WEBSITE REVIEW: Cash Money Life

Website Review - genericThe internet is saturated with blogs and sites about anything and everything under the sun. Among the dozens of blogs devoted to personal finance, Cash Money Life (cashmoneylife.com) stands out as a reliable and factual source of information and advice. As featured in top-tier media sites like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and MainStreet.com, Cash Money Life offers readers an easy and efficient way to get the inside scoop on anything money-related without the distraction of complex interfaces and confusing designs.   

Authored by Ryan Guina, the blog targets a broad audience and brands itself as a personal finance, small business and career journal. The site is updated daily with articles covering a wide spectrum of financial topics, from current events1 to product reviews, tutorials, investment tips and more. You can use the site to search for an auto insurance plan that suits your needs or to explore the stocks that are worth investing in this season. Articles are always written in simple, easy-to-understand language that offers concrete information without talking down to the reader. 

cash money life logo

Here are some trending articles on Cash Money Life: 

  • How to Invest in Small Business
  • Best Auto Insurance Companies
  • Liberty Tax Review—Simplified Tax Filing
  • FreeTaxUSA Review—Step-By-Step Help Filing Your Taxes
  • E-file Review—How the Software Can Streamline Your Taxes

When visiting the site, you can browse through the fresh posts or look up archived evergreen content covering a comprehensive list of financial topics. 

top-youtube-earners1-350x294Also check out the “Free Money” page, which is a wildly popular spot that is dedicated to sharing information about freebies. The freebies include gimmick-free, complimentary trials, referral bonuses, first-time-customer gift cards and more. Check it out to see what’s free this week! 

If you’re looking for a place where you can find clear, practical, and reliable financial information, visit Cash Money Life today. 

Your Turn: What’s your favorite online source for financial information? Tell us all about it in the comments!

BOOK REVIEW: Making Money Simple

The Complete Guide To Getting Your Financial House In Order And Keeping It That Way Forever

It can sometimes feel like every decision we need to make revolves around money. How do we spend it? How much should we save? Where should we invest? How much do we need to retire? The endless stream of choices is enough to give anyone a throbbing headache! 

Book Review branded graphicDon’t let these decisions throw you into a panic. All you need for simplifying your money management is the proper framework for making smart financial decisions. The soon-to-be-released Making Money Simple provides that crucial framework to learn how to expertly and efficiently navigate your own finances. 

Author Peter Lazaroff wants to gift readers with the foundation they need to make the proper personal finance decision in any circumstance or situation they might encounter. His book is a manifesto that will guide you through the ups and downs of your career, major milestones and the path toward growing your wealth. The framework for decisions he outlines in Making Money Simple is strong enough to get you through anything your financial life throws at you, even the most challenging circumstances where there are no hard rules at play. 

Making money simple bookRead Making Money Simple and you’ll be empowered to create your own plan for financial success, drawing on proven wealth management techniques and real-life strategies. You’ll learn about core economic principles and expert-level investing practices. You’ll study financial topics of every kind and read Lazaroff’s advice culled from his years as chief investment officer of a multibillion-dollar wealth management firm. And finally, you’ll be empowered with the tools you need to make managing your personal finances simple. 

You don’t need detailed spreadsheets or complicated investment strategies to get your financial life in order; you simply need a process to help you understand your finances and make them manageable. 

Making Money Simple will show you how to: 

●     Create financial goals and plan for your future.

●     Understand the three core elements of building a strong financial house.

●     Implement effective investment strategies.

●     Learn the 10 questions to ask when hiring financial professionals of any kind. 

Making Money Simple will help you achieve financial wellness and secure your future success. 

Your Turn: Do you think money management can truly be simple? Or, will personal finances always be challenging to navigate? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

WEBSITE REVIEW: And Then We Saved

Are you ready to kick that debt for good? Do you want to give your financial life a complete makeover? 

