The Only 5 Ways to Increase Your Credit Score

Written by Sam on . Posted in Personal Finance, Taxes. 24139 views.

the only 5 ways to increase your credit scoreThere are only five ways to increase your credit score.  It may surprise you, but factors like your income, length of employment, home ownership vs renting status, and education are all completely ignored when it comes to calculating your credit score.

Many people have been negatively affected by the downturn in the economy.  The side effects range from occationally missed debt payments to losing one’s house to foreclosure.  These examples encompass both sides of the spectrum of debt avoidance that will adversely affect your credit.  The good news is that so many people have been affected by these “credit blemishes” that creditors are now forced to be a little more lenient and understanding if they hope to have a profitable book of borrowers in the future.  So how do you get back on track and rebuild your credit score?

  1. Pay down your outstanding debt.  Most of us have seen that those who are in debt typically need their credit much more than those who are debt free, however, the more you need credit the harder it is to get.  Why is this?  Lenders are in search of borrowers who don’t need the credit, but when they use it they pay it back quickly.  The best way to become one of these attractive borrowers is to pay down the debt you owe.  Some outstanding debt looks worse than others.  I recommended paying down debt in the following order (pay off completely, then move on to the next):
    Credit Card  >  School Debt  >  Medical  >  Car Payment  >  Mortgage
  2. Establish a clean credit history.  The largest part of your credit score is your ability to pay the debt you’ve accumulated.  In the eye of a lender, a consistent payor is also an attractive potential borrower.  Setting calendar reminders or automatic bill pay are great tips to ensuring that your credit history is never in jeopardy.  Chances are, developing a habit for paying bills is one of the 15 Financial Life Lessons Your Parents Forgot to Teach You.
  3. Avoid frequent sources of new debt.  Looking to save 15% at the Gap or Home Depot by opening their in-store credit card?  While it might save you a few bucks, it’ll also drop your credit score several points.  Lenders view volatile borrowers who are constantly opening and closing sources of credit as less attractive than those who have well established sources.  This brings us to our next point of…

6 Professional Tips on How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice. 16061 views.

I’ve conducted hundreds of job interviews in my time and have seen my fair share of what works and what doesn’t. While things like eye contact, appearance and personal hygiene are all important, they’ve been talked about before.  We’re going to get into some suggestions for those of us who are looking for a middle to higher level position.

Having reached the interview process your resume is most likely in order and your qualifications are already known.  Now it’s time to spend some time preparing for ways to differentiate yourself from other candidates who may have the same or better qualifications.

Here are 6 ways to increases your chances of getting hired:

  1. Do your homework.  Now that you’ve landed the interview, do your research.  Familiarize yourself with relevant company facts and recent company news. Be prepared to answer questions about the latest press release or the latest product.  Your interviewer will assume you’re familiar with the company – don’t fall into the “un” trap of looking uninterested and uninformed by being unprepared.
  2. Asking questions is the answer.  In doing your homework to prepare for any questions you may be asked, identify questions you’d like to ask yourself.  Who cares if you get your questions answered, simply asking the questions will set you apart as a more motivated candidate.
  3. I’ve never hired someone I didn’t like – be personable.  Chances are your interviewer is a regular person with a family, interests in sports or music.  Don’t be afraid to connect by answering or asking personal questions.  Showing a respectful sense of humor can also further your chances of being liked.  Identify some topics of conversation before hand that you could throw out there to start up a relaxed dialog.

What Exactly Is A Reverse Mortgage? Explained By A Non-Salesperson

Written by Sam on . Posted in Retirement. 16435 views.

A Reverse Mortgage provides a means for an individual or entity to take the equity out of their property.   The lender provides the borrower either a line of credit or a monthly payment which is due at a later date.   This type of loan was primarily designed for senior citizens who have a bunch of equity in their homestead but are running low on cash.  In this instance, the borrower would get cash each month from the lender which would be repaid usually upon the death of the borrower.  Factors such as the amount of equity in the home and life expectancy would be examined to determine the amount of the line of credit or monthly cash payment.

As specifically defined by the U.S. Government Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

“A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that lets you convert a portion of the equity in your home into cash. The equity that you built up over years of making mortgage payments can be paid to you.  However, unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, HECM borrowers do not have to repay the HECM loan until the borrowers no longer use the home as their principal residence or fail to meet the obligations of the mortgage.  You can also use a HECM to purchase a primary residence if you are able to use cash on hand to pay the difference between the HECM proceeds and the sales price plus closing costs for the property you are purchasing.”

