Top Personal Finance Blogs
Wednesday November 13th 2019

Easy Jobs for College Students

Many college students realize they need jobs not only to earn extra income for college expenses, but also to list as work experience on their resumes. With class schedules often times unpredictable, many students are have a difficult time finding a job that fits around their school schedule. However, some jobs are a perfect fit for students, allowing them to earn money while still focusing on their education, by working from their dorms or right on campus.

Writing for the Web

Students can earn money writing for online content sites. Once registered with an online content site, individuals can start submitting articles or blog posts. Some sites have pre-selected topics for authors to write about, and other sites allow writers to choose their own topics. Online content sites pay writers up-front payments, residual payments, or a combination of the two for the content they write and submit.


Most people start blogs as a way to express their thoughts about what interest them, and hope that someone will read it. However, few people realize that bloggers actually have the ability to earn income. It takes time to earn money from blogs, but with the right understanding of internet marketing techniques, individuals can start to earn residual pay.

Link Building

Blogs and websites need inbound links to their site to be considered credible by the search engines. They are several ways to get inbound links such as writing articles, blog comments, and other methods. These tasks can be tedious and often times are outsourced to students by internet marketers.

Virtual assistant

Many entrepreneurs hire independent contractors to perform administrative and accounting tasks. As the name suggest, these jobs are performed over the internet. Virtual assistants may be responsible for answering phone calls, creating and responding to emails, creating newsletters, bookkeeping, and data entry.


Writers and online content sites often hire individuals to proofread content before publishing it. This is a great job for students who possess good grammar skills. It can also be a great resume builder for those who seek careers as editors after graduation.

Professor’s Research Assistant

Research is a huge part of funding for colleges and universities. This creates an opportunity for students to become research assistants. Often times, students can find positions within their major. They are able to gain valuable researching skills, and possibly earn great recommendations from professors in the future.

On-campus IT Support

If you are working towards an IT degree or related discipline, you may have the chance to land an on-campus IT support job. Many times these jobs are run through work-study programs. IT support jobs will give students valuable work experience for careers in the IT field.

Paid Internships

Students can find paid internships related to their major through the career services department. The internships allow students to gain work experience, usually have work hours that fit around their class schedules, and often times can count as credit hours towards a degree plan.

Small Business Lending Basics

Businesses of all sizes frequently acquire loans for numerous needs. Before journeying into the world of company management and ownership, individuals require some knowledge of small business lending basics. Some lenders prefer to work with companies established for 3 to 5 years, while others readily assume the risk of new business ventures. Lenders provide various loan types to accommodate different business aspects including start-up expenses, cash flow, expansion, investments and inventory.

Small business owners must understand that each loan application, regardless of intention, automatically transfers to the individual’s credit report. Here, other creditors have the opportunity to view a company’s borrowing and payment history. For this reason, ensure loan acceptance by filling out applications thoroughly, providing all the necessary documentation and detailed business plan or records requested.

Pre-loan Preparedness

Company owners and potential owners must prepare appropriate documentation prior to the loan application process. An applicant must prove the ability to repay the loan and the commitment to the business. Part of the paperwork a first-time business owner requires includes personal financial statements, and 3 years of tax returns.

Financiers desire a well-constructed, detailed business plan, featuring monetary requirements, cash on hand, necessary equipment and facilities, collateral, projected income and expenses, in addition to contingency plans. Include personal experience and qualifications and the experience and qualifications of associates or employees. Established business loans require similar documentation, but also include profitability and loss records in addition to the company‘s tax returns.

Choosing a Business Partner

Consider a loan officer or creditor as a business partner. During every part of the company’s lifespan, this person or institution invests in the venture and expects a return on that investment, albeit the loan amount plus fees and interest. Include a personal bank as the first place of loan inquiry. As an established client, potential or established business owners already have a relationship with the facility. Acquiring a loan from a familiar environment may improve chances of acceptance.

Before choosing a specific financier, ask the lender for references or interview other business owners. Determine which facility treats clients fairly, provides assistance with applications and documentation, supplies entire loan amounts, and how the institution handles small business hurdles. Loan brokers evaluate the needs of small businesses and provide suggestions regarding other lending institutions. Higher rates accompany these loans for services rendered. However, in many instances, the firms supply approvals not otherwise easily acquired.