Look no further than And Then We Saved. The personal finance blog was founded by Anna Newell Jones, a young mother who found herself tumbling down the path of debt with no end in sight. When Anna’s fiancé, Aaron, now her husband, refused to share an account with her because of her horrendous financial habits, she resolved to get herself together and clean up her finances. 

Website Review - genericAnna says: “In a lot of ways I thought that, since I’d always have debt, that I would definitely be dying with it, that I might as well just enjoy myself!” Anna explains that her way of thinking, which is quite common among people carrying heavy debt, only made her problem worse. 

Anna made a valiant effort to crawl out from under the pile of debt. She started budgeting and trimming her spending, but her debt was too big for small steps. She needed to do something drastic. 

And so, Anna came up with the idea of doing a spending fast. Back then, in 2010, the concept of a financial fast was still an anomaly. Anna didn’t have access to a plethora of books and blogs on the subject as we do today. Instead, she structured a spending fast on her own. She sat down and deliberated, strategized and tweaked, until she was satisfied with the plan. And then she went for it.   

and then we saved graphicHer plan was an incredible success. She ran into the inevitable roadblocks, but with perseverance and willpower, she kicked an incredible $23,605 of debt in just 15 months! And she did it all on a clerk’s salary of $33,000. 

Anna is now determined to share her strategy with others who are feeling hopelessly stuck under mountains of debt. She tells her full story in her book, The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living and on her blog, And Then We Saved (andthenwesaved.com). She offers readers the opportunity to follow the same plan that helped her claw her way out of debt and bring similar change to their own lives. 

Struggling with debt can be a shameful, isolating experience. The blog’s private “Spending Fasters” community allows people to share their struggles and triumphs with other members, to glean advice and encouragement, and ultimately, to find their way to a debt-free life. 

In just a few years, readers of And Then We Saved have triumphed over millions of dollars of debt. 

If you need to take action and start kicking your debt today, visit And Then We Saved to see if Anna’s method can work for you. 

As Anna says, “Your life should be about more than just trying to survive. You deserve to live the kind of life you’ve been dreaming about. You deserve to feel proud, empowered, and strong!”   

Your Turn: Do you think a Spending Fast is the best way to get out of piles of debt? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

APP REVIEW: House Hunting Real Estate Apps

App Feature newIf you’re looking for a new home this season, why not start your search from the comfort of your living room couch? 

Thanks to the many real estate apps and websites, searching for a new home in 2019 is worlds away from what it was just a couple decades back. You can now use your computer or phone to look up for-sale homes in the neighborhood of your choice, see an aerial view of a house, take a video tour of your potential new home and so much more. 

Most real estate agencies have their own websites and apps for hopeful house-hunters, and there are loads of other third-party services, too. Each offers similar features, but there are important distinctions setting them apart. Using several different apps can get confusing fast, so do your research well. This way, you can choose the one app that best suits your needs. 

We’ve made it easy for you! Read on for a quick look at the three most popular house-hunting apps on the market. 

Zillow 

Zillow is easily the most used real estate app on the market. As of May 2018, the site was seeing an average of 36 million monthly visitors. In 2015, the company acquired Trulia, which sees 23 million visitors of its own. 

zillowZillow cornered the market with a clear, easy-to-use site, providing users with dozens of listings in the location of their choice. Homes can be filtered according to price, number of rooms, square footage, specific amenities, structural styles and more. You can also look up recent home sales in a neighborhood and see homes that are already under contract. Additionally, the site allows you to take a virtual tour of many homes, though you’ll have to load each picture separately. 

Zillow allows users to check out the final cost of living in the home of their choice. All you need to do is input your down payment amount and estimated interest rate into the app’s mortgage calculator, and then let it factor in other costs like taxes, homeowner’s insurance and mortgage insurance. This way, you can get a realistic picture of what your monthly payments might look like if you end up purchasing the home. 

Zillow also has a tool that allows homebuyers to find top-rated agents in their area. Most of these agents operate at the average commission rate of 6% of the final sale price of the home, though some may take a higher cut. 