While (currently) a reverse mortgage does not legally have to meet certain requirements, 99.9% of lenders require that the borrower comply with requirements as created by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA).  The most relevant requirements include:

  • Be 62 years of age or older
  • Occupy the property as your principal residence
  • Have the property be a single family home (or approved condominium)
  • Own the property outright (or have it significantly paid off)

The  debt outstanding will not become due until a triggering event, including death of the borrower(s), sale of the property or change of primary residence status, occurs.

See the HUD site for additional details.

21 Things To Start Doing To Be Happy At Work

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice, Inspiration. 19719 views.

Everyone would like to take steps to be happier at work. While “loving what you do” is important, it’s just as important to set goals and manage expectations. Happiness isn’t a given – it doesn’t happen overnight.

Happiness comes from realizing your potential and accomplishing the goals you set.

Here’s a list of things to start doing today to increase your happiness.

  1. Start focusing on what you can control.  Are you the type of person that gets worked-up and stressed out over the unknown?  Relax.  You’re not going to get fired, demoted, or transferred today – your boss doesn’t dislike you, your coworkers aren’t out to get you.  Rather than focusing on these negative what-ifs, put all of your energy into doing good today.  Avoid filling your head with variables you cannot control, instead take charge of your success by focusing on what you can control.
  2. Start believing in yourself.  Do you know what the difference between you and the person who is going to start the next big things is?  It’s not intelligence, it’s not money, it’s having the confidence to step out on that ledge.  Start believing that you don’t have to stay in the spot you’re currently in.   You have the ability do great things, but will you choose to do them?
  3. Start “putting hooks in the water”.  The only way you can catch a fish (achieve success) without having a hook in the water is by having the fish jump in your boat – and that isn’t easy.  Many of us don’t have any hooks in the water and are just waiting on dumb luck to strike.  Look into that investment property or small business – anything to get your feet wet and brain moving.
  4. Start getting uncomfortable.  That’s right, the more comfortable you are the less you’re growing as a person.  We all know how easy it is to maintain meritocracy by avoiding challenges and new things.  Snap out of this! Volunteer for the harder project to work on.  Challenge yourself today!
  5. Start becoming an expert in your industry.  What’s something you can do to start down the path toward becoming an expert?  Is it writing an eBook?  Volunteering to speak at your company’s next function?  Whatever it is….DO IT!  Experts get’s promoted and recognized (and feel higher levels of job satisfaction).  Here are 7 more ideas on how to become an expert in your industry.
  6. Start building better relationships with your clients.  Networking is essential to success in the business world.  Chances are you’re not fully connecting with your clients or coworkers.  Today, make a phone call, setup a lunch or even just shoot out an email in an effort to deepen a business relationship.
  7. Start organizing your resources.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how organized are you at work?  Do you have easily accessible (and backed up) electronic folders with all of your contacts, forms, projects, etc.?  How well archived are your bulletins, correspondence and emails?  Work on bettering your structure today…an organized desk is an efficient desk!
  8. Starting focusing on the interesting part of your job.  No where does it say that you have to be bored at work – even if you have a “boring” job.  Most of us are not supermodel photographers or record company executives, however, there are aspects of our jobs that are interesting.  Find the interesting in the ordinary and you’ll have a better outlook on your job and life in general.
  9. Start setting real goals.  Quick, what would you like to achieve today…next month….next year?  If your answer is to not get fired or if you’re still thinking about it, chances are you’re going to find yourself in the same spot then that you are now.  Entrepreneurs and executives don’t achieve success overnight, they first set goals and then spend the next day, week or year working toward reaching them.  What’s the first small step you can take today to achieve your goals?
  10. Start being looked at as an innovator.  What is something you could be doing differently today at your job?  Yesterday I created a PDF form for us to use – rather than printing out a form, filling it out and scanning it back in, now we just type it in on the PDF form.  This saved us time and money.  This small tasked gained the respect of my employer and coworkers (more so than any other day-to-day task would have).  Think for a minute about something in your processes that could be more efficient.

11 Communication Skills You Need To Be Successful

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice. 7601 views.

