What Is Investment Banking?

There is no end to the number of people and businesses that encourage you to invest on a yearly basis. Saving and investing go hand in hand, and both are encouraged if you want to have any hope of securing your financial future.

Once you get into the world of investments, you can’t avoid encountering investment banks. Investment banking is a staple in the process, so it’s important for you to understand what makes it so important.

As you know, the point of investing is to make a return. If you invest $50 into anything, your aim is not to have the same $50 that you invested. While that is the case with saving, the idea with an investment is that there should be value added. Therefore, your $50 should become a greater value, such as $60 or $100.

This is where investment banking comes into the mix. This banking sector has a tunnel focus on the creation and accumulation of capital and wealth for investors. These investors can be private individuals, companies, and even the government.

Note that a bank is not an investment bank because it has an investment banking division. These divisions only provide limited services compared to a full investment bank, which provides a much more comprehensive spread.

This banking sector is known for being one of the most complex areas in existence. Be that as it may, the services being provided can all be placed under six main categories, which are covered below.

All the information provided answers the questions surrounding the functions of an investment bank and everything that goes into executing them.

Underwriting and Capital Raising

You can think of this service as a middleman role. Companies routinely want to offer new securities to the public. This is usually done to raise funds for a new project, to clear debt, to fund an acquisition, or to retire older bonds.

Since this process is not direct, an investment bank is typically hired by the company that wants to make the offer to the public. When this bank comes in, there isn’t just an automatic jump to the sale.

There’s an assessment process during which the investment bank does pricing, underwriting, and sale of new bonds. The outcome of this tends to be based on how valuable the business is versus the level of risk that is associated with it.

Bonds aren’t the only things that investment banks assist with under this service category. Other securities, such as stocks, also come into the mix. These are offered via an initial public offering (IPO) or via any public offering thereafter.

There is a level of security attached to the process for the issuer. This is because the investment bank doesn’t wait until the securities hit the market before pulling buyers in. In fact, these banks get the public to commit to the purchase of a certain number of units before the securities hit the market.

Multiple investment banks typically try to get in on the securities, since they want them for customers. Therefore, the banks tend to negotiate a comfortable price for the purchase.

Once the purchase is made, the investment banks can then resell the securities to their customers, as well as the public. Of course, this means that the issuing firm gains capital from the arrangement, which works out as a win for all parties involved.

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)

There have been a lot of consolidation agreements between corporations over the years. While it wasn’t a very lucrative service initially, investment banks profit immensely by offering advice during M&A processes.

The investment bank can play the role of an advisor on either side of the M&A fence. The first possibility is that the bank comes in to advise the target business, which is usually a potential seller. This is known as sell-side engagement.

There is also the reverse scenario in which the investment bank is an advisor to the acquiring business. In this case, the bank must perform due diligence. This is a process that aims to provide the buyer with all the information necessary to protect its interests. There’s always an information gap where the acquirer and the target are concerned. The buyer doesn’t know much about the target, while the target has all the information. Additionally, the target wants the buyer to close the deal, so hiding negative information is a possibility.

The investment bank’s role here is to reduce the information gap by gaining the required information. The buyer can then decide if going through with the deal is feasible from an informed standpoint.

Due diligence comes in several forms, which all come together to provide a wealth of relevant information. The process contains the following areas:

  • Operational due diligence: This involves looking into the seller’s operational workflow as it is, as well as the expected impact from the acquisition.
  • Tax, legal, and accounting due diligence: As the name suggests, this is a review of tax, accounting, and legal data surrounding the seller.
  • Business due diligence: This area focuses on analyzing the seller’s customers, products, industry, and shareholders.
  • Financial due diligence: An analysis is done of the seller’s financial projections and financial history.

There are also special cases, such as buyouts, takeover defense, and hostile takeovers, in which companies can also seek advice from investment banks.

Sales & Trading

The sales and trading division of an investment bank is responsible for security trading facilitating. These securities are usually underwritten by the bank into the secondary market.

Investment banks trade securities for institutional investors. Such investors include pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, and university endowment. Not only do the banks bring buyers and sellers together, but they also make sales and purchases using their accounts, which helps to facilitate trade further. By doing so, they establish a pseudo marketplace, which lends itself to better movement of securities and more favorable pricing. The investment banks also charge a commission for such services, which means that there is another source of profit.

The efficient distribution of securities is a requirement for the investment bank to be considered a viable underwriter. This is the reason that investment banks have a sales force. The idea is to persuade buyers to purchase the securities by forming corporate relationships, while efficient trade execution is also promoted.

The sales arm of the investment bank is tasked with communicating with institutional investors. These investors are provided with all the necessary information surrounding securities. Additionally, the firm’s research analysts and traders depend on the sales force to provide both liquidity and timely information to clients.

The final piece of the puzzle is the traders who are responsible for making purchases and sales for the institutional clients. They also do so for the firm using their knowledge of the market and how favorable the conditions may be. Trades are done with institutional investors, commercial banks, and investment banks.

Commercial and Retail Banking

This wasn’t always a service offered by investment banks because it was prohibited by law. For 67 years, The Glass-Steagall Act prevented commercial banks and investment banks from overstepping certain boundaries where service offerings were concerned. They were distinct entity types that were only allowed to offer distinct services.

Investment banks could do institutional brokerage, M&A advice, and underwriting of securities. Commercial banks, on the other hand, could do saving and checking accounts, lines of credit, and loans.

When this law was repealed, the banks got the freedom to offer services that were previously labeled illegal. This is the reason for things like investment banking divisions in commercial banks. The whole financial services industry, which consists of investment banks, commercial banks, securities brokerages, and insurers, got the green light to offer all financial services.

Therefore, you can now find retail brokerage being offered by investment banks. This means that private investors are welcome. Instead of just institutions, individuals can throw their hats into the mix.

Naturally, the removal of such barriers meant that extended offerings would be accompanied by institutional consolidations. Many of the biggest mergers between businesses in the financial services industry were only possible and sought after because of the law repeal.

Asset Management

Some companies hire investment banks to perform the function of asset management. This means that all or part of these companies’ portfolios become externally managed.

There are two main objectives when an asset manager is brought in. The first is that of appreciation. It is expected that asset values should increase with the professional touch of an investment bank. Additionally, the experience factor that the bank has should go a long way in mitigating risk.

