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Archive for 'General' Category

3 last-ditch solutions for cash emergencies

Published 4/28/14

3 last-ditch solutions for cash emergencies By Peter Andrew

Been there, done that, got the bills for overdraft fees. I know some readers will look down their noses at me for my bad financial planning, but a whole lot of others will know all too well that nauseous, sinking feeling when the realization dawns: This month's money simply won't stretch until payday.

It's only human to panic in such situations, but panicky people often make dumb choices. So the first things to do are sit down, calm down and think the situation through. Here are three options that may, depending on your personal circumstances, be open to you:

1. Borrow from friends, family or your employer

This may be the most excruciatingly embarrassing option, but it's usually the one that makes the most financial sense.

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Health care sharing ministries: An alternative to Obamacare?

Published 4/15/14

Health care sharing ministries: An alternative to Obamacare? By Holly Johnson

The first open enrollment period for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, has come to a close, and a reported 7.1 million new enrollees are currently settling into their new health insurance plans.

Now that open enrollment is over, Americans who chose not to purchase a plan must pay the greater of $95 or 1 percent of their net income in 2014. There are only a handful of ways for individuals to escape this mandate, and they include certain exemptions based on citizenship status, income and hardship. Another little known fact: Families can also avoid the individual mandate by joining a recognized health care sharing ministry.

What is a health care sharing ministry?

Health care sharing ministries work much like their name suggests. Individuals who join a ministry pay a monthly share or pledge that is then distributed to someone in the ministry who is experiencing a health care need.

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Gift cards? Bah! Humbug!

Published 12/2/13

Gift cards? Bah! Humbug! By Peter Andrew

I had a deprived childhood. Most of my friends had at least one bachelor uncle or maiden aunt who'd turn up each Christmas, spectacularly fail to fit in with the family festivities, and make up for it by slipping one of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's more sought-after banknotes into the greeting card he or she gave each child.

Moms and dads would later apologize to the children, pointing out that such childless kin knew nothing about kids, and thus lacked the knowledge to buy a proper gift. But, provided the bills weren't snatched by parents only to disappear into boring old savings accounts, all my friends loved getting cash, and I was deeply envious. Weep for the 8-year-old me.

Happier holidays?

How things have changed. Today, such relations may turn up with same-sex partners, and are often the life and soul of the party. Banknotes are much more rarely given (still not regarded as a thoughtful gift, apparently) and instead gift cards are the most common present.

And I mean that literally: Research from Accenture, a global consulting firm, found those cards the single most popular present on 2013's seasonal shopping lists, ahead of apparel, toys and electronics.

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You've been flagged by ChexSystems. Now what?

Published 8/29/13  (Modified 9/3/13)

You've been flagged by ChexSystems. Now what? By Peter Andrew

Given that the story of my personal finances has been punctuated by small and not-so-small disasters, it's pretty amazing that I've never been flagged personally by ChexSystems. But for those who have been flagged by the company, is there any hope of clearing the record and regaining access to most checking accounts?

What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is like a credit bureau in that many financial institutions check with it before opening new accounts. Also like those bureaus, it's a "consumer-reporting agency" under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and some other federal laws.

However, there are some important differences between ChexSystems and a credit bureau. ChexSystems doesn't continually monitor a range of your accounts for late payments and other minor delinquencies. Nor does it deal in credit scores.

Instead, it maintains a register (some might call it a blacklist) of people who've fallen foul of their banks or credit unions.

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Frugal ways to be sexy on Valentine's Day

Published 2/1/11  (Modified 1/3/12)

Frugal ways to be sexy on Valentine's Day By Jim Sloan

Plan a beautiful Valentine's Day this year but with a difference Read the full article »

6 banking innovations to look for in 2011

Published 1/6/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

6 banking innovations to look for in 2011 By Clark Schultz

I have always thought of banks as the bad guys. They charge too much on my credit card balances. They pay too little interest on my savings. And they charge me fees for every little thing. In the last couple of years we even had to endure our tax dollars going to bail out banks that went a little crazy with their lending.

Lately, though, I have started to look at banks differently. In the last year, banks have become more responsible with their lending and have implemented features and services that are useful to me. And it looks like that is just the tip of the iceberg. I think 2011 is the year that banks become the good guys again.

Here are six banking innovations to look for in the coming year that can help make life easier:

  • Social savings accounts

    I realize now that reaching a savings goal when interest rates are low can be tricky. You lose the power of compounding interest and inflation can actually decrease the worth of your money. To help you save in spite of these problems, a new form of savings, called a social savings account gaining steam. The account helps you increase your savings by publicizing your savings target with a widget or personal message on a social network, blog or website. This allows friends and family to hear your story and contribute to your goal.

    Savings is now a higher priority for Americans. The question

  • Read the full article »