Being an effective communicator is essential in the business world.  Each communication session should have a goal.  For some the goal may be to establish a relationship, for others it will be to sell a product.  To increase our chance of achieving those goals we’re going to get into an important concept of “Establishing a Connection”.

Establish a Connection.  Within the first couple of seconds of interaction the person you’re communicating with will form an opinion of you that will influence their ability to react positively to your message – more simply, they’ll connect with you or they won’t.  This concept works whether your “audience” includes meeting someone the first time or pitching an idea to a large group.  Here are 11 skill’s you’ll need to possess to be a successful communicator:

  1. Start with eye contact.  Did I just start with the cliche first step of “Having good eye contact”?  Yes, but really the rule should be “Don’t have bad eye contact”.  People actually do, subconsciously, notice when you’re engaging the room by connecting visually with them, however, they more consciously realize when you’re avoiding eye contact by reading off your notes or relying on the screen.  Be remembered as the person trying to engage others in your message, not as the passive robot who didn’t realize there were other people in the room.
  2. Throw in some physical contact.  Of course you don’t want to be the creepy, touchy-feely, person, but physical contact can be a great of way connecting with the person and letting them know you’re relaxed.  A handshake with a pat on the arm, a hug instead of a handshake (if appropriate) or a pat on the back are all examples of acceptable forms contact which break down barriers of communication.
  3. Movement.  Effective communicators do not stand behind (or even use) a podium – they move around and establish an area presence.  Now that you’re moving, use hand gestures to point and interact.  I’m not telling you to tap dance around your lunch meeting, however, your body language can say a lot about both you and your message – if you’re passionate and have something to say, act like it.  Read:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  4. Exude Confidence.  I love the phrase “exude confidence” – people listen to those who exude confidence.  The basis of confidence is preparation.  Whether it’s anticipating questions or researching the client you’re about to meet, the more information you have going into a communication scenario, the more successful you’ll be.
  5. Be Comfortable and Likeable.  You want people to be comfortable around you.  If you’re too intimidating or rigid they wont listen to your message.  Be humorous or self deprecating if appropriate, trick your audience into thinking you’re actually a likeable person.

12 Tips on How to Become a Badass Negotiator

Written by Sam on . Posted in Education, Inspiration. 14440 views.

The art of negotiation is both a skill and a game.  The person sitting across the table from you is your opponent. Like most games, the more you practice and prepare, the better chance you’ll have of being a better negotiator.  Let’s prepare.

Before you start negotiating, first realize that there are two types of negotiations: Distributive and Integrative.

A distributive negotiation involves a set prize.  Think of it as $100,000 in the middle of the table that must be divided between you and them – anything that goes to them comes out of your share.  These types of negotiations (think of buying a car) can be more stressful, as both parties are trying to “win” by getting a bigger piece of the pie – and neither side necessarily cares if a relationship survives the negotiation.

Conversely, with an integrative negotiation some interests are aligned.  If the parties work together they can increase the size of the prize.  Think of a company partnering with another – combining their resources effectively could result in greater profits for both.  Each party should be sensitive that the surviving relationship may be more valuable than the results of a negotiation.  For example, why beat up your employer for that extra $1000 if they’re just going to be resentful and fire you a week later?

Don’t approach an integrative negotiation with the goals of a distributive.  Identify your long-term goals for the negotiation.  Also keep in mind that both parties can win under each type. Also, it can never hurt to trick your opponent into liking you.

Now onto the actual negotiation.  An efficient negotiation is comprised of four stages:  Preparation, Information Exchange, Bargaining and Closing.  Follow these 12 steps and you’ll be will on the way to kicking crap out of someone in a negotiation:

PREPARATION STAGE – Size up your competition.

  1. Assess the situation.  Ask yourself how much is at stake?  How important is a future relationship to you and your opponent?  If a future relationship is important to both parties, each should compromise for the sake of the relationship.  If the parties are not going to continue doing business together, the more aggressively the negotiation may be pursued.  Know what your walking into and if you should error on the side of compromise or not.
  2. Identify which type of negotiator your opponent is.  Chances are your opponent will fit into one of the following five categories: Avoider, Compromiser, Accommodator, Competitor or Problem Solver.  Identifying the strategy your competitor is going to take will help you foresee any obstacles the negotiation will face.  For example, you may be able to get a better deal when negotiating with an avoider if you can appeal to their desire for a lower stress and a more casual negotiation.
  3. Finalize the goal or purpose of your negotiation.  Prior to going into the negotiation you need to get organized.  Write down your (and the other side’s) three most important issues.  Identify areas of conflict which will need to be resolved.  Set realistic goals.  You shouldn’t go into the negotiation to get “the lowest price”, identify a number that you’ll be happy with.  Setting goals will allow you to be able to walk out of the negotiation knowing if you succeeded or not.