Note that this service is not available to everyone because of the financial barrier to entry. There is a minimum required investment, which means that corporations, wealthy individuals, and governments tend to make up the client base.

An investment bank needs to put the right foot forward as close to every time as possible. This means that there should be an innate ability to effectively decide what investments should be made or avoided. Doing this adequately results in the progressive growth of a client’s portfolio.

Of course, there’s more than just experience at play here. There is a lot of research and analysis that goes into making these predictive decisions. Some of the activities used here are company official interviews, statistical analysis, and historical analysis. Anything that can meet the requirement of asset appreciation is fair game.

Equity Research

An investment bank typically has an equity research division that is responsible for providing the necessary stakeholders with reports, recommendations, and analytical data on potential investment opportunities.

Though the process is very intensive, the end goal is to be able to definitively tell investors whether the recommended action is to buy, sell, or hold an investment.

The sales force and the trading teams get much of their information from the equity research team. Since this information governs important decisions, the underlying techniques must provide high-quality and timely data.

Most of the work done by equity research analysts revolves around the generation of reports. There is a constant publishing process, as there are tight and numerous deadlines that need to be met. These reports tend to include information on forecasts, valuation, recommendations, historical reviews, management overviews, and industry research.

Best Auto Loan Rates: Where Can You Get Them?

Your desire for a car or truck that is above your budget may have you considering where to get the best auto loan rates. You have taken your time to make a thorough inquiry. But somehow, you are not sure if you have the right credit score for an auto loan.

Interestingly, you have also done a few test drives. However, the reality check is that the vehicle is probably above your budget, and you may need financing.

Essentially, wishing for a new ride is not enough. You must also devote your time to finding the best auto loan rates for your purchase.  However, many people do not take their time to research and find out the most suitable loan for them. Since they are only interested in getting their favorite machine, they just go for whatever comes their way without giving it due consideration. Eventually, they end up with regrets the moment they realize what they have gotten themselves into.

Like any other loan applications, you need to count the cost before you conclude. And chances are, you already know all the precautionary steps and measures off the top of your head. However, one critical yet underestimated part that nobody cares about is the lenders. Finding the right lender is equally as important as finding the right car. So you need to check out which one will serve your best interest financially before signing on the dotted line.

Since you don’t want to take any chances, you may need to carry out comprehensive research online to select which lender is best for you. However, if you find that stressful and time-consuming, you can still get the best auto loan rates if you follow our lead.

We have made this search easier for you by presenting some of the best lenders in the industry. Read on to discover more.

Photo Credit: Pixabay (Pexels)

Best Auto Loan Rates: Discover Which Lender is Best for You

When it comes to car shopping, you definitely need to put in some effort upfront. However, you can quickly check out this list to see some of the best auto loan rates and their lenders.

Consumers Credit Union

When it comes to loans, the right information will get you through the door of the best lenders and also protect your interest. That is why many loan applicants prefer credit unions, as they can avoid being victims of auto loan debt traps. Firstly, credit unions protect their members’ interests and also offer lower interest rates when compared to banks.

Having an account with a credit union allows you some sort of “VIP treatment.” Hence, lenders like the Consumers Credit Union offer their registered members friendly deals, making it convenient for them to pay back. Banks, on the other hand, may be unable to grant you such privilege, as they thrive on your repayment of interests.

CCU’s Auto Loan Rate: Interest rates are as low as 2.69%. CCU requires a minimum of 640 credit score for your request to fly through.

Again, you may want to consider credit unions other than CCU. Several credit unions have specific membership requirements before admitting you fully into their credit circle. Some of them may require you to be an alumnus of a particular school, come from a certain state, or even be associated with a military branch. Some may also require you to reserve some minimum amount in your savings account with them. All these requirements are combined to determine your qualification for their best auto loan rates. Their paycheck is expected to help you cover charges on fixed rates and repairs. Fortunately, your repayment is then calculated on a friendly, simple interest system. With this system, you will be able to repay your loan conveniently.

Unfortunately, as inviting as the CCU offer is, not everyone qualifies. The 640 credit score expectation and other factors like a hard credit inquiry determine application results.

Capital One

There is an advantage that comes with choosing top lenders when it comes to delicate applications like loans. If you want your interest to be protected and your loan request treated in the most professional manner, and with a sense of urgency, Capital One is one lender that has gained acceptance for its standardized loan processes.

If the plan is to get a used car or a brand new one, you can register for a pre-approval via Capital One’s Auto Navigator program. This pre-approval does not affect your creditworthiness because it is a soft pull. Capital One has a nationwide auto loan coverage with over 12,000 auto dealers, and your pre-approval letter can be presented to any of them.

You can check Capital One’s website for the dealer in your neighborhood. The dealership receives your pre-approval note, takes you on tour, and kick starts your application once you have made your car selection.

Capital One’s Best Deals: You can get pre-approval online before starting your full application. This step, however, doesn’t affect your credit score. However, if you already own a car but need the best auto loan rates, you can apply for Capital One’s Refinance Program.

Open Road Lending

It’s possible that lenders charge you more if your credit score recently increased. This case may be because you just cleared your debts or got a raise. OpenRoad Lending simplifies loan application for qualified applicants. You are able to refinance your existing loans and still save up to $100 on your auto payments.

Open Road’s process is seamless and will take just a few minutes.

Open Road Lending’s Best Auto Loan Rates: 1.99%

For Open Road Lending, you need a monthly income of at least $1500 for consideration. But be aware that Open Road Lending’s process may involve a hard credit pull; hence, you should consider the pros and cons of refinancing your auto loan.

Carvana

 Have you ever thought about getting all the auto application and approval done from your living room? Then Carvana is that one platform that’s concerned about upgrading the auto loan service for your convenience. You can bypass the processes of dealership and banks and get your car. All you need to do is visit the Carvana site, apply, select your vehicle, and have it delivered to you.

Additionally, you can trade-in your old car for a deal.

Carvana’s Best Auto Loan Rates: Rather than loan rates, carvana offers shop rates without a hard pull on your credit. You don’t even need a minimum score to apply. However, you will need a minimum annual income of $10,000 to access the service.

You can use the Auto Loan Calculator on their website to prevent the implications of a hard inquiry on your credit while you shop.

Best auto loan rates
Photo Credit: Pixabay (Pexels)

Enjoying happiness and convenience is a necessity. You don’t have to wait until your paycheck is fatter to access some of the best things in life. With the right information, you can leverage auto lenders to drive that ride you have always wanted. We hope this article helps you select the best auto lenders with the best auto loan rates. Congratulations in advance. 

