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Archive for October 2010

2011 IRA contribution limits: 3 ways to maximize your retirement tax advantages

Published 10/29/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

2011 IRA contribution limits: 3 ways to maximize your retirement tax advantages By Richard Barrington

Have you ever run a long-distance race?

I find it useful to think of saving money like distance running. If you obsess over the total distance, then each step seems hopelessly insignificant in covering the necessary ground. If instead you just start making those steps, and concentrate on finding a comfortable and consistent pace, you'll find that before you know it, the distance will take care of itself.

In other words, focus on the next step, because that is what you can most directly control.

In terms of saving money, a great way to make that next step is with a contribution to an IRA -- either a traditional or a Roth IRA. To help you make that step, there are a few things you should know about IRAs, including important information on IRA contribution limitations for this year.

1. Traditional and Roth IRA contribution limitations

Both traditional and Roth IRAs have certain tax advantages, which will be discussed below in "Deciding on a traditional vs. a Roth IRA." However, for anyone considering starting an IRA this year or making continued contributions into an IRA account, it's critical to know that there are limits on how much you can contribute to IRAs each year.

To start with the simple part, the basic contribution limits for both traditional and Roth IRAs are the same, and are unchanged for 2011. The only difference is that taxpayers who are aged 50 and over are allowed to make higher,

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Peer-to-peer lending can benefit borrowers and lenders

Published 10/28/10  (Modified 3/23/11)

By Peter Andrew

Last year, my sister and brother-in-law wanted to remodel their kitchen. They both have good, secure jobs and great credit scores, and could easily have raised the money they needed, even in this economic climate. However, at the same time my mom had quite a hefty balance in a high yield savings account. With bank rates running low, it didn't take them long to work out that my mother could earn more interest, and my sister pay less, if they cut out the bank, and worked out loan terms between themselves.

And that, in essence, is what peer-to-peer lending (a.k.a. person-to-person or P2P lending ) is all about. By eliminating the costly overheads and shareholder profits of banks (not to mention those bonuses), a loan between individuals can make both the borrower and lender better off. None of this is new. Families and friends have been helping each other out for millennia.

P2P lending web sites

What is new is the worldwide web. This allows strangers to lend and borrow through a middleman website that charges a small fraction of the mark-up that banks take for, in effect, brokering a loan. The first of these sites in America, Prosper, began in 2006, and by October 2010 had attracted more than a million members and had funded $205 million worth of loans.

The other big player in this country is


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How to get a credit card if you have bad credit

Published 10/28/10  (Modified 11/19/13)

By Michele Lerner

Most consumers know by now that getting into debt is a lot easier than getting out of it. According to IndexCreditCards.com, the average revolving debt (mostly credit card debt) for an individual over 18 in the U.S. was $3,532 in August 2010.

Whether you are a recent college graduate needing to establish credit or you are trying to rebuild your credit after damaging it in the past, you will need a credit card. Have you ever tried to book a hotel room, make an airline reservation or order concert tickets without a credit card? It can be impossible.

But credit cards are not just a convenience. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you need to get yourself in a little bit of debt in order to improve your credit rating.

If you think about it, it makes sense.  If you are applying for a car loan or a mortgage, the lender may only offer you a loan if they see that someone else (i.e. a credit card company) thinks you are trustworthy enough that they offered you credit. The trick is to build a strong credit rating without getting in over your head in debt.

Credit cards and debt

If you have struggled with too much debt in the past, receiving a new credit card may be scary. The key is to keep your commitment to stay debt-free and to keep your debt low by paying your balance in full each month.

One trick used by

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Credit unions - better than you might think

Published 10/26/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

Credit unions - better than you might think By Gina Pogol

As a business writer and editor, I spend a large part of my day keeping up with economic news (these days that usually involves watching helplessly as financial poop hits the proverbial fan) and working up a lot of indignation over the country's economic state. So it's been a very long time since I spared a thought for credit unions, but they're worth paying attention to.

Credit unions: the historical prospective

Credit unions were a natural outgrowth of the medieval guild system in Europe, which provided business services to their members. The first modern credit union was formed in Germany during the Industrial Revolution in 1864, and the first credit union in the U.S. was started in Massachusetts in 1909. However, credit unions were slow to win acceptance here, probably because Americans like that whole rugged individualism thing and co-ops are for sissies...

Credit unions: yawn

Traditional, yes -- but credit unions are not sexy or hip. They don't have mascots and they don't own football stadiums. You won't find a lot of bells and whistles and gee-whiz at your local credit union. But you also won't find a CEO making gazillions of dollars while amassing a worthless subprime portfolio and begging for a bailout.

What makes credit unions different?

Credit unions are run for the benefit of their members. Here is a list of the characteristics that define credit unions:

  • Non-profit cooperatives
  • Owned by members
  • Run mostly by volunteer board members

On the other hand, most depository

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How the FDIC protects your bank savings

Published 10/25/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

By Marcia Passos Duffy

Today, when a bank fails people might feel anxiety, but it doesn't cause the blind panic of the crash of 1929 - when people lined up to pull their money out of banks.

Most of us alive today don't remember - but history books will tell you - that before the government insured your bank-deposited money, there was absolutely no safety net if something went wrong. If a bank failed it was your own tough luck and the bank took all of your hard earned money down with the sinking ship.

As a result, in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt created the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to insure that this kind of crazy rush on banks would never happen again.

If it wasn't for Roosevelt's foresight, you can bet the bank panic of 1929 would have happened again in 2008 when the stock market took a nosedive and banks started dropping like flies.

How the FDIC protects your money

The FDIC web site asserts that, "no depositor has ever lost of penny of insured deposits since the FDIC was created in 1933." So how does it work?

  • Bank must be FDIC insured. To get the benefits of insurance, your bank must be insured by the FDIC (an insured bank will always display an official FDIC sign at each teller window). Deposits at credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration. The insured bank
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    High interest savings accounts are best found online

    Published 10/20/10  (Modified 8/8/11)

    High interest savings accounts are best found online By Matt Riddle

    A year ago, my wife and I switched banks. She was pregnant with our first kid and, like many Americans, we were saving money however we could.

    We had our accounts in two different banks -- both traditional national chains with thousands of branches in the country and sports stadiums named after them -- that offered savings accounts that were accumulating about 0.25 percent interest on a small sum. While we were mostly happy with our banks, our needs had changed, and we wanted better interest rates on our accounts. After fees, we realized that we weren't saving but losing money.

    Employees at both banks essentially admitted they were giving us an inferior product. We sorted through what we thought were the best online banks as well as a few local ones and picked one that offered not only a high interest savings account but interest checking as well. After that, we couldn't switch banks fast enough. I wanted our money to go toward saving for our future, not domes for basketball games.

    How to find the best savings account rates and what to look for

    There is a growing trend among banks to offer better savings rates in non-traditional savings accounts. So if you're thinking about making a switch to capitalize on higher interest rates, keep these five things in mind while hunting for better savings.

    1. Interest rate


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