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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Get It Together! 5 Steps to Organizing Your Financial Life

Let's talk about organization. In today's society,the importance of keeping things organized has diminished because it takes time and dedication to make it happen effectively. If you are willing to take the steps, however, you will find that getting your financial house in order isn't quite as bad as it sounds. 
Here are five steps to help you on your path to financial organization, and ultimately, freedom from debt. 
  • Collect all necessary documentation in a single location. 
    • Take a day off each quarter from work, known as a "personal finance day," to gather your account information and place it in organized files. Ideally, there will be files for banking information, credit cards, investments, mortgages, and insurance. 
    • If you are not utilizing your bank's online resources, sign up for an account. Many banks provide an array of tools that can also aid in organizing expenses and income. 
  • Create a written budget, and review it monthly. 
    • Once you have gathered all your account information in a safe, central location, create an accurate budget that includes a savings trigger and properly notates your money needs. Adjust spending in key areas such as food and entertainment, and allocate those funds to debt elimination and savings. 
    • At the beginning of each month, review your budget. Holidays and special events will give your budget a different look than in other months, and your spending plan should reflect those changes to give you the best idea of where your spending should be for that time.
  • Set a schedule for paying bills. 
    • When creating your monthly budget, write down specific dates to pay various bills. As a rule of thumb, it is best to pay bills in bulk on key days of the month. For example, if Sam & Diane's mortgage is due on the 1st, their phone bill on the 5th, and electric bill on the 7th, it would be ideal to pay all three bills on the 1st. This ensures these bills are satisfied, and eliminates any chance of incurring late fees from the creditor, or overdraft fees from their bank. 

  • Write down all one-time expenses for the year
    • One stumbling block many face when embarking on budgeting is the occurrence of one-time expenses that pop up throughout the year. These may include license plate renewals, professional dues, or insurance premiums. Divide these costs by 12, so that you can include them in your monthly budgets. By employing this method, you can save towards those costs as they come, rather than losing large amounts of your monthly income in one fell swoop. 

  • Shred, shred, shred!!
    • If possible, invest in a shredder. In the age of rampant identify theft, it is imperative that you take every available precaution to protect your personal information. Not only will shredding documents keep you safe from possible theft, it also frees your home of tons of unnecessary paper. 

By taking these steps, you are, in a way, deputizing yourself to free yourself from the prison of indebtedness. It all begins with a willingness to say, "Yes, I'll do it." We'll be here to help you along the way. 

With you on the journey, 

Daniel Sims is the newest member of the Madam Money team. He is the creator & host of Financial Rebirth Live!, a personal finance podcast on, and managing partner of RDSF Consulting in Little Rock, Arkansas. We look forward to his insights in the coming months. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

5 Signs You're Ready for Financial Coaching

Have you (or someone you know) ever thought about hiring a Financial Coach to help you create and accomplish your financial goals? Check this out ... 

The sense of frustration has become epidemic with today's economy, challenges are becoming more prevalent with personal financial matters. Building financial stability and wealth can be a confusing and complex huge pill to swallow. So, where is a person supposed to find the time to become a financial expert and learn what is necessary to build the financial stability desired?
Are You Ready for ...
Hiring a financial coach provides a competitive advantage by leveraging the person's time with specialized financial expertise that cuts through the clutter, confusion and contradictory information by teaching them what is relevant - efficiently and with minimal hassle.
Here are 5 Signs that You may be Ready Financial Coaching.

  1. You're tired of procrastinating and ready to start building wealth and living your dreams.
  2. You want to develop your own personalized action plan for building financial security based on principles that are custom designed to fit your specific situation - not a cookie-cutter or generic plan.
  3. You want an accountability partner to help you maintain focus on your financial goals.
  4. You're just "not interested" with traditional financial planning where all they want to do is sell you investment products. Instead, you want straightforward advice without all the sales pitches.
  5. You realize that "true wealth" is not just about more money ... you want to balance your life while working toward financial freedom so that you don't make the mistake of sacrificing your family, health, or a fulfilling life in pursuit of money.
So, if you're ready to start working with a financial coach, feel free to contact me at Prosperity Now Financial Management Services.
Financially True,
Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Exit Strategies: How to Leave Financially Abusive Relationships

Have you (or someone you know) ever been caught up in a financially abusive relationship and desperately needed an exit strategy? I have.