Top Benefits of Installment Loans for Everybody

The tempting benefits of installment loans are enough to win the hearts of anybody. It is even more evident now that everybody is just struggling to get by. As day-to-day costs continue to rise, the average salary of an American worker is barely enough to allow them to set aside some funds for retirement or long-term goals. As a result, you may easily stretch yourself a bit too thin while trying to meet your daily needs and achieve your financial goals. This explains why many people have resorted to getting alternative credit to help cater to their needs and achieve their long-term goals. While seeking alternative credit, one solid option that comes in handy for everybody is an installment loan.

An installment loan is a type of loan by which a lender grants your application to borrow a specified amount, and you repay over a fixed period. The benefits of installment loans include an advantage for borrowers that want a long term loan. Unlike payday loans and simple loans, installment loan lenders give you the privilege to pay bit by bit over a long period. It could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or any time scheduled by your lender. The loan you are repaying at that time is called an installment, hence the name installment loans.

What are the Most Common Types of Installment Loans?

Before we dive into the main importance and benefits of installment loans, let us take a look at the most common types.

Installment loans are available in various forms and types, some of which you are already conversant with. As a matter of fact, your mortgage, personal loan, student loans are all types of Installment loans. There are many locations where you can get these types of installment loans in the United States, either online or offline. As we procced, here are the most popular types of installment loans:

Auto Loans

As its name implies, an auto loan is a loan you take to get yourself a new ride. Typically, this loan is repaid within 12-96 months, and the payment schedule is usually monthly and yearly. However, not all lenders in the US can tolerate such a time range for an auto loan. You should note that, when you take up a car loan, you pay more interest whenever you choose to seek for payment extension.

Personal Loans

Personal Loans are the loans you take up to solve urgent financial needs like medical bills, house rent, and others.  A personal loan isn’t a secured loan because you won’t have to put in your valuable asset as collateral, just like the payday installment loans. This justifies the reason they have a much higher interest rate than the others. The range of repayment term lenders will give you varies from 12-96 months, and it varies on how enormous the debt is.

Photo Credit: Andrea P. (Pexels)

Student Loans

The loan you take for you to be able to attend and afford college is no other than student loans. You either apply for a federal or private loan option when you want to acquire a student loan.

The federal loan comes with lots of requirements and processes. You will have to produce valid documents and information, such as tax returns, Social Security Numbers, and drivers license numbers, to mention a few. When you have all these readily available, you can go online to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), after which your application will go through further verification.

If the government doesn’t grant you a loan, your next readily available option will be to take up a private student loan. However, you should be cautious of the amount you take because the private loan interest is higher compared to the federal credit.

Mortgage

A mortgage is a loan you take when you want to buy yourself a house. Usually, the duration or term for repaying the lease is between 15-30 years. Through the agreed period of the repayment term, the interest rate on the mortgage won’t change from the price it is from the outset, and the scheduled time for paying remains monthly.

What are the Benefits of Installment Loans?

The huge benefits of installment loans are literally what is driving many people to opt for them. Not only do they make it easy for you to pay back, but they also give you the financial backing needed to achieve your goals.

Fixed Repayment Term 

A fixed repayment term is the most notable benefit of an installment loan. Since you already know when you are going to pay back your loans, you can create a workable plan around your payment schedule and follow it strictly.

Fixed Interest

Your interest remains the same until you are able to clear up your loan. For instance, if you take a fixed mortgage loan, the installment will remain unchanged until you balance your loan payment, be it 20 or 30 years. Also, you will have no problem creating a budget for your mortgage every month since there is a fixed interest that is not changeable.

Access to High Loans

Since the repayment term is long term, lenders are willing to help you out with lots of funds to solve your financial needs. You won’t have many reasons to take up multiple loans since the installment loan is quite enough for you.

Less Stringent Requirements

When it comes to taking up an installment loan in America, the prerequisites are less strict, and they are easy to meet.

Photo Credit: Alexander M. (Pexels)

Requirements for an Installment Loan

Before you can be eligible for an installment loan, you must have some necessary qualifications and meet some criteria. Without these, your loan application may be rejected, and you may miss out on a valuable opportunity to make smart investments. These requirements include:

  • You must be 18 years, which is the legal age in the US.
  • Also, you should be a legal resident of the USA; this may require providing proof like your house address for validation purpose.
  • Additionally, you must be a permanent resident of the United States to be eligible.
  • If you are applying online, it is important to provide a valid social security number (SSN).
  • You need a valid government-issued identification card and a proof of bank checking account if you are applying for a loan directly from lenders.
  • Although lenders can grant you loans with poor credit history, you will have to tender a valid proof of a steady income that is up to $1,000 per month.
  • Undoubtedly, your lender will want to reach out to you, and this necessitates giving out your contact number and email address.
Photo Credit: InspiredImages (Pixabay)

How to Apply for an Installment Loan

  • You should visit the site of your chosen installment loan lender to make inquiries.
  • Read and understand the requirements they set for borrowers before granting their loan requests.
  • If you are ok with their terms and conditions, proceed to fill the application form.
  • As soon as your lender approves your loan, you should be credited within 24 hours.

California Couple Learns Financial Lessons the Hard Way

The phone rang at Michael Hufnagel’s desk nearly every day for three years.

Hufnagel is an accountant for a production company in California and phone calls are part of doing business, but he knew the calls weren’t about the business, so he let the phone ring.

His wife, Cindy, carried a cellphone to her job. It buzzed nonstop, all day, every single day. She wouldn’t answer either, and it had nothing to do with the fact that she was teaching a classroom full of first-graders.

“Credit card companies and collection agencies,” Michael said, the dread still sounding in his voice, even though the calls stopped more than a year ago. “They were relentless. They would call us at work, at home, during dinner, late at night. They even started calling our parents and hassling them.”

Cindy said that after she and her husband stopped answering the calls, “they somehow figured out a way to make the caller ID that comes up on your phone look like it’s a local call to try and fool us. Eventually, we had to tell everyone, even our parents, that we couldn’t answer the phone anymore.”

Problems Started Long Ago

Their story stretches over two decades. If you have ever been late with a credit card payment, you will recognize the missteps and lapses in judgment that cost them dearly. You also will appreciate the determination and discipline they showed digging themselves out of a $69,000 hole.