Loan Types

Small business applying for loans can expect interest rates ranging from 8% to 14%, plus application fees (typically <$100) and other stipulations. Beware of low cost loans that add hidden fees that in effect cost the proprietor more in the end. Loan types vary in the amounts available and the time of repayment. If desiring to pay off a loan in its entirety prior to the projected period, ensure no early repayment penalties apply.

Term loans require monthly payments over a specified length of time. Proprietors use short-term loans for needs that ensure a quick return. Companies repay the loan in one lump sum in a year or less. Line of credit loans provide small increments of money to generate constant cash flow. Many businesses acquire and pay off these loans annually.

FHA Short Refinance: Help in Hard Times Without Destroying Your Credit

Many families continue paying monthly mortgages by tightening monthly budgets, scrimping and saving. As the housing market declined, homeowners became strapped with properties worth less than the original mortgage amount.

Property Value Declines

Overall statistics indicate 23% of owners experienced property value decreases. In certain locations, the numbers climb to 68%. Selling the property would not eliminate the mortgage and lenders were reluctant to refinance. Up until now, there was little hope for these struggling people.

The government recently developed a finance program that helps stabilize the housing market by decreasing the difference between a property’s actual value and cost. Some programs provided lowered interest rates or extended loan payments in an attempt to lower monthly payments.

However, the newly introduced FHA program chips away at the loan principle to more accurately reflect current property values. Individuals must meet specific criteria before using an FHA short refinance to get help.

FHA Stipulations

  • Homeowners must owe more on the property than it is currently worth. In other words, the original loan amount must exceed the current property value. This does not include fees or interest.
  • The loan applies only to those who did not acquire FHA backed financing when obtaining the property.
  • Individuals must be current on monthly mortgage payments.
  • A personal credit score, or FICO score, must be equal to or greater than 500.
  • The home must be a primary residence with an original loan. There are other requirements for persons attempting to refinance a second mortgage or a rental property.
  • Owners must obtain present mortgage lender approval. Financiers owning mortgages voluntarily participate in the FHA program and agree to forgive up to 10% of the principle debt.
  • FHA refinance loans are available now through the end of 2012.

Homeowners and financiers searching for specific information find details at the following HUD website:

Benefits to Lenders

While financiers generally look out for the best interest and profitability of the institution, many allowed risky mortgage loans. Reducing a percentage of loan principle is a more lucrative alternative to owners defaulting on loans. The program also assists lenders in recouping the losses on these investments. The FHA provides lenders with cash incentives while participating in the program.

Each relinquished loan provides $500 in cash, in addition to a percentage of the difference between the initial loan amount and the decreased principle. Homeowners are not restricted to obtain refinancing through the same institution; however, the refinanced amount cannot exceed the minimum loan to value ratio of 97.5%.

Caution to Homeowners

Closing costs, fees and possibly mortgage insurance accompany FHA backed refinance loans. The amount of excused principle triggers negative marks on personal credit reports. If not refinancing through a current lender, beware of many refinancing scams.

Some fail to disclose the amounts of closing costs, interest rates and loan terms, although the law requires institutions to do so. Also, obtain the time frame required to close the deal before interest rates are eligible for reevaluation. Use extreme caution when lenders request signatures on documents containing false information or no information at all.

Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul with a Money Merge Account

Reduce mortgage repayment time by half or more! That’s an attention-getting message, isn’t it? Money Merge Accounts advertise that you can eliminate monthly mortgage payments sooner, saving thousands of dollars in interest. But these ventures do not provide their services for nothing. In the end, you’re probably better off just passing that offer by.

Money merge accounts or accelerated mortgage repayment systems originated in Australia and recently infiltrated the US. Despite rapidly growing in acceptance and admiration, many financial experts caution customers to tread slowly. Though the program effectively reduces mortgage repayment time, the concept is not without flaws or hazards. In effect, these accounts get you to borrow from Peter to pay Paul.

How Money Merge Accounts Work

Customers must first buy the accelerator software program. Expect to pay anywhere from $695 to well over $4,000 for the use of the technology. The tool regulates the cash flow between a high equity line of credit (HELOC), monthly wages, monthly living expenses and a regular fixed rate mortgage. Clients must monitor transactions closely to detect possible errors.

Then you must obtain an HELOC through the company or an affiliate. This is essentially a second loan based on a home’s equity value. The interest rates vary and more times than not, exceed the amount of the first mortgage. Consumers must then agree to deposit all wages into the account, which relinquishes control over spending. After the determination of monthly expenses, the client receives a credit card. The card is the only resource for paying bills. A dashboard allows clients to adjust the number of years until pay-off, the pay-off date and to visualize the amount of interest paid.

The software deposits the paychecks into the account in order to begin paying back the HELOC. The HELOC pays the mortgage payment, allows withdrawals from the credit card for living expenses and adds the excess to the mortgage loan principle. The more frequently money is applied to the principle, the faster the amount decreases. Money continuously flows from one area to another.

Fees and Pitfalls

Pitfalls with the system include the initial cost of the software, the accuracy and effectiveness to circulate funds without error and interest rates of the HELOC. In order to prevent negative balance occurrences, consumers must diligently track finances. The software’s first priority is to pay down the mortgage. Monies moving out of the account may or may not coincide with paycheck deposits or bill deductions.

Insufficient fund or late fees are the sole responsibility of the client. Subsequently, credit history becomes affected. In order for the program to operate properly, individuals must have substantial excess income after paying the mortgage and other monthly bills. In addition, customers may incur penalties after using the card for unnecessary expenses.

The software programs are available through financial and insurance advisors, mortgage brokers and realtors. Clients gain information from one on one meetings, networking systems or seminars. Experts suggest conferring with legal consultants prior to signing any documents. Examine the fine print for refund policies and warranties and receive thorough answers to all questions.

Why You Should Choose Your Home Improvement Projects Carefully

Every owner realizes having a home requires certain amounts of maintenance and labor. Due to weathering or general wear and tear, numerous aspects of a home require painting, repairing or replacing. Many  remodel the interiors or exteriors in an attempt to modernize or for added convenience. Some projects do not increase the worth of the existing property and owners may not be able to recoup the expenses involved when trying to sell.

Before beginning any project designed specifically to improve property value, owners might consult realtors and research online. Determine what improvements are worth the money. When remodeling for financial value, homeowners must choose your home improvement projects carefully.

Backyard Swimming Pools

This type of project could easily run tens of thousands of dollars depending on whether the structure is above or below ground. The finished product may provide hours of recreational enjoyment and fun for the current occupants, but buyers may view the pool otherwise. Prospective buyers may view the project as a Trojan horse in terms of the money required for upkeep. The improvement also poses a potential risk or hazard to young families with children.


Because of potential allergy and environmental concerns, increasingly people replace carpet with other types of flooring. As a result, wall-to-wall carpeting might present a negative impression with many potential buyers. In addition, the decorating tastes of one individual do not necessarily appeal to the tastes of another. Color and texture appealing to one person appears hideous to the next.

Consistent Upgrades

While an owner may be thoroughly impressed over a brand new $20,000 kitchen, clients viewing the property may more aptly remember seeing an unfinished basement. Likewise, new wood flooring in part of the home does not detract from 70s style vinyl linoleum in other parts of the house. When modernizing a living space, upgrades must be consistent throughout the home for any hope of recovering rebuilding costs.

Dominating the Neighborhood

A two-story colonial style mansion may be the be the pride and joy of the homeowner, but when the property lies amongst bungalow style, single family residences, the property may be conceived as an eyesore. Clients may also perceive the price of the property should be in alignment with the rest of the neighborhood, regardless of the expansive size or elaborate detail.

Expensive Landscaping

While many go to great lengths to improve the appearance of the property’s exterior, a potential buyer may not share in the enthusiasm. A yard requiring high maintenance may become a drawback for someone not enthused about having to spend weekends gardening, mowing, pulling weeds, trimming bushes and watering. Moreover, while the current owner employs the use of a gardener, a prospective buyer may not have the resources to do so.

Hidden Improvements

Replacing electrical wiring, plumbing, or heating and cooling systems may seem like an upgrade to owners, but prospective buyers generally expect all of these systems to be functional and may not consider the expense involved. Many conclude these expensive upgrades as necessary maintenance and not improvements.

Do You Really Need a Bank?

Candice Choi, AP Personal Finance Writer, did an interesting piece on personal finance recently. Her October 4, 2010 article details her experiment in which she tried to live without a bank for one month. What did she find? Fees, fees and more fees.

Living without a Bank

Why would anyone live this way? Well, if you’ve got bad credit or a shady history of writing bad checks, banks won’t want to deal with you. Some people just don’t trust the Internet age and want to live off the radar. Maybe you just don’t speak the language.

If you’re one of these people, you may find yourself paying $28 every week to cash your paycheck. If you need to pay a bill, you’ll be charged $1.50 for a money order. You could try a pre-paid card, but those cost a dollar every time you use them. Ms. Choi racked up $93 in fees in just one month of living without a bank. Living anonymously isn’t cheap.

As it turns out 25% of American households don’t have bank accounts. Most of them make very little money, less than $30,000 annually. And the numbers don’t appear to be getting any better. The number of U.S. citizens living this way is expected to keep climbing. Ms Choi details the government push to get more of these people into banks, which may automatically make some suspicious. And when we look more closely at these fees, things don’t quite look right.

Check Cashing Fees

Look at Ms. Choi’s experiment and the fees she paid. She details $56 to cash two paychecks at a check-cashing store. Why didn’t she just go to the bank where each check was issued? There’s no fee for that. Wal-Mart advertises a $3 fee for check cashing, so paying so much makes little sense.

Cash Cards

The remaining fees were for cash cards, another expense that should be easy to minimize. Ms. Choi paid $4.95 for each of the cards she used. These cards came with various additional fees for each time you used the card, used a pin, got cash back or used an ATM. Again, these cards make little sense. Why not pay cash?

Money Orders

She has a point with money orders in that she had to get two of them because they are limited to $1,000 each. So, to pay her $1,300 rent, it cost $3.50 from Western Union. Not bad. At the post office, it would have been $2.60. So for every bill you pay, it’s another $1.50 or so out of your budget. How many utilities do you pay for in your home – five or six? Ten? Do the math.

The Cost of Your Time

Besides the fees, there is extra time involved when you have no bank. You have to wait in line to cash checks or get money orders to pay bills. Walking around with your cash can be unnerving. Plus, keeping a cash emergency fund is a big security risk. You’d have to pay for money orders to send funds to your retirement account, taking a chunk off your earnings before you even get to check how the account is doing. You can’t make hotel reservations or reserve a rental car without credit cards, so you’d have to pay cash in advance, hoping they have the room or car you need.


It looks like you don’t really NEED a bank, but life is a lot easier with one. Convenience, the ability to set up automatic savings and the security of having your money protected are all good reasons to have a bank account. Unless you can’t get one, you’re better off having one.

529 Plan Funds Won’t Pay Your Student Loans

One of the many expenses parents take into consideration when raising children is the future cost of sending that child to college. Various savings options allow families to begin a nest egg for that very endeavor. The government, in cooperation with investment firms, developed the high yielding 529-college savings plan. While the plan provides substantial growth and returns (5% or more annually), the option also contains many drawbacks…one of which is that 529 plan funds don’t pay for student loans.

Expenses Covered Under 529 Plans

Contributions and earnings from 529 plans are only tax exempt when used for qualified higher education expenses or QHEE. Specifically, these expenses include books, equipment, mandatory fees, supplies and tuition. The plans also cover room and board, as long as the child enrolls at a minimum of a ½-time student, and under certain circumstances, there may be a cap on housing allowances.

The money may also pay for the expenses of special needs students. The money cannot be used for paying off student loans or for any other purpose, including food, personal expenses or travel, otherwise plan owners must pay federal and state income tax in addition to a 10% penalty on earnings.

Non-covered 529 Plan Costs

While the monies from 529 plans are transferable from state to state, certain schools in states may be ineligible for these funds. Parents having a 529 plan in Wisconsin can use the money for college in Florida. Though most schools qualify, some do not.

In addition to possible taxation for improperly used money from 529 plans, the accounts are subject to application fees, management fees and annual maintenance fees, that in total, range from $300 to $2000. These charges vary with individual states and with the type of plan acquired.

One might argue that student loans are for money that paid for the expenses that 529 plans do cover. Unfortunately, the law does not see it that way. Student loan payments and the interest attached to them is not covered by a 529 plan. This means that parents need to carefully consider which costs they take loans for and which they pay for with 529 plan funds.

Parents considering a 529 plan must either begin the account early enough in the child’s life in order to pay for college from the start of enrollment, or have a backup plan to accommodate student loans and other non-school related expenses. The Coverdell Education Savings Account has similar restrictions, the difference being that until the end of 2010, individuals were also allowed to use the monies for K-12 educations.

How to Get the Most out of Both

The smartest thing to do is to create a list of college expenses that your child will incur. Then pull out those that will be covered under your 529 plan. If the plan has enough to cover all of these costs, great! You can simply pay the non-covered costs by loan, savings or other investments you have set aside for your child’s education. If not, the balance of education expenses should be lumped with the costs not covered by the 529 plan and addressed through whatever means you have set up for these costs. Just don’t get caught with a large 529 account and a school loan when you can’t use those funds to pay the loan. See what you can pay with the 529 account first and then dip into loans if you must.

Seven Steps – Retirement Planning Simplified

Planning for retirement is like setting any goal. In order to meet any goal, individuals must determine what required steps will achieve the result. The process may seem tedious, but breaking it down into seven steps will simplify retirement planning.

Determine Net Worth

The first step in retirement planning requires calculating net worth. How much cash accumulates if one sold everything of value? Consider a home, vehicles, recreation vehicles, a business, jewelry, precious metals, collections, etc. Homes are more than likely the most valuable asset people own. Property has multiple means of supplying income.

Besides selling a home, individuals might consider renting a room, renting the basement, buildings on the property, or the entire residence. Use the property to obtain a home equity loan or a reverse mortgage. Consider how anything of value could increase financial status.

Evaluate Hazard Coverage

Individuals should take stock of various insurance policies including homeowner’s, automobile, health, disability and life insurance policies. It is not a pleasant thought to consider, but in the event of illness or disability are there enough assets to cover the costs of medical expenses or long-term care?

Experts suggest individuals accumulating over $2 million dollars will have enough cash flow to afford these expenses. However, persons with a net worth of $200,000 or less, must eliminate assets in order to qualify for government assistance, or individuals could consider long-term care insurance.

Calculate Expenses against Income

Determine the monthly or annual amount of money necessary to live. Usually, persons have eliminated mortgage expenses by retirement, but calculate taxes, insurance and upkeep. Consider food, vehicle upkeep, health insurance and recreational or other out of pocket expenses.

Evaluate the amount of guaranteed income including annuities, pension, social security, and investment accounts. Now look at other sources of income, which may include capital gains, dividends, interest, rentals, and wages.

Compare Amounts Acquired with Amounts Required

Persons desiring retirement at age 65 need enough money to live for 20 to 30 years. Individuals must compare the amount of accumulated assets with the amount of money necessary to sustain living. At this point persons may decide to postpone retirement, continue working full-time or consider working part time. Decide what expenses can be eliminated or devise methods of acquiring other sources of income.

Categorize Income

Divide all the sources of income into three categories: early, middle and late retirement. Early retirement includes immediate liquefied assets or the money individuals can use right away. Middle retirement income should be comprised of assets continuing to grow, which may include bonds, TIPS and various annuities. Likewise, late phase retirement funds might include life insurance, balanced and growth portfolios, and various annuities.


When considering investing, determine the capacity and size of the portfolio. Implement the assistance of an advisor. Never take unnecessary financial risks for quick, large dividends. Avoid venturing into territories unknown or beyond the skill of an advisor.

Maintain a Current Plan

Experts suggest reevaluating a retirement plan annually. Various life-changing experiences may necessitate adjustments or revisions. Unexpectedly caring for dependents, divorce or death of a spouse, economic changes, and illness or injury, may all be reasons to revise retirement goals.

Shoeboxed Small Business Accounting Software – Too Much Fun for Tax Time

Many experience the headaches and stress equated with tax time. Some go paperless, some use a box of receipts and others spend countless hours locating and organizing receipts and other bits of data required to authenticate expenses. All of these groups may want to consider using some free small business software that can make your taxes run more smoothly. The online software service, cleverly entitled “Shoeboxed,” saves the time consuming, tedious task of locating, organizing and categorizing all of that information by doing it for you.

Who Might Like Shoeboxed?

Individuals, small business owners or busy executives can benefit from the features the service offers. Upon opening an account, you can send business cards, receipts and other documentation to Shoeboxed in one of several ways.

• Use Shoeboxed postage paid envelopes
• Scan and upload
• Take pictures of documentation using a mobile phone or iPhone app and upload
• Email receipts and other data directly to your account

After receiving all the information, Shoeboxed goes to work categorizing, organizing and entering all of the data into the account. Shoeboxed uses optical character recognition and human verifiers, who accurately record every piece of data, including receipt notations. They will also verify business or vendor names and payment types.

Within 24 hours, users have the option of downloading, emailing, printing or viewing all of the files. Choose from 15 different categories in which to organize data including meals/entertainment, office supplies, and computer/internet expenses.

Integration with Other Accounting Software

The software also conveniently integrates with other services for exporting data. These include BatchBook, CSV, Excel, PDF, Quicken and many others. Certified by TRUSTe, the information remains secure, providing private access to all of the necessary business financial figures. In addition, the company supplies clients with a quarterly back-up CD.

Shoeboxed is similar to having a virtual secretary. Once an account becomes established, automatically upload information as it comes along and the software handles the rest. Alternatively, save materials in an account envelope and mail to Shoeboxed at intervals for a fee.

Manage Contacts

The software can also help to save the laborious task of entering and organizing contacts. Instead, send the contact information to Shoeboxed and let the program handle the rest.

The features and services vary depending on the needs of individual clients and account services chosen. Shoeboxed is free to use if you plan on scanning documents yourself. If you want to mail in your documents or take an iPhone image and upload it, fees start at just under $10. Larger businesses with vast amounts of documentation require larger, more extensive file systems, but services do not exceed $49.95 per month.

Too Much Fun for Tax Time

No matter how you look at it, Shoeboxed is a good way to get organized, keeping your information secure and organized for very little cost. Like many other Google products, Shoeboxed is simple to use, effective and, admittedly, a little too much fun for something as boring as accounting!

Dangers of the Growing Financial Gap in America

The efforts of the government to help Americans financially have done little in the way of providing relief. The loss of jobs is still growing at a faster pace than job creation, causing the divide to grow wider between the rich and poor.

How Bad is It?

In 2009, approximately 44 million Americans were living below the poverty line. This equates to a household of four with an annual income of $22,000. This is the highest number recorded in 51 years. 19 million people were living in extreme poverty, which amounts to a family of four with a household annual income of $11,000. These alarming statistics have caused individuals to take notice, and have renewed efforts to fight poverty in America.

Gap or Canyon?

With little signs of the economy improving, the divide between classes is becoming more apparent. There are currently more poor people living in America than there has ever been. Some professors and economists believe that America has become a low-wage nation, and this is the reason for the increasing divide of classes. They describe the economy as being structurally broken. Some argue that individuals have created these economic problems for themselves. That argument is seeing little support as the economy becomes weaker, and more people find themselves struggling financially.

To make matters worse, The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund created under the stimulus package expired on September 30. The fund was used by 37 states to create subsidized jobs for nearly 250,000 low-income, long-term unemployed workers. The expiration of the fund will only add to the currently high unemployment numbers.

It was estimated that nearly 20,000 people would lose these jobs in Illinois alone. California, one of the states hardest hit by the recession, had 10,000 jobs created by the fund. The unemployment rates are expected to rise from 10.4 to 10.7 percent and 12.3 to 12.5 percent, respectively.

The House voted to extend the fund, but it later died in the Senate. Republicans opposed the extension because of concerns about the growing deficit. The bill was dropped in the Senate along with $16 billion in Medicaid assistance to pass an emergency extension of unemployment benefits for 2.5 Americans.

As congressional representatives debate on what measures to put in place to help those who are struggling, individuals are finding themselves in dire straits. Home foreclosures have increased substantially, and more people are finding themselves homeless.

Weak Establishment, Growing Extremist Faction

The alarming socio-economic divide in America is dangerous. Extremist groups like the Tea Party may gain a foothold as dissatisfied Americans look for an outlet to voice their anger. This political group believes in lowering taxes, gun rights and clamping down on immigration.

While each of these arguments may have some merit, when taken to extremes, the results can be disastrous. Until the government takes stronger actions to help struggling Americans, our very way of life is in danger. Will we embrace freedom, or will we embrace control?