There are many consumers that are in financially abusive relationships with financial institutions that seem to be “not that into” them. They are dealing with ridiculously high loan interest rates, very low deposit rates, too many and extremely high fees, as well as poor customer service.
Being in a financially abusive relationship not only angered ME, but it made me feel weak and hopeless because I didn’t know how or if I could escape.  Then one day … I did!  So, here are a few effective Exit Strategies for getting out of a Financially Abusive Relationship.
Talk About It
There may be an opportunity of improving the situation by talking with the right person at the financial institution. So, before deciding to break up with the financial institution …
Be sure to
  1. Share concerns with a Customer Service Representative,
  2. Speak with a Branch or Department Manager about concerns for resolution, or
  3. Write a letter to the Senior or Executive manager about concerns.
If efforts to resolve the matter are not addressed appropriately or ignored, move to the next strategy.
Start Financial Dating
Begin the process of financially dating other financial institutions to find one (or two) that can meet, at least, most of the required financial needs (deposit accounts, loans, internet banking, etc.). In my book Financial Fornication, I share the 5 phases of Financial Dating to avoid financially abusive relationships. These phases should not be skipped.  It is necessary and worth taking the time to get to know financial institutions to ensure they are right for a particular financial situation.
So, be sure to
  1. Explore financial options (banks vs. credit unions).
  2. Investigate the financial institution(s) selected via the internet or word of mouth (research).
  3. Experience the Introduction by going to the branch(es) or calling customer service to ask questions.
  4. Start slow Courting by using one or two of their financial services (open a savings or checking account), when ready!
  5. After all 4 phases have been executed, Commit to the new primary financial institution (PFI) by using more of their products and services. 
Once a new financial “main squeeze” is found, it will make it easier to leave an existing financially abusive relationship.
Exit Slowly & Deliberately
Whether a new financial “main squeeze” is on standby or not, another Exit Strategy is to slowly stop using the financial institution’s products and services.
Be sure to
  1. Review bank statements carefully to identify all direct deposit or automatic payments coming out of the accounts.
  2. Stop or change automatic payments from the account(s) and update payment information with the new financial account information, if available.
  3. Ensure that all accounts are in good standing or current. This will ensure a clean break. The last thing wanted is a reason for the abusive financial institution to remain in contact.
  4. If possible or necessary, refinance loans to the new financial “main squeeze.” If this is not possible, keep this in mind … having loans with a financial institution is like having a child(ren) with an estranged spouse or mate.  Leaving the relationship does not diminish the responsibility of the child(ren). Therefore, leaving the financial institutions does not diminish the legal responsibility of the credit obligation.  If refinancing is not an option, continue to make loan payments to the financial institution on time until it is paid in full to avoid collection and credit report drama.
  5. Lastly, stop or reduce direct deposit into the account.
Once these steps are executed, a clean break is relatively available.
Even though the financial relationship may seem extremely challenging right now, just know that all financial institutions are not alike. There are lots of really good financial institutions out there that value and appreciate their customers.  Once you find them, some of them even provide an easier method of transiting automatic payments and direct deposits to them through what is called Switch Kits.
So don’t give up. There is hope. And most importantly, you deserve better!
Financially True,
Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Things Asked on a Loan Application Used by Collectors

Have you (or someone you know) ever wonder why certain information is requested on a loan application that may not have anything to do with making the loan decision? I have.
When applying for credit, the loan application is not only a tool to acquire necessary information for the lender to make a judgmental credit decision. It is also a source of valuable data that is used to help collectors collect money that is owed to the lender if the borrower does not make their payments on time or at all.
Here are 5 Things Asked on a Loan Application Used by Collectors.
The current address is not only used to request the applicant’s credit report, but it is also used to mail payment reminder or collections letters and, when necessary, for Skip Tracing.  Skip Tracing is a process of acquiring as much information about a person to find out where they are. Once the person is located, the collector can proceed with collection efforts or take further legal action.  Some skip tracing tools used are credit reports, white pages, a system called “Accurint,” social media, and especially Google.
The name and address of the applicant’s employer is sometimes used to have the borrower served if the lender chooses to sue the borrower by filing for a default judgment. However, this information is mainly used to file for wage garnishment.
Home, work and cell phone numbers are used by collectors, of course, to call borrowers to discuss missed or past due loan payments and to acquire, what is called a “Promise To Pay.”  A Promise To Pay, is the borrower’s promise to make the agreed upon payment(s) to bring the loan account back to a current status.  Most collection calls may be friendly reminders. However, the more past due the loan becomes, the more “concerned” the collectors may be when calling.
Most collectors are aware that many people may not answer unknown callers or callers that they do not want to speak to. They are also aware that many people may not read or ignore collection notices in the mail. This is why email addresses are very valuable.  In today’s electronic age, most people may respond faster to their emails than letters and voicemail messages.  This also gives the borrowers time to respond in a less intimidating manner.
The names, addresses and phone numbers of the applicant’s family members and friends are usually requested in a loan application as references. This information is also used for Skip Tracing, when necessary.  Collectors may contact those references to obtain more information about the borrower and their whereabouts to continue collection efforts or further legal action.
Most first party collectors, which are usually employees of the lender, may be very open to assist borrowers that are dealing with financial hardships with payment plans. They are usually friendly and willing to assist as best as possible. So, please don’t ignore them.
Just make sure that you are aware of consumer rights regarding normal collection action, especially when dealing with third party collectors. No collector should verbally abuse or threaten you. That is against the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs third party collectors, collection activity, as well as Consumer Rights.

Financially True,

Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy

What other application information is used by collectors?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5 Things I Wish I was taught "How To Be" when I was a Teenager (to be Financially Better Off)!

Do you, or someone you know, have things you wish someone taught you "how to be" when you were a teenager, to be financially better off?  I do!