“Some people talk about their financial problems like it was a two-car collision at an intersection,” Cindy said. “We made so many mistakes that ours was more like a 90-car pileup on the interstate … in fog!

“But somehow, we got up and walked away.”

The problems started when Cindy left home to enroll at a college in Montana “with nothing more than Pell grants to cover my expenses,” she said.

The Pell grants covered tuition, but not much else. She needed money for room, board and other college-related expenses. The situation got worse when her father died unexpectedly and she had to cover travel-related expenses for the funeral.

The answer – student loans and her first credit card – turned out to be two steps in the wrong direction. By the time she picked up her diploma, she was $21,000 in debt with student loans and owed $9,000 on credit cards.

“Nobody trained me on when to use credit cards, and nobody trained me on when not to use them,” Cindy said. “Everybody told me that you need at least one credit card for emergencies, but I never used it for emergencies. I used it for everything. It was like I was spending play money.”

Moving Made Things Worse

She moved to California after graduation, and the financial stumbles continued. She added a car loan ($21,559) and personal loan ($3,909) to her student loan and credit card debt. She had a teaching job, but her salary couldn’t keep pace with her debt, so she declared bankruptcy in 2000 and vowed to start over.

“Without using credit cards,” Cindy said. “I swore them off.”

She didn’t swear loud enough. She met Michael a few years later, and the two were married in 2005. The problems with credit cards started even before they said “I do.”

Cindy had a couple of credit cards with large balances and high interest rates, so they opened a new credit card with lower interest rate and transferred the balances. Then they put some of the wedding expenses on the new card and took a week long honeymoon to San Diego, Palm Springs and Los Angeles, with stops at restaurants, hotels and attractions like Sea World and Disneyland.

When they got home, there were curtains, furniture and other accessories to decorate the new house they had just bought. All of it went on the credit cards.

“We were only paying 6 percent on the cards, so I wasn’t worried,” Michael said. “I just figured we’d catch up in a few months.”

More Travel, More Bills, More Debt

The debt load reached $30,000 when they decided to take a second honeymoon. The destination this time was three weeks in Europe, which added $8,000 to the credit card debt. When they got home, they spent another $1,800 on season tickets for a minor league hockey team and continued the habit of eating dinner at restaurants a few nights a week.

All of it went on the credit cards.

“People used say to us ‘Wow, you must be super rich,’ but they had no idea,” Cindy said. “I’m sure it looked like that because of our lifestyle. All the traveling, eating out all the time, buying season tickets to hockey games made it look like we were rich, but we were far from it. We were just putting everything on credit cards and hoping to figure things out later.”

By 2008, the credit card debt had reached $58,000, and the pressure was building. The Hufnagels were making the minimum payments on 15 credit cards. The bill for that was $1,500 a month. Due dates varied, meaning there had to be a great deal of coordination between sending out checks and making sure there was enough money in the bank to cover them.

“That is when things really got stressful,” Cindy said. “I’d send out a check and hope it took 3 to 4 days to arrive at the card companies, so there would be enough time for our paychecks to clear at our bank.”

Rule Changes Pushed Them over the Top

The Hufnagels played that game for a couple of years, but their lifestyle didn’t change. They loved Disneyland and went every year at Thanksgiving. They loved San Diego and went every year on their anniversary. They loved eating out and buying gifts for relatives and celebrating holidays to the hilt until, finally, the house of cards crumbled.

Card companies instituted stricter rules on delinquent accounts in 2011. The Hufnagels went from paying 6 to 10 percent on unpaid balances to paying 29.9 percent. The tab to meet minimums on the credit cards was up to $1,800 a month.

Cindy already was doing afterschool tutoring and working part time at a restaurant to try and bring in more money, but expenses always exceeded income. The pressure and debt kept rising – as did the constant harassment from collection agencies – until Cindy finally suffered a nervous breakdown.

“I always told myself I never wanted to go through bankruptcy again, but there I was, right back in that same place,” Cindy said. “I thought we were going to lose the house and everything with it, and there was no way out.”

Debt Settlement Program Was a Savior

Then a flier arrived in the mail advertising debt settlement, and the Hufnagels decided to give it a try. The debt settlement company came up with a plan and required four major moves on the part of Cindy and Michael:

  • Shred the credit cards. All of them. Cut ’em up and throw ’em away.
  • Allow the company to negotiate settlements with credit card agencies.
  • Make payments of $952 a month into an account to pay off the settlements.
  • Stop taking calls from credit card companies and collection agencies.

The Hufnagels agreed and added a few conditions of their own:

  • No more annual trips to Disneyland or San Diego.
  • No more eating out, unless it involved deep discount coupons.
  • No more season tickets to anything.
  • No more traveling across the country for family gatherings.
  • No more impulse buys when shopping.
  • No more memberships at gyms and tennis clubs.
  • Carefully consider money available before agreeing to car and home repairs.
  • Budget for everything. If it’s not in the budget, don’t spend the money.

The combination saved them. It didn’t hurt that along the way, they welcomed a baby girl, Savannah, who made them become even more responsible about their spending. A new baby meant more expenses, but now they could afford it.

The $69,000 debt, which was cut in half through debt settlement, is down to $5,640 and dropping like a stone through water. They still pay $952 a month to the special account, and the debt settlement company does the rest. The last payment is due in November of this year.

They also started contributing $80 a month to a separate account so they can celebrate the day they are they debt-free.

“We’re going to Disneyland,” Cindy said. “Only this time, no credit cards. We’ll pay cash.”

Five Tax Tips for Beginners Filing on Their Own

Whether you’ve landed your first part-time job in high school or made your first career move after college, odds are that you haven’t taken a class on how to file your taxes.

It’s something everyone is not only expected, but required to do; however, we’re not often sat down and taught the basics.

If you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed, simply follow these guidelines and make your first tax season a walk in the park.

1. Know Your Filing and Dependent Status

Your tax rate is largely determined on whether you are single or married, and if you can claim any dependents in your household. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a dependent as someone who is supported by the taxpayer, such as a child or an elderly relative. If you’re still in school, you will likely have to identify yourself as being claimed as a dependent on your parent or guardian’s behalf.

