down payment, a VA loan is a good option.

A VA loan can also save you more money than a conventional loan because you’re not required to pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee. Closing costs are also cheaper when using a VA loan instead of a conventional loan.

What is the Market Like?

People have started recognizing that the real estate crisis is coming to an end. Because of this, the demand for houses in South Florida has skyrocketed, and the inventory of available homes is down 72 percent from 17,000 in 2008 to just over 4,000. So even though prices are at their lowest, availability might be limited. Start your home search by making a wish-list of every feature and amenity you’d like your dream home to have; two-story, quiet neighborhood, lots of windows. As you start to look at homes in your price range, keep asking yourself what you would change on your wish-list if you had to narrow it down to just five or 10 things. Knowing what is really a priority will really help your real estate agent help you find your perfect home.

What is Your Financial Status Like?

A good rule of thumb when considering the purchase of a home is to really look at your financial status. Take a good look at your employment status first. Is your job temporary or unstable in some way? If you have a spouse or partner who works, would their salary be able to support mortgage payments if you lost your job?

Most financial advisors will suggest your monthly housing payment to not exceed ⅓ of your gross monthly income. Even though you might qualify for a loan that allows you to purchase a more expensive home, it is better to live below your means in case an unforeseen circumstance alters your financial situation in the future. Consulting a budget calculator is a quick way to help you assess your financial status.

Should You Buy or Rent?

It may feel like buying a home is the next logical step in your life. Maybe you finally got that high paying job, you were recently married, or perhaps you’ve started your family. If your rent exceeds what you would be spending on a monthly mortgage payment, it might be a good time to start looking for a permanent place. By contacting a lender and getting a good faith estimate, which can give you an estimate of what you could be paying in monthly fees, based on the loan you take out.

Another thing to consider, is how long you’re looking to stay in a certain location. If it is possible that you’ll need to move within the next two years, you’re better off renting, rather than purchasing.

How Do You Apply For a VA Loan?

After you assess your situation and determine whether or not you’re ready for a South Florida home and a VA loan, it is important to make sure your lending institution is approved by the VA and able to supply you with a VA loan. Once you select a lender, you need to submit a VA Form 26-1880 as well as proof of service. Spouses of someone who has died in active duty, or as a result of a disability suffered while on duty, may also be eligible for a VA loan as well.

Making the decision to buy a home in South Florida is not something to be taken lightly. Before you venture into the confusing and cut-throat world of real estate, make sure you understand your VA benefits and have a knowledgeable and helpful lender on your side.

Author Bio:

Dylan Adams is a writer from Tampa, Florida.  When he’s not studying business and real estate, he’s soaking up the sun or watching NBA Basketball.

Sep 10 2013

I Saved $700 Replacing the Suspension On My Car

By |September 10th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|7 Comments|

Have you ever taken your car into the shop and been given bad news: they recommend you do a repair and it’s going to cost over $1,000. I got that news a few weeks ago, and as I’m saving up money for my wedding I knew I didn’t have that kind of money for repairs.

I also knew that I needed to replace the suspension, or struts, on our car. We have a 2000 Buick Century and it meets the criteria for the greatest car in the world: it runs and we don’t have a car loan. The problem is the car is 13 years old and has almost 130,000 miles on the odometer. And in all that time, the suspension had never been replaced.

Did I Really Need New Suspension?

So the shop told me I needed new suspension, but were they being honest or just trying to get me to pay them to do some work? I did a little research and found this link from Pep Boys that gives some recommendations for when to change your struts and shocks. Some of the symptoms we were experiencing were uneven tire wear, excessive nose dive when breaking, and excessive vehicle bounce.

When we hit a bump in this car it would bounce up and down for about 5 minutes until it finally settled down. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit.  But it was pretty clear that the car could use new suspension. I want us to be safe as we take some trips (like a road trip to St. Louis for the Financial Blogger Conference where I’ll be the MC for the Plutus Awards again this year!).

I was willing to accept that we could use new struts and shocks, but I wasn’t willing to pay $1,100 for the new parts and installation.

I know how to change my oil and change a flat tire, so I decided to see if I could change out my strut assemblies as well.

Parts and Tools for Replacing Strut Assemblies

I don’t know much about cars, but here’s what I know about the suspension. If you want to change just a small part of your suspension (like the strut itself) then you need special tools to decompress tightly wounds springs. It can be very dangerous, and in my case I didn’t know which specific part of the strut assembly would need to be replaced. I opted to just order brand new pre-built strut assemblies.

Parts – $282.24

I ordered strut assemblies from Amazon. I got two front strut assemblies for $150.42 and two back strut assemblies (left and right) for $131.82. The shop quoted me $620.22 for the parts they were going to use. That’s a savings of $337.98 already. If I wasn’t able to install them myself, I could have at least bought the parts and had that shop install them. That’s still a big savings that many people don’t consider. Keep in mind, the shop might take longer to do the install (aka, charge you more in labor) if there is anything about your parts that are different from the ones they are familiar with.