Best Features 

Zillow’s most distinctive feature is its Zestimate, which appears as soon as you pull up a listing.

The Zestimate is the app’s determined value of a home, which is calculated using a formula that is based on public and user-submitted data. 

While the Zestimate may or may not be fully accurate, it can be useful as a negotiating tool for buyers. Users also find it to be an easy way to get an idea of a property’s potential value before they get serious about a house. 

Glaring Glitches 

Zillow’s main drag is its timeliness—or lack, thereof. Zillow listings are notorious for being outdated. You might find that as many as 30 percent of the listings on Zillow are already under contract or sold. This can be super-frustrating for house-hunters. 

Another downside of Zillow, which the company claims to be trying to fix, is the inaccuracy of its Zestimates. While the accuracy seems to vary by user, many house-hunters complain that the estimate was nowhere near the actual number reached by an authentic appraisal service. 

Trulia 

Trulia offers nearly everything you’ll find on Zillow, with some slight distinctions. You can find a “Trulia Estimate” on a home, which is usually similar to a Zestimate but carries less weight with home owners. Photos of a potential home can all be viewed in one screen, making it less cumbersome than Zillow’s photo-viewing. You can also look up the selling prices for an area, and check out local real estate trends, which can help you determine whether an asking price is decent, above-market, or below-market for a given area. 

truliaBest Features 

Trulia excels in one crucial area: providing viewers with a complete picture of a neighborhood. Trulia’s local map view data allows house-hunters to check out comparable sales in the area, the schools in the district, local amenities, public transportation, crime rate and more – and it’s all on one simple-to-use map. This feature can save users the hassle of driving out to a neighborhood to check out a few homes, only to find that the neighborhood is mostly neglected and the closest supermarket is a full 30-minute drive away. 

Glaring Glitches 

Though Trulia’s photo-viewing feature is easier to use than Zillow’s, a lot of users find the app to be more difficult to use than its competitors. Homes can be slow to load, filtering can take a while and learning to navigate the app can take time. 

Also, because the listings are the same as those you’ll find on Zillow, they can be similarly outdated. 

Redfin 

Redfin stands apart for the tremendous amount of information it provides for each listing. You can look up the square footage of each room in a house on Redfin, read notes left by Realtors who’ve seen the property and review the HOA dues that may be attached to a home. 

redfinRedfin does not have its own estimating system like Zillow, but it’ll show you Zillow’s Zestimate at the bottom of each listing, along with another appraisal from eappraisal.com. 

You can also set automatic alerts for new listings that match your criteria so you know about new homes as soon as they hit the market. This will give you your best shot at putting an offer on dream homes that might be snatched up by other eager buyers. 

Best Features 

Redfin prides itself on the timeliness of its listings. The company refreshes its listings every 30 minutes to ensure they are as up-to-date as possible. If you’re looking for an app that will provide you with loads of listings that are all still active, Redfin is likely to be your best bet. 

Glaring Glitches 

Redfin is more than just a house-hunting app—it’s an actual real estate brokerage firm. If you choose to use the app to buy your home, you’ll automatically be using one of its agents, often at a higher working commission than that of your average broker. 

Whichever app you choose to use for finding your new home, don’t forget to call or stop by [credit union] for a pre-approval and details about our fantastic home loan options! 

How they stack up:                                                                     

App

Own Appraisal

Timely Listings

 Local Map Data

Automatic Alerts

Zillow

Yes

No

No

No

Trulia

Yes

No

Yes

No

Redfin

No

Yes

No

Yes

Your Turn: Have you used any of these apps to find your home? Tell us all about it in the comments.

BOOK REVIEW: The Ethical Investor’s Handbook

Book Review branded graphicMost of us mistakenly divide the world into two kinds of people: those who care about amassing as much wealth as possible and those who care about everything else. The money-hungry capitalist who will step on anyone and anything on the path to the top is a familiar caricature, and is unfortunately not always far from reality. While there are some companies that choose to employ environmentally friendly practices, we assume it is only the very large ones that can afford to so without impacting their bottom lines. 