    INFORMATION EXCHANGE STAGE – Fill in the blanks.

  4. Question Effectively.  Begin your negotiation by opening an effective line of communication with your opponent.  Avoid yes and no questions.  The goal is to flush out any information you don’t already have – expose a need or weakness which can be played on later.  Don’t get down to the terms of the deal without getting as much information as possible.  For example, does the car dealer have excess supply this month.   Take your time with this process.
  5. Conceal your weaknesses.  Don’t fall into a trap of letting your opponent know if you’re desperate.  Downplay any urgency or needs they may think you have.

    BARGAINING STAGE – Not as important if you’ve performed an efficient exchange of information.

  6. Anchoring.   Look for opportunities to set favorable numbers or reference points to work off of.  Conversely, avoid  being anchored to an opening offer or arbitrary point.  The less distance you have to go up or down, the more successful your negotiation will be.

10 Companies Everyone Should Own Stock In

Written by Sam on . Posted in Investing, Retirement. 76545 views.

I don’t like investing in individual companies – they seem to go up when you think they’re doing poorly and go down when you think they’re doing well. Individual companies possess something called “Company-Specific” Risk which means their stock price is susceptible to risks such as lawsuits, management changes and other non-market factors.

While I don’t recommend exposing yourself to company-specific risk, you can decrease the chances of being burnt by individual companies by purchasing proven quality and diversifying.  Here’s a list of 10 Companies that Everyone Should Own Stock In:

  1. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  2. Coca-Cola.
  3. International Business Machines Corp.
  4. Chevron Corp.
  5. PepsiCo, Inc.
  6. Procter & Gamble Co
  7. Exxon Mobil Corp
  8. United Technologies.
  9. McDonald’s Corp.
  10. 3M.

Why own each of the above companies?

The Biggest Thing to Change to Lower Work Stress

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice, Inspiration. 4303 views.

Work is usually your single biggest source of stress. Here are things to change at work, most importantly starting with…

Your Attitude.  Find yourself criticizing management and coworkers?  Depressed about the due date for your latest project?  Stressed that you could get laid-off today?  Well Stop it.  The sooner you realize that negative stress cannot help you, it can only hurt you, the happier you’ll be.  How do you fix this?  Dig deep to realize that staying positive and productive is the only path to happiness.  Remember that the only difference between a good day and bad day is your attitude.

Here are 5 other things that seem small but will add up to a lower-stress day:

  1. Start your day right.  Your drive to work sets the course for your day.  During the holidays, or on days that I know will be particularly stressful, I spend the couple extra bucks to stop and get a flavored coffee or healthy breakfast.  It works for me to start the day off in a positive manner.  Leaving yourself enough time, taking a less congested route to work or listening to relaxing music are all other ways to start your day off right.  Here’s how financially successful people start their day.
  2. Start-up the Exercise Habit.  The more you can move the better you’ll feel.  A lot of us are stuck in jail cell size cubicles, left to stare at a computer screen for 9 hours a day.  Make it a point to print from the farthest printer, walk to a coworker’s office (instead of emailing them) or take the stairs instead of the elevator.  This physical movement will help stimulate your mind and lower your feelings of stress.  Start right now!
  3. Lunch hour.  Stop eating “lunch” at your desk.  Lunch is a great opportunity to regroup and change your point of view.  If you’re not able to leave the office and interact with other coworkers, at least eat your lunch outside or somewhere more inspiring than your desk.
  4. Escape the “Learning Graveyard“.  Have you’ve quit learning at work and now you’re stuck in a cycle of monotony?  Not only can this be extremely stressful, it’s counter-productive to your career.  It doesn’t matter if it is work related or not, pursue a new hobby or certification.  A busy mind is a happy mind.  What’s something that you’ve been interested in learning about or a work related certification you’ve been pushing off getting?