Tools – $103.44

I have a set of rhino ramps for changing the oil in the car, but you can’t use rhino ramps when you are taking off the wheels. Thus, I had to buy a jack and jack stands. I also needed another set of wheel chocks to make sure my car didn’t roll away once I jacked it up. If you work on your car often, you probably already have these tools and won’t need to buy them. Here are the ones I ordered:

After tax my total came to $103.44. I also needed a ratchet set and a hammer, but if you don’t already have those things then you might want to reconsider doing this kind of work. Also, pPrices change on Amazon all the time so they might be more or less if you click through to check.

Total Cost – $385.68

My total cost for everything was $385.68. The shop quoted me about $1,100. By doing this myself I’m saving just over $700. Pretty cool huh?

How to Replace Your Suspension

actual photo of my car

actual photo of my car

This isn’t an auto blog so I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s actually pretty easy. Here’s essentially what I did:

  1. Jack up the car and take off the wheels.
  2. Remove 5 nuts and bolts for each front strut assembly and 7 for each rear strut assembly to take out the old ones
  3. Put the new ones in and put those 5 or 7 nuts and bolts back.
  4. Put the wheels back on and lower the car.

So that’s the simple version, although it did take me about 6 hours. For someone who is a little more experienced with working on cars, it would obviously take much less time.

Here is one of the many video tutorials I used to help me figure it out. It’s all online and it’s all free.

One final step is to have the car aligned. I don’t know how to do that so I just paid the shop $90 to do it for me. If you are up for figuring that out yourself then go for it. It seems complicated and at just $90 I think it’s worth it to let the professionals do it.

I Saved $700 in 6 Hours

Here’s the bottom line: I replaced the suspension in my car, making my car safer and helping it last longer (which is important since it’s our only car). I also did it for over $700 cheaper than it would have cost to have the shop do it.

As far as I’m concerned, I made about $116 per hour working on my car. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even make half that much at my normal job.

If you can work on your own car, do it. You know I’m not a big fan of frugality and pinching pennies, but we’re talking about hundreds of dollars here.

Readers: Have you ever worked on your car to save yourself money on repairs? What did you do and how much did you save?

Sep 9 2013

Three Common Home Loan Rejection Reasons

By |September 9th, 2013|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

If you have ever applied for a home loan and been rejected, you know how difficult it can be to determine why the loan was rejected. This is because there are many different reasons why a home loan may be rejected. There are numerous lenders currently doing business and each lender uses the lending criteria that they believe is best for their business. This means that not all lenders use the same factors in determining the rejection of a loan application and just because you have been turned down at one lender doesn’t mean that you will get  turned down by all other lenders. Here are some typical reasons for a home loan request to be rejected.

Your Credit Score Is Too Low

Most lenders have a minimum credit score level for approving loans. If your credit score is not high enough for the loan request that you are making, the lender will automatically reject your loan application. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to correct this problem. You can pay down any existing debt that you have to boost your credit score before reapplying for the loan with another lender. You may also try reducing the requested loan amount or putting a bigger down payment down on the home, which may result in a lower credit score requirement for the loan. Mortgage calculators like the one found at http://www.newcastlepermanent.com.au/ will let you see the loan amounts and interest rates for various credit scores.

Income Is Not Stable

Another reason why your home loan application may be rejected is that your income is not stable enough for the lender to assume the risk. This is especially true for individuals that are self-employed and contractors that see their income fluctuate dramatically from month to month. This occurs even if you have had a high income for the past few years, because the lender has no guarantee that you will continue to earn as much. Lenders are much more comfortable accepting the loans of people that receive a steady income from a paycheck than they are loaning to people that are self-employed.

Your Co-Applicant Has Financial Issues

Another common reason for a home loan application denial is that your co-applicant has some financial issues that you are not aware of. It would be beneficial for both you and your co-applicant to acquire a copy of your credit report before beginning to apply for home loans so that there are no unpleasant surprises that result in the rejection of your home loan. You also have a better chance of being approved for a home loan if the co-applicant is a parent instead of being a friend or a sibling.

Sep 4 2013

Stop Reading All Personal Finance Blogs Now!

By |September 4th, 2013|Blog, Life|33 Comments|

Hi. Thanks for coming to my personal finance blog. Unfortunately you probably shouldn’t be reading what I have to say. You see, I recently posted about how I’m spending $20,000 on my wedding and apparently if you waste $20,000 then you are no longer eligible to have a personal finance blog.

It’s all there in the comments, and since it’s on the internet it has to be true. Check it out:

You are crazy…After reading this post, I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually listen to the financial ‘advice’ you dish out on this blog. Dude, you don’t even have a car! Why would you spend $20,000 on ONE day?!?!?

Hello, my name is Kevin and, apparently, I am trying to lose all credibility with my readers who come to my blog to get ideas for sound financial planning. [this was not actually me]

Dude, you totally lose your license as a financial blogger….

So there you have it. Apparently if you “waste” $20,000 then you lose your personal finance blogger license. While it is a little upsetting that I’ll have to shut this site down due to the revocation of my financial blogger license, I also want to make sure we shut down as many other sites as possible so people aren’t reading unlicensed personal finance blogs.

Here are a few other categories of people who waste $20,000 or more. Make sure to find out if your favorite blogger does any of these things, and if they do stop reading that site immediately before you catch their stupid.

Anyone Who Doesn’t Live With Their Parents

People who move out of their parents’ house call their decision “being independent”, “growing up”, or “getting some privacy”. Let’s just call it what it really is: a big fat waste of money.

Renting or owning a place costs as little as a few hundred bucks a month, and as much as a few thousand or more! Then those people have to buy all new furniture, kitchenware, get renters or homeowners insurance, and who knows how many other costs.

If someone wants to waste their money paying for a house or apartment, just make sure you don’t waste your time reading their website!

Anyone Who Owns A Car

The next time someone posts about non-traditional investments or generating a second income, you should blatantly ignore whatever they said and ask the important question: do you have a car?

People take out loans (gasp!) to buy cars. Then they pay for car insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and any other expenses associated with owning a damn dirty vehicle. How ridiculous! You can easily waste $20,000 on a car in just a year or two. Those car owners have no right to talk about personal finance, and you have no reason to listen to a word they have to say!

Anyone With Kids

Can you believe people actually have or adopt kids? From the moment they come into your lives you are paying either expensive medical bills or adoption fees, and the costs just go up from there. They need to eat, have a place to sleep, wear clothes, and more. Do the expenses ever end!?!?

mom and daughter

photo credit: Beth Rankin

Not to mention the fact that they will probably expect presents on their birthday and other holidays. They will want supplies for school. They’ll even want to tag along with you when you go on vacation. Some kids even have the audacity to want to go to college and ask their parents for financial help!

Forget wasting $20,000; each one of these little money suckers can cost you well over $100,000! Honestly, these parents who think they have a right to have a personal finance blog are simply ridiculous.

Anyone With a Pet

If there is one good thing about kids, it’s the fact that they might actually support you financially when they become adults. But has anyone ever heard of a dog paying for someone’s retirement home? Of course not!

Dogs and cats eat, poop, get sick, need shots, and will never contribute a penny to your net worth. One estimate suggests that a dog can cost up to $3,000 per year! Do yourself a favor and never read a personal finance blog if someone wastes their money on an animal!

Anyone Who Goes Out to Eat

Question: Why would a person with any financial sense go out to eat? Answer: Because they want to lose their financial blogger license!

Seriously, you can buy 50 pounds of rice for less than $23! Anyone who would dare to pay a restaurant to make and serve them food has absolutely zero financial sense. You should actually try to avoid even driving through restaurant parking lots, because stupid financial decisions might be associated with some airborne pathogen, and you don’t want to risk breathing in the air of those financial imbeciles.

Readers: Can you believe people try to justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on stuff like homes, cars, kids, pets, and restaurants when they could easily avoid all those expenses? Sure they might not get to live the life they want, but think about their 401ks!!!

Sarcasm Note: This entire post was dripping with sarcasm. Unfortunately, I’ve been blogging long enough to know that some people might not catch it. The point is that we all spend money on things we don’t “need” because it makes us happy. That’s what I’m doing with my wedding.

Sep 3 2013

Borrowing Tips to Help You Get The Best Home Loan

By |September 3rd, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

With the housing market heating up, more borrowers are looking to get the best home loan that they qualify for so that they can buy a new home. There is a wide range of loans available from various retailers, allowing nearly anyone to find a home loan that they qualify for. If you are interested in getting a home loan, there are some tips that you can follow to help you find the best loan for your current financial situation. Following these tips can make your home loan more affordable and save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Boost Your Credit Score

One of the best things that you can do to get the best home loan available to you is to boost your credit score as much as possible before you begin shopping for the loan. Your credit score has a big impact on the interest rate that you will be charged for the home loan, so increasing it as much as you can will help you qualify for a lower interest rate. The easiest way to give your credit score a boost is to pay down your existing debts before you begin talking to lenders about loans.

Compare Rates

It is important to compare the rates of several different lenders before making your decision of which lender will issue your loan. The home loan interest rates Australia lenders offer can differ widely from company to company and the difference of a quarter of a percentage point can result in the savings of thousands of dollars over the loan term.

The lenders may also be able to help you qualify for one of the numerous homeownership programs available that can further reduce the amount that you must pay to acquire your home. Take your time and obtain all of the information you can to ensure that you are getting the best loan for your needs.

Do Your Research

There are numerous types of loans available that can be used to purchase a home. Some of these loans have specific features that can make them better for certain situations. In some cases, your occupation can qualify you for a specific loan program. In other cases, what you intend to do with the home after it is purchased will help you qualify for special financing. Before you begin shopping for a loan, do your research on the different types of loan programs and loan types available and see if any of them fit your qualifications or your intentions for the home.