Archives Top Finance Blogs

The Truth About Property Tax Loans

Are you confused about property tax loans? It can be hard to find the facts! This infographic provided by Property Tax Funding will help you figure out everything you really need to know.


Canceling Cable

After months of hemming and hawwing, I did it.  I cut the cord and cancelled my cable.

Honestly, it wasn’t that drastic of a change.  I don’t spend a ton of time in front of the tv, and when I do, it’s when I’m on the treadmill or the bike trainer and I’m watching something I recorded on the DVR.  I almost never watch live TV.

I already have a Netflix streaming account which I can watch on my TV through my Blu-ray player and once I cancelled cable, I also signed up for a Hulu Plus account so I can watch current shows on my TV as well.

I also dropped the phone line, which I only had because it was pretty much free with the package I had.  I rarely used it, so it was no big loss.

My biggest concern was the need for local news during big events and the desire to be able to watch Notre Dame football.  Conveniently, ND home games are shown on NBC, and my favorite news is also NBC, so I really just wanted to be sure I had that channel.  After doing some research, I picked up an indoor antenna.  I luck out in that I live in an area with a lot of very strong digital TV signals (check yours here) so I didn’t have to worry about mounting an antenna on top of my house.  My tv is located in my basement, so I have the antenna mounted to one of the windows near the ceiling (which means the antenna is basically ground level).  I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, but after a few days, I’m absolutely delighted.  I get amazing signals.  I need to sit down and figure out what channel is what network, but that isn’t a hard project.  And honestly, it will be rare that I sit down and watch something live.  The antenna I bought was around $40, so it wasn’t a huge expense.

I’m not sure how much of a difference this is going to make to my bottom line.  My cable account was costing me $143 a month.  In January, my promotional rate ended and it was going up to around $180.  There’s a chance that I would have been able to get a new promo rate, so I’m going to calculate it at $143.  I haven’t seen a new bill come through from the cable company but I’m going to take a guess and say that it’s going to be around $70 because they’ve started gouging for internet only services.  I’m hoping it will be less, but I never know what fees are going to get tacked on until they actually bill me.  I added the Hulu Plus account for an additional $8 a month.  So far, so good.

I’m sure I will also be saving a tiny amount on energy costs.  Let’s be honest – I never remembered to turn the cable box off.  I would turn off the tv, but that cable box was always on.  I’m not sure what kind of power that pulls and it may be insignificant when all said and done, but it’s still savings on some level.  It just may be hard to quantify.

I may look into Amazon Fire TV if I find that I’m missing the shows I can’t get online and want to purchase and watch them on my tv through Amazon.  And I may be purchasing shows online if I really miss them.  I don’t see that happening to very many shows though.  I can wait until they’re available on Netflix.

I’m tempted to splurge and get a DVD option with my Netflix account.  There are a bunch of movies I want to see that aren’t available streaming, and I haven’t wanted to spend the extra money.  It’s not like it’s a big commitment – I can upgrade for a month and then downgrade again if I find I’m not using it like I wanted to.  But I’m not making that change now.  I’m going to see how the financial side of this plays out.

Cutting the cord was something that I debated for far too long.  Now that I’ve done it, I see just how easy it was.  I can’t imagine I’m going to seriously miss TV.  And if I do, I’m going to take a look at my old cable bills.  The enjoyment that I got certainly wasn’t worth all of the added money.

Ditching cable tv might not be for everyone.  It’s all about how much you use your cable package and what it’s worth to you.  If you get a ton of enjoyment out of it, that’s fine!  You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  But if, like me, you find that you’re watching a lot of recorded tv, check into whether you can get those shows online.  Look into how an indoor antenna might work in your home.  Never hurts to research!

Learning More About Structured Settlements

CMP SSDid you get yourself into a structured settlement? How do you get yourself out of it? The best way is to know what it is, understand the peculiarities that define it and you will simply get yourself through. So here are the basic facts:

Defining Structured Settlement

These settlements are a form of financial instrument that aims to protect the victims of personal injuries from paying taxes from the amount that they are going to received. Instead of dealing with the unwanted issues of taxes and losing all that money that could have been used for medical expenses, the structured settlement from could set people free from all these tax obligations. More importantly, it could help them keep the money that they truly deserve, without worrying that they might lose a big part of it for tax.

Can I sell structured settlements?

If you are trying to rebuild your home or perhaps start a new life with a new business venture, you might want to take out a bulk of your money instead of the usual periodic payments. If you are worrying about whether you can have these structured settlements sold, you would be glad to know that you can according to The annuity or what the structured settlement is called can be sold. All that you need is to take little steps to make it happen. It doesn’t have to be a long and tedious process. In fact, all you need is the approval of the judge and you can begin to get access to your money.

What steps do you need to take? Here they are in a list:

Step 1: Make up your mind.

You have to know that you are decided that you want to sell it. You cannot go through the process of selling and when the right buyer comes, you will have second thoughts about it. You have to make up your mind.

Step 2: You can begin to shop around.

If you can find yourself a funding company to work with, that would be best. When they’ve got a good reputation and got your best interest in mind, you can get yourself someone who will invest in what you’ve got to offer.

Step 3: You may begin the sales process.

After all the papers have been prepared and arranged, you are now free to make arrangements for the sales of the settlements that you have. When all the information are checked and are proven accurate, a sale can then be made.

Step 4: Have a judge approve of the sale.

When you have all the relevant documents signed and you can request for a scheduled hearing. All that you need is to be able to justify your need for the money, so that would be very easy. The judge only wants to know that the sale will not put your life or your family’s life in financial jeopardy.

Step 5: Get your money.

You can now get your money and put them into good use. That’s how you can get away with your structured settlement and the money out of it.

How to Get the Best Rate for Your Home Loan

340ae2d66543453d908038e55dc2fcd7For most people, a home loan is the largest purchase they will make. If you go the traditional route, you’ll be making a fixed payment, including both principal and interest, for the next 30 years of your life. The lower your interest rate, the better, as interest on a $250,000 house at a rate of 3.75 percent will cost you more than $165,000 in interest. Lowering your interest even slightly can save you thousands over the course of your loan.

Here are five ways you can help get the best rate for your home loan.

Improve your credit score. Since credit is one of the biggest impactors of home loan interest rates, you want to make sure yours is in excellent condition. Before applying for your loan, run a credit check on yourself to see where you’re at. Ways to improve your credit score include paying off old debts, disputing any errors, paying all of your bills on time, keeping your credit card balances low or paid off each month, avoiding any new credit card applications and being patient. It can take years to improve your credit, so consider postponing the purchase of your home while you wait.

Save up for a large down payment. Nowadays, even getting approved for a loan is tough, much less qualifying for the best interest rate. To help your chances of getting approved, especially for those that are self-employed, plan on having a large down payment of at least 20 percent, preferably more. A large down payment also greatly reduces the size of your loan, meaning you’ll pay significantly less interest over the course of the loan.

Comparison shop. Some banks offer discounts to customers they have a good relationship with, so check with your bank first and then comparison shop a variety of banks, credit unions and lenders in your area to see who can offer you the best rate. In order to not have your credit score negatively impacted from all of the inquiries, do all of your comparison shopping within a two week time frame.

Pay for points. You can pay to have your interest rate lowered. Typically, paying 1 percent of the loan out of pocket will lower your interest rate by 0.125 percent. Pull out a lender calculator, such as the one offered on Newcastle Permanent mortgages, to see if the money you’ll save on interest is worth it in the long run. Make sure to take into account how long you plan on living in the home.

Look at what interest rates are currently at. A variety of factors affect the interest rate of home loans, including how many people are buying homes, inflation and actions of the US Federal Reserve Bank. If rates are sitting at around 6 percent, you’re not going to find a lender who will give you 4 percent. If you cannot afford your monthly payment taking into account current interest rates, you’ll want to either purchase a less expensive home or perhaps delay purchasing a home for the time being.

Purchasing a home should always be well thought out, calculated move that provides you with both a home you love at a price you can afford. Look at the whole package – including your loan amount, interest rate and terms of the loan before deciding whether or not now is the time for you.

Review Your Credit Reports

credit report

A few months ago, I started getting emails about my Capital One credit card.  It was overdue, but the company could help me with payments.  This raised two flags.

  1. I never carry a balance on my credit cards.
  2. I don’t have a Capital One credit card.

I get a lot of misdirected emails (most recently, it was someone else’s medical information, which probably opens that company up to litigation), so I figured that’s what this was as well.

After the second or third message, however, I got a little nervous.  What if someone did somehow open a credit card in my name and with my email address.  So I called Capital One.  They couldn’t have been nicer and confirmed that there were no accounts linked to my social security number.

Still, the emails kept coming.

Just to be sure, I did what I should have done earlier.  I checked my credit report.  I make a point to check all three reports annually using  This is the only site where you can get free, legitimate credit reports with no strings attached.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three credit reporting sites to give you a free copy of your credit report every single year.  So if you haven’t used this site, get over there and get your credit reports!

I have been using Credit Karma to track my credit score and hadn’t seen any major drops, so I figured all was well.  I’m not sure how accurate Credit Karma is, of course, but it’s better than nothing.

Not surprisingly, when I got my free credit report, I discovered that there were no new credit cards opened in my name.  Everything was exactly as it should be.

What was surprising was that my credit score is much higher than I thought.  Much higher than even Credit Karma indicated.  I’m well seated in the “Excellent” category and that’s where I plan to stay.  Of course, right now, my credit rating doesn’t mean much. I don’t plan to open any new accounts and I don’t plan to refinance my mortgage anytime soon (I’m locked in at a fabulous rate).  I suppose I may be taking out a car loan at some point, depending on what the offers are.  (I’m not planning to get a new car, but my car is almost 11 years old, so anything’s possible.)

To the person who likely shares my name (based on the fact that my email address is my name), start paying your credit card!  You are five months behind and they are going to send you to collections!  I don’t know what that’s like, but it certainly sounds scary.

And to the rest of you, go look at your credit reports.  I’m sure there are no surprises there, but I always find them interesting to read.