Most of us think we have a difficult choice to make: Do we want to invest in companies and businesses whose values might not align perfectly with our own, or do we choose to cling to what we believe  is important while losing out on priceless opportunities to help our money grow? 

Singapore-based financial analyst Morten Strange is here to show the world that these two values can be perfectly blended. Successful ethical investing is not the oxymoron you might think it to be. In fact, it is more achievable now than ever. 

the ethical investors handbookIn The Ethical Investor’s Handbook, Morten demonstrates how economics and finances directly affect the state of the environment. He answers loaded questions that lots of people grapple with, including strategies that you, as an individual investor, can implement to give your money its greatest chance at growth without wrecking the Earth. You’ll also learn about ways to navigate your capital allocation without compromising on your own principles and values. 

In his book, Strange explores hot environmental topics, like alternative energy sources, ethical foods, conservation and natural capital. The Ethical Investor’s Handbook shows readers how to build and sustain a green portfolio that earns generous returns and outlines common pitfalls and obstacles on the journey toward successful ethical investing. The truly committed investor who is equally committed to their values will find The Ethical Investor’s Handbook to be a priceless guideline for growing wealth without short-changing their moral compass. 

If you’d like to help your money reach its maximum earning potential without destroying the Earth or trampling on your personal values, The Ethical Investor’s Handbook will guide you on the path to ethical financial success. 

Your Turn: Do you believe maximizing your money’s earning power and supporting environmental practices are contrary values? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Own?

Hopefully, you’re working hard to keep a high credit score by using your cards and paying on time. You may be wondering, though, if more is better. Is several credit cards and more available credit a good idea? Or, are too many cards a liability to your score? 

Read on for the answers to all your questions. 

wallet-credit-cards

How your credit score works 

Let’s explore the major components of your credit that credit scoring agencies, like FICO and VantageScore, use to calculate your score: 

  1. Your payment history. The timeliness of your payments comprises 65% of your FICO score. VantageScore calls payment history “extremely influential” in your score.
  2. Your credit utilization. Credit scoring companies look at how much of your available credit – in total and per line – you are using.
  3. The age of your credit history. Lenders want to see a long and active history of credit cards and on-time payments.
  4. Your credit diversity.  A variety of credit indicates that you are an attractive borrower.

Why have several open cards?

Over time, having multiple cards can boost your score in two important areas:

  • Your payment history. When you pay several credit card bills on time instead of just one, this component of your score will go up.
  • Credit utilization rate. FICO likes to see a low credit utilization rate. Having multiple cards lowers this number by increasing your available credit and allowing you to spread your credit use across several cards.

The right number of credit cards

There is no magic number of cards you should shoot for to achieve a high credit score. Instead, let’s take a look at the credit cards of consumers with excellent scores.

Statistics find that the average individual with a FICO score exceeding 785 has 7 open credit cards. The average credit account is 11 years old and the most recently opened account is 28 months old.

While it may be OK to have a few cards, having lots of NEW cards probably won’t help you achieve excellent credit.

When not to open new cards

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan within the next year, applying for new cards can hurt your score. Here’s why:

  • Hard checks. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit history gets pulled. Lots of “hard checks” can negatively affect your score.
  • Your credit age will decrease. The age of your credit is determined by taking an average of the age of all your cards. By opening lots of new cards, you’re bringing that overall average down, and therefore hurting your score.
  • Your credit variety will decrease. Opening more unsecured cards with revolving credit will lower your credit variety because you’ll now have more unsecured lines than other types of loans.
  • Too much open credit. Lots of open credit will negatively affect your VantageScore. This score is used for auto loans and other large loans; though most mortgage lenders only consider your FICO score.

Keeping your credit score strong can positively affect your finances for years to come.

Don’t forget True North has a great low rate credit card to offer. You can even apply online or call us at (907) 523-4700.

Your Turn: How many credit cards do you own? Do you think this number is too few or too many? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!