2. Gather Required Documents and Forms

Staying organized is key to simplifying the tax process. Throughout the year, keep track of your pay stubs and any receipts for tax-deductible items (more on that below). Look out for your W-2s arriving via mail by February. Your company may allow you electronic access, as well. If you’re currently paying back student loans, you should tally up your payments and, if you’ve paid an annual total of $600 or more in interest, you may receive a 1098-E form in the mail. First-time filers will likely be able to use the 1040EZ form, which is generally for single and joint filers with no dependents. Using tools like TurboTax or consulting a certified public accountant (CPA) will help you determine what forms you’ll need and what information is most relevant to your return.

3. Take Advantage of Deductions and Tax Credits

It’s helpful to know the difference between deductions and tax credits: Deductions reduce your taxable income, and credits are a sum deducted from the total amount of taxes you owe. Money spent on recognized charities, for example, can be counted as a deduction. Always save any deduction-related receipts throughout the year to ensure taking advantage of all tax credits and deductions. Visit the IRS website to discover other deductions and credits that may apply to you.

4. Decide How to File

If you’re a first-timer with a straightforward return, you can probably file on your own using a program like TurboTax or H&R Block at Home. As long as you use accredited software, it’ll be safe, simple and offer step-by-step guidelines. Plus, filing electronically will result in a faster refund. If your tax return is somewhat complicated, you may want to look into hiring outside help, such as a CPA. If you can afford a CPA, you’ll have the added benefits of discovering other deductions or credits you didn’t know about, as well as minimizing any chances of making mistakes.

5. Visit IRS.gov

It may not sound exciting, but the IRS website is actually incredibly easy to navigate. It’s a fantastic resource for any questions that may still arise. You can find a multitude of articles, tutorials, and laid-out guidelines, as well as any of the forms you may need. Plus, becoming familiar with the website will provide you with a simple way to remain aware of any changes to the tax code and how you may be affected.

Should You Date Someone With A Lot Of Debt?

“Must love dogs and travel — and have zero debt, earn six figures and have at least $50,000 in your retirement account.”

Though this might not be the tagline on most online dating profiles, money matters are a very big deal in relationships. Unfortunately, financial conversations are not the easiest — or sexiest— talks to have with partners, which leads too many of us to postpone or avoid the topic altogether. But the reality is that if your partner has a lot of debt, it can impact big decisions that you’ll want to make together — where to live, when to buy a house, whether or not you can afford to have children, and more. Don’t get us wrong, money certainly isn’t everything in a relationship, but it should definitely get a mention on the laundry list of compatibility considerations. 

So how can we approach this often touchy topic? It shouldn’t be something you bring up on date No. 1, but if you’re seeking a long-term, committed partnership, it is a discussion worth having sooner than later. We checked in with experts who broke down for us why finances — and specifically debt — should factor into your dating decisions before you get too serious with Mr. or Mrs. Right. 

Money Problems Are The Biggest Challenge To Relationships 

It’s hard to miss the staggering divorce rate statistics in the United States (55% of all marriages end in divorce) but here’s another one that may be surprising — when couples were polled on the “last straw” that led them to call it quits, an incredible 40% blamed money disagreements. Because while partnerships mean love, matching slippers and Netflix-and-chill nights, they also mean — in some way or other — combining finances. (Even if you keep separate bank accounts, your finances impact your partner and vice versa.) So, when one partner owes a substantial amount of money, it can really stress the relationship — even one that’s just beginning. According to Kelly Lannan, the vice president of Young Investors at Fidelity Investments, the firm’s 2018 Couples and Money study found that 36% of duos were concerned about debt, and credited money as their biggest relationship challenge. In short, if we don’t address finances before we decide to date a person, say “yes” to the dress, or otherwise get seriously involved, any problems lurking will eventually find their way to the surface. 

A Little Debt (Or A Lot Of Certain Kinds of Debt) Isn’t Always A Deal Breaker 

Before we start to lay all of our cards out on the table and inquire about our potential match’s 401(k) and stock portfolio, it’s important to remember that not all debt is a bad thing. As Lannan explains, debt is a part of life for almost all of us, and many people will choose to take on debt in order to help reach their life goals. Generally speaking, she says student loans, mortgages and small-business loans can be good forms of debt — as long as they are managed smartly. Lannan says if a love interest has $100,000 in debt for school tuition, but they’re on a strict path to have it paid off as quickly as possible and you can see that they’re making progress, that speaks well for their financial savvy. 

If your partner says they “have debt” but don’t want to divulge details, press a little further to find out exactly what kind it is. Lannan labels “bad debt” as any expense that involves taking money from our future self to spend more dollars than we have today. These include credit cards and car loans for a luxury ride if a simple sedan would do the job. “Many need a car to get around, but you shouldn’t be taking on a loan for more car than you actually need,” she explains. “If your partner does make the choice to take on a car loan, make sure they are in a position to make the payments.” 

It’s OK To Talk Debt Early In The Relationship — But Do It Strategically 

Whenever we go on those first few dates, we should be trying to determine not just if we “click” with our match, but also, experts say, if they’re responsible, emotionally mature, and honest. According to psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., these adjectives often describe someone who is smartly handling their debt. 

Though we don’t want to open up a date with the invitation to go over tax returns and account balances,  Thomas says it’s better to broach the topic before anyone is fully invested — no pun intended. The trick is to inquire without interrogating, which can sometimes feel like a fine line.

“It is important to discuss things in a way that allows you to gain an understanding and clarity about that person’s situation while having him feel emotionally safe and not judged,” she continues. “Otherwise, the other person may be unwilling to share or be as honest with you as is needed for you to get a true picture of his financial situation.”

Consider asking questions like: “When you think about the next five years, do you see yourself buying a home?” or “I feel really lucky I didn’t come out of college with a ton of debt, what about you?” or even more to the point: “It may sound a little nerdy, but I love things like  investing, saving, and budgeting. Is that kind of thing a part of your life?” This makes the discussion a conversation, rather than an inquisition, and gives us the opportunity to stress why finances can be a deal breaker within a partnership. 

Thomas says it could also indicate if our date has reasonable debt — like student loans — or frivolous spending habits that make their credit card bills unmanageable. If they’re in the latter group, it could indicate a problem beyond budgeting that verges on you not being able to trust the person. 

“If the lifestyle they live includes excessive travel, luxury shopping and other extras, and that doesn’t align with the job they have, then there might be a problem,” says Jeremy Straub, CEO of Coastal Wealth. “Someone that dodges financial questions and avoids the subject at all costs — there might be something more to the story they don’t want to be discovered.”

How Their Debt Can Impact Your Future Life Goals 

When it comes to your partner’s debt, are we really talking about a  ‘til death do us part’ situation? Sort of, says Zuzana Brochu, CFP, a client wealth strategist and senior vice president at People’s United Advisors. Think of it this way: Any debt that was accrued before the marriage belongs to the individual. However, any debt taken out during the marriage can make both partners responsible, depending on the circumstances. Also, if a partner has a terrible credit score, it could negatively impact your ability to purchase a home or start a company. 

And What If You’re The One With Debt Issues? 

If you have a lot of debt, you may find it difficult to speak candidly and openly about your situation. Even so, you have to be honest. Thomas suggests having the conversation in the early stages of dating to avoid misleading your match. If you need help diving in, she suggests a script along the following lines: 

“I want to let you know that I like you, and that I need to tell you something that isn’t comfortable for me to talk about, but I think you should know. Right now, I am currently dealing with a lot of debt from college loans and a car payment. However, I am able to pay my loans without having to use credit cards, and I am paying things off on time.  So I am managing my debt in a positive way without adding more debt onto my plate. I just wanted to let you know this information, and let you know that I’m happy to discuss the subject further with you if you’d like.” 

Bottom line? Communication — and smart money habits — make for a happy union.

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How To Remove Atlantic Credit & Finance From My Credit Report

Is your credit score suffering because of debt in collections?

Debt collectors can add stress to your everyday routine, calling constantly, sending letters, and even worse, damaging your credit.

If you’ve been contacted by Atlantic Credit & Finance about late payments, you probably have a lot of questions.

In the guide below, we have the answers you need to deal with Atlantic.

We’ll tell you a little more about Atlantic Credit, how debt collection works, and what you can do to get the collections agency off your credit report, stopping their calls in the process.

What Is Atlantic Credit & Finance?

Atlantic Credit & Finance isn’t a household name, leading many consumers to question whether or not it’s legit when they find it on their credit report.

However, Atlantic Credit & Finance, LLC, is a legitimate debt collection agency.

They’ve been operating since 1996 and are headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia, with an additional office in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

You can find Atlantic at the agency’s main office address:

Atlantic Credit & Finance, Inc.
111 Franklin Road SE
Suite 400
Roanoke, VA 24011

What Debts Does Atlantic Credit & Finance Collect?

Atlantic is a part of Encore Capital, a large corporation that purchases consumer debts from a long list of industries.

That means Atlantic could be contacting you about any of the following common types of debt, and potentially others:

  • Auto loans
  • Credit card bills
  • Medical bills
  • Telecomm
  • Utilities

How Does Atlantic Credit & Finance Work?

New to debt collection? Here’s how it works.

If one of your payments, your phone bill, for instance, slips through the cracks, your service provider will send you reminders about paying it for a while.

But if their attempts don’t work, they will eventually turn your debt over to a debt collector.

Sometimes, companies pay collection agencies to aid them in getting people to pay their balances. Other times, they sell the debts to them at deep discounts.

The latter is likely the case with Atlantic.

Once the agency buys your debt, they can hound you with robocalls, messages, calls from representatives, and letters until you make payment.

At the same time, they’ll report your delinquency to one or more of the credit bureaus.

This results in a collections entry on your report, which can do some major damage to your payment history, potentially leading to a steep drop-off for your score.

Collections entries can have serious repercussions over time because, unlike hard inquiries, which fall off your report after two years, these entries stay on your report for 7 years.

Many consumers make the mistake of just paying off their debt and assuming it will be deleted from their report as a result.

Unfortunately, paying your balance, even in full, won’t get it deleted. We’ll show you what you need to do to have the account wiped from your report below.

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How to Deal with Atlantic Credit & Finance

Collections agencies are known for pushing the boundaries in their collection attempts, using borderline harassing techniques.

They also get called out for faulty reporting, as you can see from complaints filed against the agencies with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Better Business Bureau.

Many people aren’t aware that they are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The FDCPA sets standards for how debt collectors interact with consumers.

For instance, it keeps collection agents from calling you late at night and early in the morning. It also restricts them from contacting your loved ones, coworkers, or anyone else regarding your debt.

Moreover, it lets you decide how you wish to communicate with Atlantic. It’s always advisable to communicate with debt collectors in writing.

Not only does it halt the agency’s frustrating phone calls, but it also allows you to document every encounter you have with the agency, which can help you get them removed from your credit report.

3 Ways to Remove Atlantic Credit & Finance from Your Credit Report

Now that you know more about who Atlantic is and how the FDCPA protects you from harassment, here are a few strategies to get the collections account off your credit report for good.

  1. Ask for validation
  2. Negotiate a pay-for-delete agreement
  3. Hire a credit repair company

1. Ask for Validation

The easiest way to get a collections agency off your report is also free.

The FDCPA allows you 30 days to dispute a debt.

If you send Atlantic a debt validation letter in that timeframe, they’ll have to provide you with details proving that your debt is legitimate.

Individuals who are being contacted by Atlantic by mistake should absolutely send a letter disputing the debt to clear up the error.

But they aren’t the only ones who should.

Atlantic is a third-party collections agency. Sometimes documents get lost in the shuffle and these agencies don’t have the information they need to prove their collections attempts are legit.

In both cases, if Atlantic can’t furnish you with your account information, the bureaus will remove the entry from your account, and the agency will stop contacting you.

Bottom line: If it’s been less than a month since Atlantic first contacted you and showed up on your report, it can’t hurt to submit a debt validation letter, whether your debt is legitimate or not.

2. Negotiate a Pay-for-Delete Agreement

Debt validation isn’t guaranteed to work. If a collections agency is able to present you with evidence of your debt, or you missed out on the 30-day window for dispute, you still have options.

Your second-best strategy is to arrange a pay-for-delete agreement.

As stated earlier, paying off your debt does not mean that a collections entry will be removed from your report.

The only way to get it deleted (outside of debt validation) is to get the agency to agree to have it removed.

In a pay-for-delete situation, you’re essentially paying the agency an agreed-upon amount to have the collections entry deleted from your report.

The best part of this type of arrangement is that you can probably get the agency to agree to accept a lower amount than what you owe them to satisfy your account.

Third-party collection agencies like Atlantic buy debts for pennies on the dollar, so settling for a negotiated amount is still a profit for them.

Try negotiating to pay half of what you owe. The agency could agree to report your payment to the credit bureaus and have the entry deleted in exchange.

Just be sure to negotiate with the agency in writing to ensure that both sides keep their promises.

Monitor your credit closely after you make a payment. Your score should be updated within 30 days.

Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report

3. Hire a Credit Repair Company

If you aren’t eager to communicate with Atlantic one-on-one, but you’re ready to stop their calls and get them off your credit report, a credit repair company can help.

These companies provide expert, tailored services to help you rebuild your credit, whatever might be bringing it down.

They can easily dispute inaccuracies and negotiate with agencies to ensure that collections accounts don’t stay on your credit report for long.

More than that, they can assist you in repairing your credit in the wake of other serious credit issues, such as:

  • Repossessions
  • Judgments
  • Foreclosures
  • Bankruptcy
  • Liens

If your credit needs some major improvement and you don’t know where to begin, paying for a credit repair service is a no-brainer.

CFPB Sues ITT for Allegedly Exploiting Students with Predatory Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sent a jolt through the for-profit college industry this week when the federal agency sued ITT Educational Services Inc. for predatory lending practices, saying it would seek restitution for victims, a civil fine and injunctions against the company.

The CFPB accused ITT, which owns and operates ITT Technical Institute, of exploiting its students by pushing them into high-cost private loans the school knew likely would end up in default. Colleges are the beneficiaries of much of the loan money paid out for tuition, fees, books and other expenses. Schools receive the money, regardless of whether the student succeeds at school and graduates.

“ITT marketed itself as improving consumers’ lives, but it was really just improving its bottom line,” CFPB Director Richard Corday said in a statement. “We believe ITT used high-pressure tactics to push many consumers into expensive loans destined to default.”

The suit marks the first time the CFPB has taken action against a college in the for-profit business. The action comes one month after 13 states sent subpoenas to ITT and three other for-profit colleges, demanding documents about recruiting practices and financing.

An ITT spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending CFPB lawsuit, but told Reuters “we believe that the Bureau’s claims are without merit.”

ITT Considered a National Leader

ITT, based in Carmel, Ind., is considered one of the leaders in the for-profit college industry with more than 70,000 students spread across 140 schools in 35 states. The school’s website shows it predominantly offers career-focused degrees in seven areas, ranging from information technology to nursing.

Tuition at ITT is among the highest in the country in the for-profit industry, Corday said. A four-year degree from ITT can cost $88,000 and a two-year degree $44,000. The U.S. Department of Education said that 75 percent of students at for-profit schools borrowed money to pay the tab.

Students from for-profit colleges receive about $30 billion in federal loans every year. The problem at ITT is that federal loans don’t cover full tuition at the school. The CFPB’s suit claims that ITT enticed students to close the tuition gap with a zero-interest loan the school called “Temporary Credit.”

It was temporary because the loan terms said it had to be repaid by the end of the school year, even though ITT knew that wouldn’t happen, CFPB officials said. The CFPB said that when the students couldn’t repay the loan, they were pushed to convert it to high-cost, long-term loans. The CFPB accused ITT CEO Denise Ramos of telling investors that was the company’s plan all along.

Students Destined to Fail

Specifically, the suit alleges ITT acted improperly in four major areas:

  • Financial aid staff pressured students into predatory loans.
  • Threatening expulsion as a way to coerce students into taking out private loans and finishing their degrees at ITT. Since credits don’t transfer to most non-profit schools, transferring is not an option.
  • Misleading students into thinking they would land a high salary job after graduating that could help repay the student loans.
  • Pushing loans, despite its own projection of a 64 percent default rate for its students, far above the national average of 14.7 percent.

Although for-profit schools enroll just 13 percent of the students, they accounted for 46 percent of the student loan defaults over the last three years.

The Department of Education estimates that over the next 20 years, the average default rate for all for-profit colleges will be 49 percent.

“Today’s action should serve as a warning to the for-profit college industry that we will be vigilant about protecting students against predatory lending tactics,” Corday said.

Ironically, ITT Tech’s corporate philosophy posted on the school’s website reads: “Long-term integrity is worth far more than short-term profit.”

How to Choose Where to Retire

As soon as you approach retirement age, one of the questions that will keep coming to your mind will be where to retire and settle down. However, before you make any decision, you need to have a solid plan on the ground.

Regardless of how diligent, productive, and hardworking we are at our workplace, we will all have to retire some day. In spite of this, most people tend to give little or no attention to some very decisive retirement plans. These may include the best states to retire and enjoy the rest of their lives. They often wait until retirement hits before taking steps to make plans for their life after service. At this point, they may be forced to make a hasty conclusion and end up settling in a place that will cause a financial strain.

But if you don’t want to stretch your benefits beyond what you can handle, you must put a solid plan in place to facilitate a smooth and seamless retirement process. This is because retirement comes with a lot of surprises, and these may hit you where it hurts the most if you are not prepared.

Most Americans wish to enjoy their retirement in an accommodating, flexible environment, where they can also enjoy their old age. However, they find it difficult to choose the most suitable state for their lifestyle and fixed earnings. While many prefer to live closer to their friends and family, others want a location that suits a low profile lifestyle.

In this article, we will focus on the important factors that can help you determine the best states to retire at the end of your career.

Photo Credit: Matthias Z. (Pexels)

Discovering the Best States to Retire in the US: What You Need to Know

Life is in stages, and for every stage, there are some new challenges. However, how you handle these challenges depends majorly on your level of preparation and planning. More often than not, you will find yourself trying so hard to adjust your lifestyle in order not to exhaust your retirement benefits. But when you settle down in a welcoming and tax-friendly environment, you can enjoy your retirement benefits and boost your savings. That is why you need to weigh your options and consider the most suitable state for your lifestyle before finalizing on your relocation decisions.

Many states have a beneficial package for every retiree willing to relocate after their service. However, as long as most retirees make their retirement plans based on their personal evaluation, some places will most likely be more suitable for them than the others. 

To discover the best states to retire in the US, you must consider a lot of factors. While making your consideration, you should consider the negative and positive attributes of each state, as well as research their living standard.

Other important factors that will help you determine the right state to settle down after your retirement include:

Cost of Living

The cost of living in any state is an essential factor that should top your list of considerations before you conclude. If you are planning on making your pensions, savings, and Social Security last for as long as possible, then you have to settle down in an affordable state.