“If I knew then what I know now.” This has got to be the theme song for most adults, especially when it comes to finances.  There are hundreds of things that I wish I was told, taught or nagged about when I was a teenager.  But, here are my top 5 Things I wish I was taught “how to be” when I was a teenager, to be financially better off.
I wish I was taught how to be …
A Boss!
No, not Bossy, but A Boss of my own business. Instead of being encouraged to go to school so I can get a good job, I wish I was told and taught to go to school to learn how to make jobs. Or to go get a job to learn what it takes to run a business. Seriously, we are told what to do and what not to do when we are children, only to go to school to get a job for other adults to tell us what to do and what not to do when we become adults.  Seems like a set up to me now.  
So teens … go to school and get a job, NOT to just be an employee, but to learn how to become an entrepreneur. Besides, there are not that many jobs out there right now anyway. Create your own business and Be A Boss!
A Giver
The first principle of Prosperity is Giving! In order to reap a harvest, a seed must be sown.  Always remember, there is no room to receive in a closed fist.  Whether your giving is spiritually, morally or emotionally based, give gladly and on good ground. Giving is not always about money. Sometimes your old clothes, knowledge, or time may be just as, if not more, valuable.
So teens … learn the power and pleasure of giving early to a church, non-profit or worthy organization or individual. You’ll be surprised of the blessings you will receive because of your openness to give.
A Saver
Who knew that if I had saved only $100 per month when I got my first job at the age of 14 in a savings account with an interest rate of 0.50% until now (25 years), I would have saved over $32,000? And if I had saved $200 per month, it would be almost $65,000.  The point is, if I really understood the power of saving at a younger age when I could afford it, I would be able to afford almost anything I wanted when I got older.
So teens … Start Saving Sooner!!! The younger you are when you start saving, the more you will have when you really need it when you get older. Trust me on this one.
Financially Proactive
Enjoy today but Live for Tomorrow!  Tomorrow is your future. Live like you are going to be alive for a long time and you want to be financially comfortable for the rest of your life. True story … If I had planned for the things that I wanted “tomorrow” (in the future); I would not have borrowed money to get what I wanted “today” that I would have to be paid back “tomorrow” (in the future). Well, it’s tomorrow for me now and I’m still paying for what I borrowed “yesterday” (in the past).  My point is that using credit to get what you want right now will limit what you can afford tomorrow, when you really need it. It’s no fun not being able to afford to buy a home because you owe too much in credit card debt.  Credit is designed to be a leverage to help you acquire real “assets” (read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad Poor Dad) or to be an anchor and drown you deep in debt.
So teens … use credit wisely and do not use it until you are mature enough to handle its consequences (read my book, Financial Fornication).
Not rich, but Wealthy! Rich is predicated on how much money you have, but Wealth is determined by how much you are able to do with the money you have. I’ve met hundreds of broke “rich” people, but I’ve never met a broke “wealthy” person.  Also, don’t believe the bling you see on TV! Nine times out of 10, the bling is borrowed! #IJS
So teens … follow my Financial Freedom Formula early and be wealthy for the rest of your life!

Those are my top 5 things I wish I was taught, but believe me there are more. Come to think of it, I was probably told to be a few of them, but I just didn't listen. Typical teenager.  ;-)
Best wishes on your journey to Financial Freedom!
Financially True,
Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

5 Ways to Avoid Financial STDs (Substantially Tremendous Debt)

Have you or someone you know been infected with Financial STDs? I have…
In my book Financial Fornication, I talk about Financial STDs (Substantially Tremendous Debt).  This financial dis-ease is not only financially and emotional painful, but families and cosigners can get infected as well because it can be contagious.
Here are 5 ways to avoid Financial STDS.
Use Financial Contraception.
Financial Contraception is better known as a budget or spending plan. Create a budget or spending plan that works with your lifestyle. Using a budget is the best protection against acquiring Financial STDs.
Avoid being financially promiscuous with multiple credit cards.
Pick a credit card that has the lowest rate and provides bonus points if you must or choose to use a credit card for purchases. Using multiple credit cards may result in excessive spending, which result in Financial STDs.
Limit or Avoid Financial One Night Stands.
A financial one night stand is a financial transaction, usually less than $50-$100, that should be paid in cash or paid in full if purchased with credit. If you choose to use credit for these types of transactions, avoid turning those financial one night stands into a long term financial relationship by revolving the balance and not paying it off in full. Vernacularly speaking, “Hit it & Quit it!”
Become Financial Abstinent.
When your finances feel like they’re getting out of control, sometimes it’s best to just STOP using credit to get a handle on your finances. Being financially abstinent stops the leaks in finances so a budget can be created to build up immunity against Financial STDs.
Get out of Financially AbusiveRelationships.
If you are getting your butt kicked with ridiculously high loan rates, low deposit rates, lots of fees and poor customer service, they’re probably really not that into you, which means that it’s time to plan your exit strategy from that financially abusive relationship.  You don’t have to stay. Date financial institutions to find the best one for you.
For more tips, check out my book “Financial Fornication.”
Financially True,
Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy