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Technology is always developing and changing. New technologies surface to help improve connections, offer entertainment, support wellness, and much more. Technology has increased access to information and made many things more convenient.“Fintech solutions like peer-to-peer financing, AI-based financial management solutions, online identity verification (KYC solutions), open banking and mobile payment systems have revolutionized the way people manage their finances today,” Damien Martin Shufti Pro Marketing Executive says.Technology has affected personal finances in the following ways: Opportunity Convenience Financial literacy Security Opportunity “Some of the positive aspects of financial technology is the access it provides to those who previously did not have access to or only had limited access to financial services. The gap between developed and developing nations is closing, and technology has helped bridge that. Access to money and investment is key to initiate growth and there are a multitude of solutions ranging from traditional banking to microfinancing to crowdfunding which have been enabled through financial technology,” says Lauren Wilson of Voleo. Broadly speaking, technology is leveling the playing field when it comes to accessing investment opportunities, banking, and financial knowledge.“Investing in the stock market used to just be for the wealthy people, or at least people who could afford to put a lot of money away. Thanks to apps like Acorns, Betterment, and Robinhood, a person of nearly any income can invest and try to grow their money,” advises Bill Walsh, finance writer and contributor to SproutCents.com.However, this broader access also puts the education and decision-making responsibility even more on the investor instead of sharing the burden with a financial advisor.“There is a catch to this however. Novice investors using Robinhood for the first time will often start purchasing stocks without fully understanding what they're doing. Robinhood doesn't charge a commission, making trading affordable. But you don't get some of the perks that commission money pays for, like personalized advice about how you should trade to meet your goals. Then they'll sell at the first sign of trouble and swear off the market forever. This "democratized" market could mean more fear based selloffs, and increased overall volatility. Acorns makes saving money super easy and convenient by investing spare change. It sounds like a great setup. However, the $1 a month fee may sound minimal to the average person, but that dollar can really eat into your returns when you're investing with such low amounts,” says Walsh. While there are still hurdles in leveling the playing field, like ability to use or access financial technology and financial education, it has demonstrated its capacity to offer increased access to financial services globally. Convenience “Technology has greatly changed financial culture. The app market has created a wealth of programs that can automatically save and even invest your money. You no longer need a calculator, some scrap paper, and a large coffee to properly manage cash. Banks and other financial institutions are expanding their mobile capabilities. Because it’s more convenient to do so, more people will be properly watching over their finances. This will lead to smarter money management and better spending decisions. Just the ability to automate your savings will mean people will have more stored away for a rainy day,” says Walsh. Technological developments have made it easy to monitor spending, bank accounts, and credit cards online and from mobile phones.Most employers offer direct deposit for paychecks, which means that you can access your money faster and avoid fees associated with cashing a check or the delay from waiting for it to come in the mail and then to deposit it yourself. If you’re depositing a hard copy check, most banks have mobile deposit, which makes the deposit process instantaneous.Lots of mobile apps help people set a budget and track their spending. This makes it simple to compare how you planned to spend your money with how you actually spend your money quickly. Some online banks also have budgeting trackers.Technology has also reduced operational costs for banks. Technology has also allowed banks to catch fraudulent charges on cards in real time, which helps to reduce the impact of lost or stolen cards.“FinTech has been monumental in helping banks and financial institutions make their data entry, compliance and financial management systems more efficient and productive. With advanced AML compliance systems, are now potentially capable of saving the banking sector billions of dollars of fines and operational costs. Advanced risk analytics and digital KYC procedures are now capable of mitigating the risk of identity theft and credit card fraud,” adds Martin.However, financial technology isn’t just about convenient budgeting, saving, and theft protection. It’s also about convenient payment options.Most companies and online banks allow you to set up automatic payments for bills. This makes it easy to stay ahead of bill due dates and reduces the memory load — you don’t have to remember to pay your bills because you have automatic payments set up.“Technology certainly has made it easier and convenient to enable people to borrow and spend…and spend. Many components of Fintech focus on the technology side to make a process easier, but it is important to remember that there is still a financial side too. The vast majority of technological innovation or “disruption” is to find ways to get people to spend money, not save it. With the ever growing consumer debt burden in the United States there needs to be a realignment to truly educate people on how to manage their personal finances, retirement, and investment opportunities,” says Michael Micheletti, Director of Communications at Freedom Debt Relief.Apps like Venmo and PayPal have made it convenient to send money to friends or family members.“Consumers have options to pay digitally in stores using a mobile wallet, or transfer money through financial apps. The acceptance of such modes of payment at brick-and-mortar stores has increased the sales,” adds Mangala Bhattacharjee, Research on Global Markets Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications.Because financial technology has lead to increased spending, it’s essential for people to watch their finances carefully and understand them. Financial literacy “In financial services today we are seeing technology applied to everything from payroll automation to investment support. Many companies are incorporating technology, machine learning and AI into their website and applications to help consumers increase their financial understanding and improve decision-making. The premise for many of these technological innovations is to create opportunities for those who lack the education and experience to better control their finances. From a culture perspective there is a sense of a “set it and forget it” mentality as we automate everything from paycheck deposits to paying our bills and begs us to ask the question do we understand how we manage money,” advises Micheletti. The more work we divert to technology, the less we think about it. This practice can free up brainpower to focus on other things. While this is nice and convenient, it can also be harder to be fully aware of what happens with our personal finance.In a 2019 study, Freedom Debt Relief found that 55 percent of Americans checked their paystub the last time they were paid. Just under half of those surveyed had not checked their paystub the last time they were paid. Infographic courtesy of Freedom Debt Relief. When people do check their pay stub, most look at the federal and state income tax withholdings. Infographic courtesey of Freedom Debt Relief. Before direct deposit, employees received a paystub along with their paychecks. Since the documents came together, it was easy to keep an eye on taxes and retirement contributions.“Features such as direct deposit and automated bill paying don’t require human interaction beyond setting up the accounts. Consumers no longer look at a paper paycheck while standing in line at the bank to make a deposit. There is no longer a need to reconcile your checking account at the end of the month. It’s all done without thought or purpose. We aren’t paying enough attention, and it is having a drastically negative effect on the entire country. Worst yet, it will be passed to future generations,” warns Bill Westrom, creator and co-founder of TruthinEquity.com and co-author of Master Your Debt.While companies still provide paystubs to employees, these are usually available online through the employer’s HR software. Looking at your payslip regularly helps you know how much you pay in taxes, contribute to retirement, and what you earn regularly.Freedom Debt Relief’s study found that most people who looked at their payslip checked federal income tax, state income tax, and 401(k) contributions.But it’s not that technology is bad. Many things that make our lives more convenient, also allow us to think less — even without delegating responsibility to technology. Continuing with the example of payslips and tax withholdings, taxpayers paid the government directly instead of going through their employers before World War II. During World War II, the government changed the tax paying method so that employers would pay taxes from their employees’ paychecks before disbursing the earned income. This change meant that the government got money faster and that taxpayers became less and less familiar with the total amount they paid in taxes and how tax law changes affected their taxes.When we delegate tasks for convenience and efficiency, it’s important to stay informed by looking at payslips, account statements, and personal budgets. Recognize that technology offers a lot of tools to make managing finances convenient and to manage them instead of being passive. “The most dangerous downside of technological advancements lies underneath control delegation. There is a huge gap between the result of some algorithm work and the understanding of the algorithm's logic. People take machines for granted and sometimes forget that machines are not yet capable of what humans are capable of in terms of logic. Thus, it is important to bear in mind that machines so far are only supplements rather than substitutes,” says Ruslan Gavrilyuk co-founder and President of Kepler Finance. Realize the limitations of financial technology. Set financial goals and make plans to meet them. Hold yourself accountable for you spending at frequent and regular intervals. It can be harder to budget when everything can go on a credit card that gets paid at the end of the month. Checking in on your budget weekly and assessing it monthly is a good practice in understanding where you’re sending money and start planning for how you’re going to use it. It will also help you avoid consumer debt.Technology adds value and convenience to managing personal finances. However, all tools and innovations must be used wisely. As we continue to enter a digital finance world, it’s important to keep the valuable personal finance approaches that pre-date online banking and digital innovation. Security “Online banking, payment applications and investment apps have, and will, continue to revolutionize the way consumers live within the financial world. This technology has enabled more visibility and convenience for both consumers and sellers. However, this convenience does come at the cost of security and regulation control. With the constant evolution and advancement of fintech innovation, the regulation setting cannot keep up. Consumers often express concerns about online banking and money management systems. In order to combat this, stay away from wi-fi usage with these sites and applications, keep your anti-virus software current and do your due diligence to set up security on your devices by changing passwords often and requesting text message confirmations,” suggests Jared Weitz CEO and founder of United Capital Source. As financial tech has developed, hackers have become more adept at breaking in to steal information. Data breaches are becoming more and more common. Fortunately, security measures also develop and improve in tandem with hacker skills.Companies that gather data invest in data security. Laws like the GDPR in the European Union regulate how companies acquire and secure data online. “The downside to financial technology could be the increased sharing of user data across different channels. This makes the data vulnerable and prone to breaches. However, companies that observe strict data protection and cybersecurity protocols are less in danger of having their information exposed to breaches. On a personal level, people must be careful about sharing their personal information on unreliable sources and take good measures to protect their data online,” says Martin.But it’s not just personal information that worries some consumers."People often worry about the safety of online banks. However, even if your money is "stored online" that doesn't make it more hackable. Traditional brick and mortar banks use online programs to keep track of their accounts as well. If an online bank is FDIC insured, your money is protected from run-on-the-bank situations and just as safe as it would be elsewhere," advises Claire Shaner, Best Company’s online banks expert.Even with a company’s investment in security, data breaches happen frequently. Data breaches can result in identity theft and affect people’s privacy.“Data security and vulnerability to malware attacks are the biggest downsides for financial technology. The banking sector is new to technology adoption and hence hackers sometimes find it very easy to breach through the gaps. As a result user data gets compromised,” adds Bhattacharjee. However, technology has become common place and vital for functioning in many societies. Since it’s more inconvenient not to use technology, how can people protect their finances and other personal information?“Even with the best in security software, you can never feel 100 percent safe. We simply put our trust and faith in them to protect us. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Short answer: pay attention and keep your eye on the ball so you can spot anything out of the ordinary. Ultimately it’s our responsibility to pay attention to and protect our information,” says Westrom.Everyone should take measures to ensure that their data and identity are protected. This can start by taking steps to secure your home Wi-Fi. You can also purchase a VPN to help secure your data. This is an especially good idea if you’re accessing your financial information online.“Adopting secure browsing methods is the most basic thing that people need to make sure of. It’s also important that people change passwords of financial accounts, Wi-Fi, etc. frequently. Avoid using free internet to public internet to access financial information as the public internet networks are the easiest to breach,” says Bhattacharjee.Being careful with your online presence is also a good idea. Be selective of where, how, and with whom you share your information online. Martin shares some additional data security tips: “Beware of phishing scams — never click on links provided via email; they tend to have malware. Banks or companies rarely send out emails inviting customers to use new products or services or offer them discounts or gift vouchers. Beware of social engineering scams — banks, governments and online retailers never ask people for their personal information (ID card numbers, account or credit card numbers, passwords and PINs) via email, phone calls or direct messaging. Keep your personal information secure — avoid giving out any potential identity information on social media platforms. Block your stolen credit card as soon as possible and report the theft.” The bottom line Financial technology has made many processes faster and more convenient. It can make it easier for people to monitor their spending and create budgets. It has also helped reduce the cognitive load of remembering to pay bills. However, it’s important to capitalize on the convenience financial technology brings to keep your finances and spending habits in good shape. This can mean setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account and automatic bill pay. Be sure to revisit your settings at regular intervals to stay informed about your finances and make adjustments as appropriate.“Research and education are the only solutions. It's up to people to do their due diligence before handing over their hard earned money. All these new apps means more of our information is floating out there in cyberspace. Times today require you to keep a closer eye than ever on your finances, which in a strange way, these apps are making us do,” says Walsh.While you capitalize on the positive aspects of financial technology, don’t ignore the risks. Take steps to keep your information secure online. Be selective of the companies you share your personal and financial information with. Hold yourself accountable for your spending and stick to your budget.Making the effort to understand and track your finances and keep your information secure will help you use financial technology wisely and to your advantage.For more insight into how technology is affecting personal finance, check out [email protected] High School’s podcast.
Guest Post by Bryce Welker Are you in your 40s and starting to worry about the state of your finances?Maybe things are looking a bit better than they did in your early 20s, when you were living off ramen noodles and struggling to pay your rent — but now you’re thinking about your pension, paying off your mortgage, or other big goals.We can’t all become CPAs and manage our finances seamlessly (CPA exam costs aren’t exactly cheap as this article shows) … but we can all get on top of our finances.Here are six key goals to aim for in your 40s: 1. Pay off high-interest debt If you’re carrying credit card debt or student loans that you’re still paying off, then your 40s are a great time to aggressively pay down that debt. You may want to look into options for refinancing, especially if you’re paying off a high-interest student loan from the 1990s. You can find some great tips on refinancing here. If you’re in a position to pay off your debts over time, you may find the “debt snowball” technique helpful. Pay off your smallest debt first, which will give you a sense of momentum and help you to pay off larger debts — just like a snowball that grows as you roll it down a hill.If you have a lot of debts, though, and you’re struggling with multiple high-interest payments, consolidating your debts into a single monthly payment could be the easiest way forward. Even if takes a while to pay off, it’ll be a lot simpler to handle than tracking dozens of different debts. Finally, if you’re really struggling to pay back your debts, you’ll want to consider settlement. This means making an agreement with your creditors that you’ll pay less than the full debt; they’ll then write off the remainder. This can have a serious negative impact on your credit score, though, so consult a financial advisor before taking this step. 2. Establish a strong emergency fund Hopefully, you already have an emergency fund of some sort — with easy to access cash stashed away for sudden unexpected problems, like medical expenses or a job loss.In your 40s, you may well own a home and have dependent kids, so it’s particularly crucial to have an emergency fund. It should contain at least three months’ living expenses; a year’s worth of expenses is ideal. 3. Ensure you’re putting enough away for retirement If you hit 40 with nothing saved for retirement, it’s not too late. Putting away $650 a month is enough to net around $1 million in retirement savings by age 67. Aim to save around 8 percent to 15 percent of your salary.Retirement plans, including a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, have special tax benefits and will earn compounded interest — increasing the value of your savings over time. The sooner you start putting money aside, the sooner that interest can begin to accumulate. 4. Boost your earnings through a raise or a side gig Many people find that their 40s are when they hit the peak of their career. They’re at a stage in life when they’re still in great health, but probably also at a point where their children (if they have any) are in school — so sleepless nights and childcare arrangements aren’t taking such a toll.This can be a great point at which to push for a promotion or pay raise at work, or even to start hunting for a new job that pays more. If that’s not the right option for you, then it might make sense to take on a side gig — starting up your own business that you can run in the evenings and/or weekends. This can, of course, introduce financial responsibilities; you may want to invest in software like QuickBooks that can help you keep on top of things. 5. Save for college costs, but not too much College doesn’t come cheap, and when you’re in your 40s with kids rapidly entering their teens, it’s easy to want to put aside every penny you can for their education. Don’t fall into the trap of paying for college at the cost of your own retirement savings, though.Obviously, the earlier you can start saving for college, the better — but do keep in mind that your child will have other options open to them, like scholarships and loans. You don’t have nearly as many options available to you when it comes to your retirement savings. 6. Avoid cosigning your teen’s loans or credit cards If your teen wants a credit card (an important tool for them to build their own credit history), then they might well ask you to cosign their application. The same goes for auto loans or any other loan agreement.The danger here is that if your child misses a payment, your credit rating will take a hit. Only cosign if you’re absolutely sure your child is responsible enough to be on top of things. You may want to insist on access to their monthly statements so you can check that they haven’t run into problems that you’re unaware of.You’ve likely got a lot going on in your 40s, and it’s easy to push financial issues aside if they’re not causing day-to-day problems. By staying on top of these goals, you’ll put yourself in a great position for your 50s, 60s, and beyond. Bryce Welker Bryce Welker is an active speaker, blogger, and tutor on accounting and finance. As the Founder of Crush The CPA Exam, he has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA exam on their first attempt
I'm not being dramatic when I say that the only things more difficult than choosing the perfect gift is giving birth or trying to peel a mango with wet hands. On a more serious note, buying the right gift is even more difficult when you’re doing it for those who desperately need money. Is it better to just give money to those struggling through a financial crisis? Are there gifts that can help someone on their path to financial freedom? Would it be rude to give a gift that draws attention to someone’s financial situation?I decided to ask a network of financial experts for some advice on the best gifts for friends and family who are struggling financially. Should I give money as a gift? The majority of financial experts I questioned (about 95 percent) did not like the idea of giving struggling debtors cash as a holiday gift. Instead, they suggested books on finance, financial wellness programs, and budgeting tools. This bothered me a little bit. Yes, their arguments do make sense — giving money to someone who needs it may play into the “give a man a fish, feed him for a day” philosophy. But, the holidays should have some hint of happiness other than “well, time to get to work you poor, unfortunate soul.”I prefer compromises between a stack of books on finance and $100 cash. However, the gift should match the person who receives it. You must answer one question: does the person you’re shopping for need money, financial education, or simple, sincere emotional support? I’ve split this article, and the gift ideas, into three separate categories: Money-Centric Gifts, Education-Centric Gifts, and Support-Centric Gifts.Cash-centric gifts are all about giving the person what they want most. Education-centric gifts are about “teaching a man to fish, feed him forever.” And finally — my favorite type of gift for the financially oppressed — support-centric gifts provide a balm to the stresses of poverty.When viewed in these categories, you can see why experts would prefer education and family would prefer support. Cash-Centric Gifts 1. Better spending with an AegisFS prepaid debit card Jim Angleton, President of Aegis FinServ Corp.The beauty of this card is that it allows for monitored spending — perfect for parents who want to keep an eye on their kid’s spending habits while they’re away at college. You would most likely only want to gift this to a close relative or one of your children. “AegisFS is a prepaid and debit card company and provides cash conveyance cards plus spending programs for students, financially strapped individuals and struggling business startups. We offer a very good prepaid debit card that can be used as a gift card or cash card. We routinely see parents who have irresponsible students in college provide these cards. It allows them to view the account balances, spending, and pie-chart showing where their money goes. Additionally we allow “topping-off” which essentially credits the card with more money. Homeless people are often provided these same cards from charities and place a certain amount but add restrictions whereby you cannot use the card for alcohol, baseless food snacks or beer/wine or non-medical items. What this does is allow someone the opportunity to manage their money better and see online, via 800 phone number for free, their balances. We also offer SMS or text messages too. When you have cash in hand you act differently. When you have a card that is restrictive, has other eyes watching it, or requires reloading the card, it tempers that individual to spend prudently.” 2. Stocks instead of stockings — teach a man to fish Dustyn Ferguson, Founder of Dime Will Tell“If someone is in debt and is struggling to get out, it might be because they are simply bad with finances. Giving them straight up cash or even gift cards may not be the best of help as it could be gone within a day without any positive impact on tackling their debt. It's sort of like give them a fish they'll eat for a day, teach them how and they'll eat for a lifetime. We want to help teach, or at least guide them, to fish for themselves.How can this be done?By setting them up for financial success. Buy them a year’s subscription to a service that saves them money or helps them manage it (like Mint). Or buy them stocks, bonds, or money in a CD so they can watch it grow and maybe, just maybe, they'll get inspired to add to it themselves and start their journey to a better financial future for themselves.”Could you expand on the idea behind stocks/bonds/CD?“Being at ground zero can seem insurmountable. Being at negative ground zero is even worse. Gifting some sort of financial asset, like a stock or bond, gives them that first momentum upwards. Although they could easily sell it for cash, the hope is that it would be like selling a gift they received, which most people don't do. Instead, they'll passively see it grow and have a portfolio started, which is is often the hardest part. It might not help and they could sell it off and buy something with the money, but in the chance it sparks an ambition to grow their portfolio — that makes the gift invaluable.”What do you think the best subscription gift would be? My favorite subscription I'd gift to someone with no strong financial basis would probably be Acorns. It invests your spare change and is only a couple of dollars per month. It makes for a great gift that won't break the bank and can really prove to be useful for whoever receives the gift. 3. Pay off one small debt for them Nathalie Noisette, Founder of Credit Conversion“One of my top gift ideas for someone in debt is to pay off a debt for them. Being burdened by debt can be very stressful. If you can relieve someone of one debt (you can afford) I'm sure they would be extremely appreciative. I would advise against giving money. The money may not go to the debt and may be spent elsewhere.” Education-Centric Gifts 4. Bookkeeping tools, perspective, and support Dock David Treece, Senior Financial Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com“If you want to give someone a tool to help them with their finances, start with a bookkeeping tool like Quicken. Quicken allows you to track all of your income and expenses so you can see where every penny goes each month. By tracking and reviewing your expenses, you can see quickly how you may need to change spending patterns to help stop the bleeding." 5. Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover Ashley Patrick, Founder of Budgets Made Easy“The number one gift I give people is a copy of Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover. If they are already working the plan, I like to give gift cards for something they want but won't buy for themselves at the moment. This book motivated me to pay off $45,000 in 17 months while working as a police officer.”What’s the most important financial lesson you learned from this book?“The best thing I learned from the book was the knowledge that being debt-free is possible. I had never thought it was an option or possibility before.” 6. Subscription to Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace” course Danielle Kunkle Roberts, Co-Founder of Boomer BenefitsCosts $99“Oftentimes those who are in a lot of debt have a bad relationship with money. With that, giving money to a person in debt to try to solve the problem isn’t likely to solve the larger problem.Those who struggle with budgeting money need guidance and a plan. Dave Ramsey is well-known in this space for laying out a very straightforward plan to help people get and stay out of debt.Rather than handing out cash, opt to give your friend or family member a paid membership to a financial course such as Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace.” This small cost (around $99) to you could be a huge answer to their financial health. (There are many others as well, such as regular investment advice from the Motley Fool, etc, depending on how much you want to spend)” 7. Your Money or Your Life by Dave Ramsey and 3-month Audible subscription R.J. Weiss, Certified Financial Planner and Founder of The Ways to Wealth“A great way to help someone long term really change their behavior is with information. I've given books, mainly Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and/or Your Money or Your Life. If I know they won't read, I've given a 3-month Audible subscription with a list of books I think can help the person the most. ” 8. Pay for college finance course or seminar Megan Robinson, Financial and Behavioral Money Coach for Dollar Sprout“The best gift you can give someone in debt is the knowledge and resources to improve their situation. That could be in the form of paper or audio books, or it could be some other form of education. For example, you may gift them the experience of attending an in-person seminar or pay for a class at a local college.” Support-Centric Gifts 9. No-gift agreement or utility bill payment Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement at SOLO Laboratories“Give permission not to give gifts. Some people feel obligated to buy a gift to reciprocate. Suggest NO gift giving to anyone in your family. Absolutely nothing. Then if you decide to pay a utility bill — that's the gift and it feels like one. Plus there's none of that awkward exchange, where you hand them something and they feel bad because they aren't giving a gift.”“Pay a utility bill. My favorite is putting money on a utility bill or prepaying for X gals of fuel oil. This gives you insight into the problem. Some people are upset that you did that vs. a gift card. It's usually because they want to shop/spend. If you REALLY want to get out of debt, you'd look at it as two months’ expense that you can put on another expense. ” 10. Consultations and debt repayment charts Amanda Amezcua, Personal Finance Writer for Debt Reduction Services“Consider gifting a personal finance tool kit with a variety of worksheets for budgeting, saving, and debt repayment, a stack of finance books, or even a debt repayment coloring chart (they’ve been trending this year)! You might take it a step further and cover the cost of consultation with a financial planner — though nonprofit credit counseling agencies provide much of the same advice for free.Debt is a sensitive subject, so what you give and how or when you present it should be guided by the level of closeness you’ve established with those you’re giving to.” 11. Smart gifting for the financially stressed Natasha Knox, Certified Financial Planner for PaxPlanning“The best gifts depend on the debts and how they were acquired (overspending, versus some unforeseeable life tragedy that couldn’t be insured against or planned for), and depends on your own personal financial situation and ability to help. If it’s a friend — particularly one who struggles with overspending, sometimes the best gifts can be the gift of quality time together, in a fun, but inexpensive or free setting. Maybe establish a no-gifts rule this year, so they don’t feel obliged to give you something, and invite them over for a barbecue, a picnic, or a board games night, or movie marathon. Something that can satisfy the need for connection and fun, but doesn’t cost them anything, or place them in a position of feeling like they have to reciprocate with something that costs money.” How would you gift to someone suffering from a tragedy?“I think that the best gift is real support that is well organized and long lasting. What that could look like is reaching out to your network of people on their behalf, and speaking to key contacts and experts to connect them with resources and organizations that can help. It could be organizing a meal chain (where a bunch of people commit to cooking and delivering meal that can be put in the freezer or fridge) on their behalf. Child care is a huge one — organizing a rotation schedule of child care among trusted friends and family, orchestrating a community of people to help rebuild or repair. Maybe it means offering them a place to stay if the situation is so dire that they’ve lost their home. The connecting thread in all of these is emotional support and community. So often, when people hear of a tragic situation, they will say, ‘Please let me know if I can help’, but the person suffering doesn’t reach out. A friend reaching out on their behalf to unite the community, taking people up on their sentiment of wanting to help, and letting them know exactly how and when they can help is an incredible gift.” 12. Add as an authorized user on a credit card RJ Mansfield, Author of Debt Assassin: A Black Ops Guide to Cleaning Up Your Credit“Assuming the gifter has good credit, the best gift you could give them would be putting them on a credit card or two or three as an "Authorized User." Of course, you don't give them the credit card to use but just adding them as an AU will help them establish and/or re-establish credit. There is no downside to being an AU as the authorized user is never obligated to make payments even were the primary cardholder to stop paying or die.” 13. Cosign on a loan Jacob Dayan, CEO and Co-Founder of Community Tax“The most creative way to gift someone who is debt is offering to cosign with them for any loan that they need help obtaining. There is an immense amount of relief that is given to the borrower when they have a cosigner signing with them. The borrower’s interest rate on the loan will drop significantly from when applying for a loan themselves. Also, offering to be a cosigner with someone allows for a more likely chance to get approved for a loan. This is a gift that also keeps on giving; a cosigner can arrange for themselves to be released from the cosigning responsibilities after a certain point. Most lenders will advise borrowers to not take this option, but it doesn’t hurt to request this option. Cosigning with someone in debt is risky, but it will help them out substantially in the long run. Potential cosigners should set up a strict payment schedule with their borrowers. People offering to cosign with should be invested enough to set up email notifications to know that payments have been paid on time. Along with requesting to be relieved of the cosigning duties, be sure that the loan can then be refinanced entirely under the borrower’s name.” 14. Airo Health: An anxiety-tracking wristband Maryam Jahed, Founder and COO of Airo Health“What's a common experience between everyone with debt? STRESS! What happens when you're stressed? You make bad decisions that make the situation even worse for you. When you're in debt, all your focus is on how to get out of the situation which leads to you forgetting to take care of yourself.”Together, the Airo Health app and wristband is “a product that helps you keep yourself in check, so no matter what you're doing, you're keeping a clear mind. It catches you when you're having the spiral of negative thoughts that start with ‘I owe my friend some money’ to ‘I'm going to die alone!’”“Airo sits on your wrist and tracks your anxiety. It is like a therapist following you everywhere you go and making sure you know when anxiety is starting to take over. This is important because only then you know when exactly to practice your coping mechanisms.Airo let's you stay on top of yourself so you know when it's time to push yourself or when to take a step back.”
Written By: Stan Brown Cash-strapped consumers staring at mounting credit card debt, student loans, and car payments know all too well the dread of answering the phone or opening an email. After all, chances are it will be a creditor looking for repayment. Unfortunately, scammers also know the desperation these struggling borrowers face and prey on them with debt relief scams. Scammers will tell people that they will help them pay or settle their debt for a fee. In reality, they take money from consumers and disappear, leaving the victim out the payment, typically a high one, and still stuck with their debt. In some cases, consumers don’t immediately realize they have been scammed, and as a result, their accounts default and their credit scores deteriorate. These scams aren’t going away anytime soon given the outstanding U.S. consumer debt, which stands at $3.9 trillion. Of that, $1.03 trillion is in revolving debt with 41.2 percent of all households having some form of credit card debt. Add student loans to the mix, and it is not surprising that the bad guys find fertile ground. While most consumers are aware that if it seems too good to be true, then it usually is, that isn’t stopping them from getting scammed. With piles of credit card debt flooding their mailbox each month, they are desperate for help and are more willing to believe the unbelievable. But you don’t have to be the next victim of a debt relief scam. There are telltale signs that the offers aren't legit. Here’s a look at five of them: 1. They come out of the woodwork Scammers don’t know you and as a result, can’t pick up the phone and text you an offer to help you get out of debt. They will instead resort to all sorts of tactics to pique your interest whether that means sending an offer via the mail, reaching you via phone call, or blanketing your email with ways to pay down your crippling debt. Recently, they have also turned to social media to find their next victims. If you are on the receiving end of one of these unsolicited communications, that should raise a red flag. Yes, legitimate debt relief companies will use the same means to reach you, but the scammers tend to be more aggressive. If you are getting contacted with promises to wipe away your debt and it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are plenty of services out there that can help. Contacting one yourself — after researching the company and the service — is a much better way to protect yourself from getting scammed then acting on an unsolicited sales pitch for relief. 2. They charge an upfront fee According to the Better Business Bureau, a common thread between all debt relief scams is the request for an upfront payment to help you get out of debt. The scammers make all sorts of promises for the fee but can’t deliver on any of them. Some scammers will tell you they can remove late payments or bankruptcy from your credit report, offer to give you a new, clean credit identity, or claim to negotiate with the lenders or credit card companies to get rid of the debt entirely. A legitimate debt relief company won’t require you to make a payment up front. The practice, after all, is illegal. What’s more, there is never a guarantee that creditors will forgive debts nor is it a service you need to pay for. 3. They deploy aggressive sales tactics Scammers want to hook you within the first attempt and will employ aggressive sales tactics to get your money or sensitive information. If you are dealing with a debt relief company that tells you to act now or lose the ability to access its services, that's an indication that the company is not legit. The same goes for any tactics pressuring you to decide on the spot. Reputable companies will give you time to consider the services they offer and the fees attached to them. Scammers will not. If you are dealing with a purported company that is being overly aggressive, hang up the phone, delete the email, or toss the mail in the trash. 4. They want your personal information For scammers and hackers, your sensitive information — such as social security number and bank account login credentials — are the keys to your castle, and they will go to great lengths to get them. One way is through a debt relief scam. When pretending to help customers get out of debt, they will request personal information including your social security number. Armed with that, they can steal your identity to open up credit cards in your name or otherwise hurt your finances. These unscrupulous companies will also ask for account information, so they can supposedly go into your accounts and make payment decisions for you. No legitimate credit counseling agency will ask for your social security number, and certainly not through the phone or email. If the debt relief companies require any of this information, it's a red flag that something is amiss. Final Thoughts The ease with which consumers can access credit has resulted in a nation that owes a lot of money. That can be very challenging for scores of people who are living paycheck to paycheck and even those who aren’t. While shedding the burden of such mounting debt is always the goal, how you approach the process is vitally important. Debt relief scams are plentiful — with the bad guys making unrealistic promises for a fee. They often disappear with the cash in hand leaving the victim in an even worse financial position. If it seems too good to be true, it is. There are many nonprofit and for-profit legitimate debt relief companies that will help you manage the amount you owe. They will never charge an upfront fee, require you to offer up personal information, or make promises they can’t fulfill. -- Stan Brown is a writer and analyst for a multinational bank. He has over 15 years of experience in the financial industry and draws on that experience to write about finances for various websites.
Updated December 31, 2019 You're looking for debt relief options because you're either deep in debt, or you know someone who is deep in debt. That’s how you learned about Freedom Debt Relief (FDR). With the right debt relief company, you could see your debts significantly reduced. After reading this article, you’ll know whether Freedom Debt Relief will be able to help resolve your debt at a price you can afford. You may be considering bankruptcy, debt settlement, credit counseling, or debt consolidation. Maybe you’re already in the process of deciding between Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief, Pacific Debt Inc., CuraDebt, and other top debt relief companies. No matter where you are in the process, make sure you check out these 11 important facts about Freedom Debt Relief: 1. Highly Positive Customer Reviews As of December 2019, BestCompany.com has received over 11,100 Freedom Debt Relief customer reviews and the majority of those customer reviews give high praise to the debt settlement company. Debt settlement is a highly debated industry — between the lowering of your credit score to the downside of bankruptcy, people have been all over the map in terms of opinions. That’s why it’s even more important to pay attention to what the customers are saying. While some customer reviews focus on the availability of the customer service (Freedom Debt Relief is open seven days a week), other customer reviews attest to the company’s ability to provide actual, tangible results in debt negotiation. Freedom Debt Relief reviews range from praise of the company’s systematic approach of tackling debt to the kindness and professionalism of Freedom’s debt experts. One customer relates her search for a debt relief company that didn’t have antiquated and unrealistic policies. She explains Freedom Debt Relief was her final decision because of its ability to allow her to keep using some of her credit, giving her a sense of control over her credit score. She goes on to say that the debt relief experts at Freedom Debt Relief took the time to explain the pros and cons of her financial decisions regarding her debt. At the time this article was last updated, Freedom Debt Relief reviews numbered 11,118 which resulted in a grand total of 4.7 stars out of 5. What does this mean for Freedom Debt Relief? It means that despite catering to a large customer base, the large majority of customers feel so confident in the company's debt relief services, that they leave positive reviews in droves. Most customer reviews refer to the quality and expertise of the employees at Freedom Debt Relief. The most common positive customer reviews applaud the following aspects of Freedom Debt Relief: Quick debt relief services "Top-notch" customer service Respectful explanation of personal financial situation Thorough explanation of debt relief options Informative tax experts Stress-free service True to their word Despite the positivity in the vast majority of its customer reviews, customers should also be aware of the negative reviews associated with Freedom Debt Relief. Make sure to get a good grasp on what customers are saying about any given company before making a final decision. 2. Some Negative Customer Reviews The few negative customer reviews of Freedom Debt Relief mostly refer to the company's apparent inability to predict the amount of debt that would be settled. Though this may be a concern for most customers, you should know that estimating a settlement amount will be extremely difficult for any debt settlement company. Other negative customer reviews have expressed regret that the debt settlement process takes so long and the fact that debt settlement reduces their credit score to the degree that it does. The reduction of customer credit score is another complaint that is seen across the debt relief industry. Here are a few of the other complaints customers have about Freedom Debt Relief: Incorrect items processed Higher initial fees Settlement process take too long 3. Great Settlement Program Likely the best part about Freedom Debt Relief, a subsidiary of Freedom Financial Network, is the fact that the company assigns a specific debt expert to each client. One of the complaints that customers have about debt settlement companies specifically is that they only care about making money. When a debt settlement company assigns a dedicated debt consultant to each client, it goes a long way in showing customers that they care. Aside from assigned reps, customer reviews have indicated that Freedom Debt Relief takes the time to cover all possible options with the customer before having them sign a contract. Customers will also take comfort in knowing that Freedom Debt Relief has a solid history of successful debt negotiation. Though no debt settlement company can guarantee results, customers can look to both positive and negative debt settlement reviews in order to get the most accurate, up-to-date, and trustworthy information possible. 4. Online Customer Dashboard Once customers sign up with Freedom Debt Relief, they receive access to the FDR client dashboard. The inclusion of an online dashboard gives customers the ability to track their pace through the debt settlement plan, staying ahead of their creditors on their journey to financial freedom. Though several other debt relief companies also provide online client dashboards on their websites, it's nice to know that Freedom Debt Relief is making an effort to loop in customers on their negotiation status. 5. State Availability One of the slight downsides of its service is the fact that Freedom Debt Relief doesn't service all states. It is somewhat understandable, as every state has different limitations and qualifications for debt relief companies, but there are companies that offer more state availability than others. Freedom Debt Relief is available in 38 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. Though many debt relief companies offer services to the entire United States, customers report that FDR's services are thorough and expert. Freedom Debt Relief does not provide its services in the following states: Colorado Hawaii Illinois Maine North Dakota New Jersey Oregon South Carolina Vermont Washington West Virgina Wyoming 6. Industry Experience Freedom Debt Relief has been negotiating and settling the debts of its customers since 2002. Such experience gives company representatives the know-how to advise customers in even the most unique and dire of financial troubles. Debt problems are always unique to the individual, so company experience can be a huge factor in determining the best debt relief company. 7. Industry Accreditations Another factor to consider is the company's history of accreditations and qualifications. Accreditations show customers that a given debt relief company adheres to industry standards and guidelines necessary for successful negotiations and a quality customer experience. Fortunately, Freedom Debt Relief has an accreditation from the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC). The AFCC is the leading association of professional consumer credit advocates. Its purpose is to identify companies that support and advocate for consumers struggling with debt. The AFCC also ensures that its accredited companies adhere to industry "best practices" for debt relief providers. 8. Possibly Higher Prices It is not unheard of for specialized debt relief companies to charge 15 percent, 10 percent, and even down to 5 percent of customer's total enrolled debt. Of course, higher debt usually means lower fees in the debt relief industry. So, exactly how much does Freedom Debt Relief charge? As it stands, Freedom Debt Relief charges an average of 20 percent of a customer's enrolled debt. This means that if a customer enrolls $50,000 in FDR's debt settlement plan, and the company settles $35,000 of that debt, the customer still has to pay fees of $10,000 plus that amount still owed to their creditors. In this case, the customer pays $25,750 ($10,750 + $15,000) instead of paying the original $50,000. Freedom Debt Relief's fee could be anywhere from 18 percent to 25 percent of the enrolled debt. The total amount a customer pays, in the end, will depend on how well the debt negotiation goes. Customers should have a good idea about what percentage they will be charged when they complete their free consultation. 9. $7,500 Minimum Debt Requirement Customers will have to have more than $7,500 in unsecured debt to work with Freedom Debt Relief. Debt relief companies have minimum debt requirements because it no longer benefits both the company and the client to negotiate debts so small. The problem is that some customers with debt under $7,500 still need debt relief services. So, what should you do if have less than $7,500 in unsecured debt, but still need help with your debt issues? Consider a credit counseling firm or a financial education company. Consumer credit counseling is a cheap way to handle smaller, more manageable debts and is a great alternative to debt settlement programs. A debt consolidation program may also be an option. Take a look at all debt relief companies in order to get the full range of your options. 10. Over $10 Billion Settled Because Freedom Debt Relief has one of the biggest debt settlement programs in the nation, the company is able to handle a large number of clients and still provide each client with a dedicated debt expert. Through its financial guidance and negotiation services, FDR has been able to successfully settle over $10 billion in debt. This is a great track record. 11. Settlement of a Variety of Debt Types Freedom Debt Relief can settle any type of unsecured debt, which is debt that does not have any assets tied to it. This can be anything from student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical debt to debt accrued from unpaid utility bills. FDR has been able to employ a variety of debt negotiation and debt reduction tactics to fit the unique situation of each customer. Over the years, these debt relief solutions have led to a qualified and expert staff of debt management specialists. Freedom Debt Relief Read Freedom Debt Relief customer reviews on bestcompany.com in order to get the full spectrum of voices, complaints, and praises for the best debt reduction companies in the industry. Read Reviews
In the booming digital era, an ocean of well-paying gigs is right at your fingertips. A variety of apps enable you to boost your financial stability and independence. The beauty of it is that you can work whenever you want to. So, ready to earn some money on the side and avoid the financial obstacles of launching a startup? Do your homework and seek freelance-friendly apps. Use them to turn your smartphone into an ultimate business tool. Just do not be deceived by the term "side hustle." It still involves hard work and perseverance. That being said, side hustling could be a great strategy to scale back on the full-time job and supplement your income. Instacart Why not profit from something that you do regularly anyway? With Instacart, you can earn money grocery shopping for other people. All you have to do is sign up as a driver/shopper and find assigned gigs. You designate a time frame when you are available as well as the area you are able to operate in. The payment rates are between $10 and $20 per hour and the tasks are a breeze: a notification tells you which shops to go to and what items to pick up. It doesn't get much easier than that. Uber One of the most popular driving apps, this service powerhouse is spreading across the globe. It is reshaping transportation as we know it and you can capitalize on this trend. Passengers use Uber to find a ride quickly and connect with available drivers. To set the wheels into motion, you need a newer, 4-door car and a clean driving record. The schedule is extremely flexible — you can choose to drive any time of night or day. Also, note that “surge pricing” policy lets drivers earn more when the demand spike occurs. DogVacay If you're a dog person with room in your schedule, look no further than DogVacay. You can become a freelance dog sitter looking after people’s beloved pets while they are away. Sitters may even specify the type of dog, via categories like age, size, and breed. Moreover, they determine their rates and offerings. Another lucrative option to consider is providing additional services like grooming and walking. Set your availability and get down to business right away. Appnext Actions With some technical know-how, you can go an extra mile and develop your own service app. In that case, consider Appnext Actions, a solution that transforms your app into a full-service platform, a super-app. How does it work? It carries out in-app integration of third-party services, be it ordering a taxi, checking a flight, or delivering food. Your app can make users’ lives easier and empower them to find shortcuts that address their needs. TaskRabbit If you do not mind doing odd jobs, TaskRabbit app is a perfect opportunity for you. Upon signing up, “taskers” go through introductory orientation. After that, they are set to go and connect with gigs in their area. These mini jobs range from IKEA furniture assembly and cleaning to moving and doing laundry. You set your own rates for the gigs, so decide what is optimal for you. Bear in mind that apart from a smartphone, you need means of transportation and proper tools to get the job done. OfferUp If you're looking to declutter your home, you are in luck. You can get rid of that excess stuff lying around and earn some green in one stroke? Downloading OfferUp app is the way to make it happen. In a nutshell, you take pictures of things you want to sell, write a short description, and then list them via an intuitive app. This process is fast and easy. Of course, if you have a knack for garage sales and flea-markets, OfferUp can help you sell your finds for profit. All in all, it is a clear win-win. Toot With the rise of mobile apps, we have seen the proliferation of on-demand jobs like tutoring. Namely, with the aid of Toot, users can put their academic skills, knowledge, and expertise to good use. This platform connects specialists in various fields with people in need of tutoring and studying assistance. Sessions are handled in person, face-to-face. You need to create a teacher profile and then locate students who require your services. Those who prefer online tutoring have other options at hand. Get the most bang for your buck Freelance and gig economy is growing rapidly and giving rise to exciting new opportunities. Equipped with the budgeting right app, you can hit the ground running with your new business idea. You need little more than a smartphone, dedication, and some free time. Just do not expect to be raking in cash, at least not for a while. With that in mind, get out there and find a wealth of local gigs. The jobs and rates vary widely, so take your time devising the best course of action. Strive to make the most of your time and effort. Do not miss the chance to become your own boss and get your financial house in order.
Updated December 31, 2019 Freedom Debt Relief or National Debt Relief? National Debt Relief is a company that specializes in debt settlement. NDR will negotiate with your creditors to reduce your total debt amount without charging a fee until after the settlement has occurred. Freedom Debt Relief provides the same settlement service. The question is: which company is better at settling debt? In short, we think you'll be happier with Freedom Debt Relief simply because of the vast number of happy customers it has. But, National Debt Relief also has many strengths, such as its price and state availability. We've prepared a side-by-side snapshot of two of the most popular debt relief companies. If you are considering debt settlement, here's a quick look at two of the major leaders in the industry. Freedom Debt Relief vs. National Debt Relief Which is better: Freedom Debt Relief or National Debt Relief? When you compare the two debt relief companies, National Debt Relief appears to have lower fees and serves more states, but Freedom Debt Relief has higher customer satisfaction and much more debt settlement experience. At the end of 2019, Freedom Debt Relief had over 11,100 reviews with an average star-rating 4.7 stars out of 5 on BestCompany.com. At the same time in 2019, National Debt Relief had over 460 user reviews with an average star-rating of 4.3 out of 5. [For the most current stats, view Freedom Debt Relief's and National Debt Relief's profiles.] Both companies use debt settlement to negotiate a lower total debt for their customers. Both companies have considerable experience in negotiating debt. National Debt Relief has slightly lower fees while Freedom Debt Relief has a higher customer satisfaction on BestCompany.com. We recommend Freedom Debt Relief. Exactly how much does Freedom Debt Relief cost? Freedom Debt Relief charges customers 15 to 25 percent of their total enrolled debt depending on where they live. With higher debt, you will likely see higher savings. So the 20 percent average fee might actually be lower. Much like consumers must compare online quotes to find the best auto insurance companies, in order to get a more accurate estimate, you should contact Freedom Debt Relief for a free consultation. How much does National Debt Relief cost? National Debt Relief costs an average of 18 to 25 percent of the total enrolled debt. The company can usually cut your debt in half. So if you owe $20,000, National Debt Relief can negotiate it down to $10,000 and will charge you between $3,600 and $5,000. This means that you would pay between $13,600 and $15,000 instead of the original $20,000. Potential customers should know that individual cost will vary according to your credit situation, debt amount, and your creditors. Savings will vary even more because creditors are under no obligation to negotiate a lower debt amount. It is usually in the best interest of creditors to reduce the amount of your debt. In the mind of the lenders, it's better to get some of the money from debtors instead of none of it. Customers can contact National Debt Relief for a free consultation and estimate. What is debt settlement? Debt settlement is the process of settling your debts for less than the original owed amount. After a free consultation to discuss your unique financial situation, a good debt settlement company would create a program designed to fit your needs. You make payments to a special savings account for a designated period of time, typically over the course of several months. Once an appropriate sum is reached, the company will negotiate with your creditors, striving to the settle the debt for as little as possible. Once they have reached an agreement, the debt will be resolved by using the funds you have already accrued in the special savings account. Are debt relief companies legitimate? Sadly, there are many fraudulent debt relief companies. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to beware of debt settlement companies that charge upfront fees, as it violates the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule. Just like with IRS debt forgiveness, it is critical to look for companies that are compliant with the Telemarketing Sales Rule and other FTC regulations, including being transparent about their fees, setting up realistic expectations about settlements, and alerting you about the potential consequences and risks associated with debt settlement. Which accreditations does the debt relief company have? Accreditations can provide additional assurance that your chosen company is following ethical industry practices and are provided by third-party organizations designed to help regulate the debt relief industry. The two most important accreditations are the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators (IAPDA). The AFCC is an association of professional Consumer Credit Advocates; its purpose is to support consumers struggling with debt issues, to define debt relief best practices, and to push for consumer-focused legislation. The IAPDA is an organization which trains and certifies debt negotiation professionals. Any debt relief company you consider should be accredited by at least one, but preferably both of these accreditation organizations. Freedom Debt Relief has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It is a founding member of the AFCC and holds a Platinum standing with the IAPDA, which indicates that their debt consultants have been trained extensively in a comprehensive range of debt relief options, laws, legislation, and more. The company was also involved in establishing the 2010 FTC compliance rules and complies with the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule. National Debt Relief has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It is a member of the AFCC and is certified by the IAPDA. The company complies with the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule. How long has the company been in business? Debt settlement is a relatively new industry, with few companies dating prior to the mid-90s. Companies with longer industry experience may offer more established relationships with creditors. Freedom Debt Relief was established in 2002, longer than many competitors. Its founders are Stanford business graduates. Since its creation, it has settled over $8 billion in debt for over 500,000 clients. The company resolves over 40,000 accounts a month and employs over 2,000 professionals. National Debt Relief was established in 2009 in New York City. It has helped over 100,000 clients become debt free by resolving over $1 billion in debt. What are the minimum debt requirements? Debt settlement is not right for everyone, particularly those with smaller amounts of debt. To benefit from debt settlement, you should have at least $7,500 in unsecured debt; however, there are often more suitable options for those with less than $10,000. Most companies only accept clients with over $7,500 in debt. FDR requires a minimum debt of $7,500 to enroll in its program. The company only accepts unsecured debt. NDR requires a minimum debt of $7,500 to enroll in its program. The company only accepts unsecured debt. In which states does the debt relief company operate? States have strict rules regulating debt settlement, therefore these companies are unable to service every state. It is important to see which company is available in your area. Freedom Debt Relief is available in the following locations (38 out of 50 states; as well as 3 of the 6 U.S. island territories) Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa. National Debt Relief is available in the following locations (41 out of 50 states): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Washington, D.C. How much can I save with debt relief? One way to measure debt settlement's effectiveness could be its overall savings. While the company can significantly reduce the amount you owe, they will also charge you fees that often average between 18 to 25 percent of your total enrolled debt. The fees are determined by a number of factors, primarily state regulations and willingness of creditors to settle. Freedom Debt Relief's average fee is 20 percent of your enrolled debt. National's fee varies between 18-25 percent of your enrolled debt. Clients who complete the program and settle their debt save an average of 30 percent (after fees). What do customers think about the debt relief company? 2019 Freedom Debt Relief reviews reveal a high customer satisfaction. While 2019 National Debt Relief reviews on BestCompany.com have been fewer in comparison, they show a good level of customer satisfaction. Customer reviews are a critical factor when research debt companies. It is vital to compare Freedom Debt Relief to National Debt Relief reviews from a customer's perspective because customers arrive at conclusions without ulterior business motives or benefits. For example, a customer with high credit card debt may find that NDR is actually better at negotiating credit card debt than Freedom Debt Relief. However, if other customers do not read reviews, they'll end up making a poorly informed decision regarding their own credit card debt. Real clients are simply seeking to inform potentials clients to make better decisions and can provide the most accurate feedback about the companies' services. Be sure to read multiple reviews (preferably both negative and positive) to gain a clear picture of the strengths and weakness of each company. Freedom Debt Relief reviews (2019) praise: Great customer service Great savings Provides quick savings Ability to check progress online Knowledgeable, informative Keep customers informed Kind employees who don't pressure customers into decisions Ability to check progress online Freedom Debt Relief complaints: Length of the process Creditors wouldn't negotiate with FDR Customers receiving calls from creditors Complaints about high fees National Debt Relief reviews (2019) praise: Excellent customer service Personal stories of great savings Good communication about settlement offers and negotiation status Provides customers with confidence in the company and in themselves Fast, effective settlement process National Debt Relief complaints: Some communication gaps Length of the process Failure to communicate that forgiven debt is considered taxable income Complaints about low credit scores following services How involved will I be in the debt relief process? Though debt relief customers might be tempted to just hand over their financial reins to a debt management company, it is vital to be involved in the process from start to finish. Customers should seek not only to alleviate debt but also to nurture habits that lead to a debt-free life. When approaching a debt relief company, ask how much you can be involved in the relief process; this could be a good sign that you've found the right debt relief company. Freedom Debt Relief offers customer support and information for non-clients seven days a week. Additionally, customers can monitor their progress 24/7 through an online Client Dashboard. They can see which debts are being negotiated next and manage account information. National Debt Relief offers customer support for current clients Monday through Friday. Non-clients can reach the company Monday through Saturday. Does debt relief affect my credit? The goal of every debt relief or tax relief program is to help you get out of debt as quickly as possible. Depending on the condition of your credit, any debt relief program, including both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief, could negatively affect your credit. However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score. While debt relief customers may experience an initial negative impact on their credit score, as debt as settled, they often see their credit score rebound. More importantly, credit scores and overall financial health improve in the long run. We recommend looking into debt relief programs if making smaller monthly payments and getting out of debt quickly is worth a temporary hit to your credit score. Freedom Debt Relief vs. National Debt Relief: Additional Services Both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief have debt consolidation options available, though customers are likely better off going to a company completely dedicated to debt consolidation. A debt consolidation loan company can help you consolidate all of your monthly payments into one low monthly payment. After debt consolidation, the company will attempt to negotiate lower interest rates with each of your creditors. One huge advantage to National Debt Relief is that the company offers a 100 percent satisfaction money-back guarantee. A money-back guarantee means that in the event you are unsatisfied with NDR's services or they cannot settle your debt, you can get your money back. Freedom Debt Relief does offer credit counseling (easier on your credit score) and additional DIY services for those who would like to get out of debt by themselves. The company also provides bankruptcy counseling. National Debt Relief offers bankruptcy counseling, debt consolidation services, and financial education resources. Freedom vs. National: Which is the best debt relief company? Freedom Debt Relief National Debt Relief Founded 2002 2009 Total Amount Resolved $10 billion $1 billion Total Clients Enrolled Over 600,000 Over 100,000 Minimum Enrolled Debt $7,500 $7,500 Locations 34 out of 50 states as well as 3 of the 6 U.S. island territories 41 out of 50 states Average Fee 20 percent of enrolled debt 18-25 percent of the enrolled debt Average Savings Undisclosed 30 percent of enrolled debt (after fees) Availability 7 days a week Monday through Saturday Debt is not a necessary evil that's just a part of life. You can conquer debt, and a debt relief company is a great way to start. Though National Debt Relief does have slightly lower average fees and provides debt relief services to more states, Freedom Debt Relief has greater customer satisfaction, more glowing debt relief reviews, better accessibility, and has been in business for a much longer time. The final decision is up to the customer, but there's a reason Freedom Debt Relief is ranked number one for debt relief programs on Best Company: over 10,300 positive reviews from satisfied customers resulting in 4.7/5 stars. So, if Freedom Debt Relief wins over National Debt Relief, how does it compare to some of the other companies in the industry? Freedom Debt Relief vs. CareOne Debt Relief Unlike Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief, CareOne Debt Relief does not disclose its rates online. CareOne Debt Relief's main service is its debt management plan, so that may be why the company is unwilling to reveal pricing information about its debt settlement service. On the other hand, Freedom Debt Relief has years of experience with debt settlement services and has an average fee of 20 percent, an average in the industry. Looking strictly at debt settlement services, Freedom Debt Relief has more experience, likely better prices, and has thousands of positive reviews to back up its service. However, CareOne Debt Relief does have a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Freedom Debt Relief CareOne Debt Relief Founded 2002 2002 Satisfaction Guarantee No Yes Total Clients Enrolled Over 600,000 Undisclosed Minimum Enrolled Debt $7,500 $7,500 Locations 34 out of 50 states as well as 3 of the 6 U.S. island territories 50 states Average Fee 20 percent of enrolled debt Undisclosed Average Savings Undisclosed 50 percent (not including fees) Free Consultation Yes Yes Freedom Debt Relief vs. ClearOne Advantage ClearOne Advantage does not have as many good reviews as Freedom Debt Relief. With more than 60 reviews, Clearone has 3.8 out of 5 stars. Freedom Debt Relief has a 4.7-star rating with over 11,118 customers reviews, an impressive feat. Additionally, Freedom has more experience, is more transparent about pricing, and has resolved much more total debt than ClearOne Advantage. Freedom Debt Relief ClearOneAdvantage Founded 2002 2007 Total Amount Resolved $10 billion $1 billion Dedicated Consultant Yes Yes Minimum Enrolled Debt $7,500 $10,000 Locations 34 out of 50 states as well as 3 of the 6 U.S. island territories Undisclosed Average Fee 20 percent of enrolled debt Undisclosed Average Savings Undisclosed Undisclosed Availability 7 days a week Monday through Friday Freedom Debt Relief proves through its commitment to its customers, its transparency, and its experience in settling debts why it tops our list of best debt settlement companies. Customers are encouraged to compare Freedom Debt Relief to all of the top debt relief programs to ensure that it is the right company for their unique situation. Debt Relief Looking for debt relief options? Check out the top-rated companies and their offerings. Compare Top Companies
Guest Post by Lauren Wiseman Many people make New Year’s resolutions to put their finances in order. However, the vast majority of the population doesn’t actually understand what this resolution really entails. This poses a significant problem. After all, how can you accomplish your mission if you do not know what your goals and objectives are? With this in mind, here are a few worthy financial goals: 1. Establish an emergency fund The first financial goal that everyone should have is establishing a sizeable emergency fund. You never know when something in your house might break down or someone you care about might desperately need a personal loan. Moreover, your stable employment contract might unexpectedly get terminated. Most importantly, this is one of those rare financial goals that actually gives you a sense of comfort. Just knowing that you’re covered in case things turn sour might be great for your mental health. As a rule of thumb, your emergency fund should be big enough to cover three months of your living expenses. Needless to say, this is a minimum suggested figure, while most people suggest that you may want to go for several times this figure. 2. Free yourself from debt Saving money, investing it, or simply spending it on yourself can all feel satisfying. However, paying an astronomical interest rate for longer than you should is nothing but a waste of money. Therefore, one of your first goals should be to free yourself of debt. There are several ways to embark on this project and the choice up to you. For instance, if you notice that a single credit card you own has a significantly lower interest rate than the rest, you might want to switch some of your debt to it. If you find it hard to focus with so many pending debt payments, you might want to consolidate your debts. This will help you turn several smaller debts into a single large one. Although the amount of debt will remain more or less the same, paying your debts off will become a tad easier to handle. 3. Create another stream of income People with a single source of income tend to be the most vulnerable in an unstable economy. In order to avoid this, try to create another way to earn money as soon as possible. You can rent out an extra room or a property that you own, find a side job or even start freelancing online. Freelancing options are numerous. Additionally, this is much more convenient, because you get to customize your own work hours. In other words, it becomes much easier to schedule and juggle your other responsibilities (your day job, for instance). Still, those who can’t commit to something as time-consuming as blogging or selling arts and crafts on eBay might at least learn how to make money online. This kind of boost can both help you pay off your debt a bit sooner and establish a more sizable emergency account. 4. Tackle the issue of insurance Insurance is a problematic financial goal because it is one of those rare investments that you hope you’ll never get to capitalize on. Nevertheless, this is all about taking calculated risks. Getting a comprehensive insurance plan for your old vehicle doesn’t make much sense. On the other hand, doing the same for your brand-new luxury car is a different story altogether. As for health and life insurance, you will first have to figure out your priorities. 5. Learn how to stop impulse buying Finally, one of the worst habits that all of us are susceptible to is the phenomenon of impulse buying. Many limited-time offers and special discounts deliberately create a false sense of urgency. From a rational standpoint, we may be aware that making this deal is a bad idea, yet, there’s much more to it than that. While this may seem like something too simple and obvious to discuss, learning how to stick to your shopping list and purchase only the things you need is definitely not an easy task. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how much you earn if you don’t know how to handle your own finances. The most financially successful people develop good spending habits well before acquiring their wealth. If you are undisciplined financially, your profits may still increase, but so will your impulse purchases, as well as the sum needed for your three months of living expenses. You might even feel more comfortable applying for heftier loans. And if your profits are growing, your assets become more valuable and protecting them becomes paramount. Instead of waiting for a personal financial crisis to wake you up, start now to establish financial goals that provide security and peace of mind. ................... Lauren Wiseman is a marketing specialist, contributor to bizzmarkblog.com, and entrepreneur. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in fast-changing and demanding markets, strongly believing in a holistic approach to business.
Being in debt is something that might feel terrible, but certainly isn't something to be ashamed of. In today's modern world, it can be difficult to avoid going into debt while you're working to get ahead in life. The same is true for celebrities! Here are eight famous people you'll be surprised to hear were, at one point in their lives, in debt as well. Presidency Bankruptcy: Abraham Lincoln Even presidency smarts can't help people avoid going into debt, it seems. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, filed for bankruptcy in 1833 after partaking in a failed business venture. 17 years later, his debts were paid off. The Automobile Giant: Henry Ford After two failed companies and a bankruptcy in 1901, Henry Ford bounced back as the automobile giant he is now known to be. He founded his third company and achieved long-awaited success with the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Bankruptcy for Larry Before Larry King Live Before making his turn around with his claim to fame, Larry King Live on CNN, Larry King declared two bankruptcies, one in 1960 and one in 1978. His debts piled up to $352,000. Bankruptcy After Imprisonment for Poet and Author, Oscar Wilde The acclaimed poet and author, Oscar Wilde, was forced into bankruptcy in 1895 after being sentenced to two years in prison for homosexual activity, which was illegal in England during that period. Millions in Debt for Pop Star, Toni Braxton Before recouping her pop star, millionaire status by signing a $25 million contract with LaFace, Toni Braxton was millions of dollars in debt. Braxton was forced to sell her property and assets in order to repay her $3.9-million-dollar debt, and she filed for bankruptcy in 1998. MC Hammer: Fame to Shame A life of quick fame may have been the cause of MC Hammer's growing debt, which reached $13 million before he filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Solid gold chains for not only himself but also his four pet Rottweilers may have gotten him there, but he has recouped, now juggling a life as a rapper and TV host. Marvin Gaye: Tax Problems "In His Lifetime" Prior to moving to Hawaii to work on his album, In Our Lifetime, Marvin Gaye was overcome by financial woes, tax problems, and drug addictions, fuelling his decision to lead an island life. The famous singer filed for bankruptcy in 1979. Mark Twain: Investment Gone Bad Mark Twain, the famous American author, lost the majority of his money after making a poor investment decision, and later filed for bankruptcy in 1894. He traveled Europe for four years giving lectures in order to finally repay all of his debts, and wrote some of his best work, namely Pudd'nhead Wilson and Following the Equator, after filing for bankruptcy. Knowing the stories of these famous, once rich, and re-made celebrities can give us greater insight to overcoming debt and bankruptcy. Nowadays, rich people come in all shapes in sizes. Whether made rich by YouTube or just by old-fashioned movie stars, there's always the possibility of debt. By understanding that fame and fortune aren't things that will keep debt out of your life, you can understand what the true asset you need to get out of debt: persistency. Be persistent, and forge your way to a debt-free life!
Credit card debt typically has a higher interest rate than automobile, or home loans, so racking up this kind of debt can cause serious financial strain. ReadyForZero teaches that to maintain a good credit-to-debt ratio, one should never use more than 30% of their total available credit on one credit card. There are a lot of factors that can hurt one's credit score, like missing and late debt payments. How much owed on an account, and how many accounts have balances is also negatively impactful. Credit Score Basics Starting with the basics, a credit score is a 3-digit number determined from one's credit history. It has the power to determine the financial eligibility of taking out a mortgage or loan. Credit scores also determine how low an interest rate credit holders can receive on desired loans. The higher a credit score, the lower interest rates one can typically qualify for. Credit scores typically range from 300 - 850, and according to Wells Fargo, are determined by the following: 35% based on payment history 30% is based on current debts 15% is determined by credit history 10% is allotted to new credit applications 10% is about types of current credit Credit Card Debt and Credit Scores Having high credit card debt lowers a credit score, prevents one from getting loans, and restricts new credit cards approvals. But how does the debt-to-income ratio come into play? AboutCredit explains that, "Even if your debt-to-income ratio is low, if your debt hurts your credit score, you could still be denied." The article also notes that income is not a factor in determining credit score. Higher credit card balances in relation to unique credit limits can kill a credit score. Thus, it is best to keep that relationship deeply in check. Maxing out a credit card is a sure way to decrease a credit score, fast. Credit Scores on BestDebtCompanys.com We surveyed over 200 people on BestDebtCompanys.com to see what credit scores our visitors have. Typically, our visitors come to our website to find companies to help them out of debt, so we can assume these credit scores have been affected by debt (almost half of our visitors have over $25k of debt). Based on these numbers - 71% of the people we survey do have a credit score below 690 (690 is considered the lowest "good" credit score you can have). Only 6% of people don't know their credit score, which leads us to believe that those who are in debt are monitoring and are concerned about their credit score. Debt Reported To Collections Accounts that are reported to collections can also suffer in credit score. CreditKarma states, "The degree to which a collection hurts your credit score is generally correlated with how high your credit score is when the collection agency reports the debt. The higher your score, the more points you can lose." Medical debt is often reported to collections. How much debt one owes to collections is an important factor to consider. Minor amounts will not do as much damage. CreditKarma gives the example that if "the original debt you owed was less than $100, the resulting account in collections may show up on your credit report but it may not significantly hurt your credit score or even hurt it at all." If possible, it is always better to prevent these kinds of situations before they start, so one can keep their credit score at a decent level.
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