As the cost of living in most US states differs from each other, it may either increase or lower your level of spending, depending on the area you live in.

You may have to dole out a considerable amount of money to access some basic services. However, in other places, these same services can go for a lesser amount of money. If you don’t want to deplete your retirement benefits quickly, you may want to consider relocating to an affordable state with a reasonably low cost of living. When you live in a region where you can manage your daily expenses without cutting back too much on the things you love, it may improve your standard of living and allow you to take on new hobbies.

Security

Every retiree will prefer to settle down in a safe and secure environment. Before you decide which state you would like to spend the rest of your life in, it is important to consider the security risks and conditions. An unsafe environment can endanger your life and that of your property. And you don’t want to spend the rest of your life worrying about your safety when you should be enjoying the things you love the most. That is why you need to choose a place with fewer security issues and crime rates.

Best states to retire
Photo Credit: Huy Phan (Pexels)

Climate and Temperature

The weather condition of most US States differs from each other. And because of this, you have to ensure that the weather of the state you are intending to relocate to suits your lifestyle and health condition before finalizing your relocation plan.

During the winter, some states in the US experience some bizarre weather, including violent storms and heavy snow. If you find it difficult to acclimate to cold weather conditions, you may want to consider a place with a suitable climatic condition for your health before you conclude your plans.

Availability of Basic Social Amenities and Other Important Service

As a retiree, you will require a lot of services to keep up with the normal standard of living. That is why it is important to consider places with affordable access to basic social amenities and psychosocial services.  

Living in a neighborhood with fewer services can affect your well-being, as well as limit you from accessing most of the needful health services.

Photo Credit: Kaboompics (Pexels)

Closeness to Family and Friends

The state in which your family and friends reside also determines where you might select while searching for the best state to spend your old age. When you retire to a residence closer to your family and friends, you can always enjoy a friendly and warming environment.

Tax

Relocating to a new state after your service years is adventurous and exciting, especially as you no longer have to punch the clock and can afford to do all the things you love the most. However, paying taxes can quickly help to drain your retirement benefits, now that you are living on a fixed income.

While you are getting close to retirement, you should make plans to settle in a state with a friendly tax system. You can check out places with no state income tax or tax on retirement benefits, as they can help boost your savings and increase your wealth.

Housing

As you edge towards retirement, you need to make a proper plan for your housing and accommodation. Everybody has a different view when it comes to selecting a suitable house to live in.  When you choose to settle down in a state with cheaper housing options, you can save more money and still get your desired choice of residence, where you can call home.

The Best States to Retire in the US

Every state across the US has prominent factors that will attract or drive away retirees willing to relocate. However, the following states stand out from the rest, as they offer friendly low property and inheritance tax rates and affordable access to essential services. At the same time, you also enjoy the scenic view, pleasant weather, and conducive environment of these states, as they will add glamor to your retirement plans.

Some of these states include:

  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Florida
  • South Dakota
  • Mississippi
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky

5 Ways to Take Control of Your Credit Card Habits

Have you ever used a credit card to pay off another card? I’ll admit it: I am one of those people. At that time, I was living my life worry-free, making money and having fun. Anytime a friend said, “Let’s go out of town for the weekend,” I happily went along, regardless of my budget.

This led to more and more debt, which I continued to ignore, hoping it would take care of itself. The turning point for me was finally having the courage to look at my financial reality. But I was $187,000 in debt before I got to that point.

Don’t wait as long as I did. Whatever debt you’ve accumulated, it’s possible to change your credit card habits, provided you’re willing to be aware of your finances. Here’s how.

Take Control of Your Credit Card Habits

  1. Look at the Numbers
  2. Stop Playing Into the Drama
  3. Start Some New Habits
  4. When You Do Spend, Buy Things That Last
  5. Use Your Card to Your Advantage

Look at the Numbers

To start, gather all your credit card statements and calculate the total amount you owe. Now, divide it by 12 for the whole year. Look at that figure. Is it possible for you to actually make a payment of that amount each month after subtracting your living expenses and any other debts?

If that seems impossibly high, then you’re living beyond your means – with the help of credit cards. Now, divide that number into 24, or even 36, giving yourself two or three years to pay off the debt.

Still not doable? Then commit to paying a small amount each month to your balance, even if it’s just $20. And in the meantime, stop using your credit cards until you get to a place where you are able to pay off the entire balance in full each month. To change your habits, you’ve got to make some different choices.

Stop Playing Into the Drama

Credit card debt is the highest it’s ever been in U.S. history, and everyone seems to have a horror story to tell. Well, it’s time to stop listening to your own trauma and drama and start looking at what actions you can take. At one point I had three different jobs, rather than sit and complain to my friends and family about my debt.

Anytime someone offered me paying work, I took it. Some jobs I loved; some I hated. Some were really slow. None of it mattered. I was constantly looking for what else I could do to make more money and put a dent into my debt.

Start Some New Habits

We’re taught that the value of money is spending it or saving it to spend later. How many people pay off their credit cards and think, “Great! I’ve got another $10,000 (or whatever their credit limit is) to spend?”

Start a new habit. Allow yourself to have money in your life and watch it grow. One of the best tools for this is the 10% account. That’s where you put away 10% of every single cent you get as a gift to yourself. It’s not your emergency fund or to pay bills. It’s about being grateful for you.

When I first started my 10% account, I was still in debt. Even though it made no sense, I started putting aside 10%, and after three or four months, I no longer had panic and stress about money. It changed the energy around money for me.

When You Do Spend, Buy Things That Last

Once you’ve gotten a handle on your debt, try using your credit card to purchase things of intrinsic value. You could start by buying a silver teaspoon to stir your coffee. Find out the price of silver and buy a spoon for less. Learn about things of intrinsic value that bring you a sense of wealth. If not a material object, what about a subscription to a publication that makes you rich in other ways?

Use Your Card to Your Advantage

Having a credit card isn’t bad in itself. There are ways to use it to your advantage without creating more debt. I now use my credit card for a lot of different things. At the end of each month when I pay it off, I’ve usually accumulated a ton of miles on my frequent flyer card. That means I could get upgraded to business class or first class when I travel. That’s the joy of business. How could you use your credit card to your advantage?

To be clear, this is not financial advice. These are practical tools that will help you change your money habits – and your attitude around money – so try these approaches and see how they change your outlook.

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