Adjustable and Fixed Rate Mortgages — Which One is Best for You?

There are literally hundreds of different types of mortgage products, designed by financial institutions to offer a greater degree of creativity, affordability and flexibility. But most of these products can be divided into two basic groups when it comes to interest rates: adjustable and fixed. While some armchair analysts will steadfastly recommend one over the other, in reality, whether you choose an adjustable or fixed rate mortgage depends on a lot of factors, including your personal credit rating, and even larger economic factors such as the current policy of the Federal Reserve.

Simply put, a fixed rate mortgage is just that, it gives you a mortgage with a set interest rate for the duration of the loan. An adjustable rate mortgage has an interest rate that moves up and down with the prevailing interest rate. But what if the interest rate doubles five or ten years down the road? Don’t be alarmed. Almost all adjustable rate mortgages have limits, or “caps,” which impose a maximum amount that it can rise, and a maximum number of times per year the rate can be adjusted. For example, if you get an adjustable mortgage with an introductory rate of 6.5 percent, and have a two percent cap, the most interest you will ever be charged is 8.5 percent, even if the prevailing rate goes far beyond that in the future. The good news is that the adjustable mortgage goes both ways–it can also go down when and if the Fed sets the inter-bank rate lower. Another up-front advantage of the adjustable is that assuming your credit is good, a lender will often offer you a low introductory rate, which may even be lower than the current fixed rate. This is more marketing than anything else, but it still gives you an advantage. The introductory rate may be good for only six months or so, but most people have extra expenses when they first buy a home–so the lower payments you would enjoy during those first few months would give you a little extra to spend on furnishings.

A big factor in deciding which one to apply for is the current interest rate. If the current interest rate is historically low, then a fixed rate mortgage may be the best option, since it locks you in for a low rate for the long haul. If the current interest rate is higher than average, an adjustable mortgage will give you the flexibility you need to ride any future downward trends and lower your monthly payments without having to get a new mortgage.

Another factor is your credit rating. Generally speaking, the worse your credit rating is, the higher interest rate you will be charged, whether it is adjustable or fixed. If your credit is very poor, you may have few options, and the only mortgages you have at your disposal may be fixed rate mortgages set at very high rates from subprime lenders. In this situation, your best bet is to take what you can get, work on repairing your credit, and then once you have improved your credit score, see if you can qualify to refinance your home at a lower rate. You may however, be subject to a prepayment penalty, which effectively means you will be stuck with the higher rate for a specified number of years.

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Computer Based Training for High Tech Careers

It seems only natural that computer-based training has become such a popular way of receiving education on so many different IT subjects.  As CBT has become more sophisticated and interactive, it has become a widely accepted form of training.

Early computer-based training was little more than text on the computer screen, but today, that has all changed. You can find CBT programs that are highly interactive, have testing mechanisms that adapt to your skill level, and are user-friendly to the point of being able to almost duplicate a classroom experience. There are a few different types of CBT available. The first one is the learn-at-your-own-pace tutorial, usually a set of CDs that provide a learning experience that you can set to your own schedule. This does take a lot of initiative and self-motivation, since there is nobody behind the program driving you to succeed. Nonetheless, they can provide a valuable learning experience for those who are motivated to complete the program, and can make an excellent addition to the resume.

Another common type of training is the instructor-led CBT. In this type of program, you still learn at your own pace, but there is a live instructor behind the program that you interact with as needed. Periodic exams are administered, and you will probably have access to interactive tools like a message board–through which you can talk with other students and the instructor. This too, is useful for those who need to work on their own schedule.

The third type of training is instructor-led, real-time CBT. This is the next best thing to a classroom, and learning takes place in real time. Your class time is pre-set and you are on a regular schedule. The only difference is that you, the other students, and the instructor are all in different locations. These types of programs are highly interactive. You, other students and the instructor all interact in real time through a whiteboard, and sometimes even a video feed. Often, these are offered as options by mainstream universities as an adjunct to their regular classroom curriculum, and can sometimes be used to take courses for college credit.

Make no mistake, computer-based training is a real option for education, and employers acknowledge it as a legitimate educational background. Do remember though, that just like brick-and-mortar universities, CBT programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more reputable than others. And if you follow your training by obtaining a certification, you’ll have an excellent boost in the job market.

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Careers in High Tech Security

Securing a computer network goes way beyond simply installing and configuring a firewall. While a competent system admin will be able to do that task, often a mid- to large-sized corporation will have a security administrator specifically dedicated to the task of network security. Large corporations may even have a higher-ranking network security officer; and the area of network security is fast becoming one of the most in-demand jobs in high-tech.

In addition to finding jobs at corporations in network security, you will also find that smaller companies, who may not be able to afford a full-time security technician, are turning to outsourcing for their security needs. These smaller companies are becoming the targets of serious and expensive attacks, and can no longer afford to place security on the back burner. For the individual seeking a career in network security, this means there are two separate markets for jobs; working directly for corporations in security, and working for the outsourcing agencies that service corporations.

A major driver in the rapidly increasing security market is the mandated compliance that has been passed, including Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and other state regulations that require more corporations to implement specific security measures. Many of these regulations deal with things like protecting against identity theft, and protecting the privacy of individual consumers. Security technicians will often work with corporate compliance officers in ensuring that these mandates have been met.

Beyond a good understanding of network infrastructure, a network security professional will have a good understanding of all of the various types of security that are used, which include firewalling and intrusion prevention and detection, authentication and authorization, and content protection. Although many of the networking certifications such as CNE and MCSE will touch on security as it is incorporated into that vendor-specific equipment, a more specific security-oriented certification will also be useful in pursuing this type of career. One of the most useful online places to learn more about security-oriented certification is the SANS Institute. The SANS Institute’s GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) validates the skills of a security professional and is widely recognized and accepted.

It has happened on rare but noteworthy occasions that former hackers and cybercriminals have found gainful employment in the corporations they once tried to hack, or even in government agencies, but don’t look for this to happen all too often. Contrary to what may be a popular belief among the cybercrime underground, having a background as a hacker or cybercriminal is not a legitimate resume builder for a security professional.

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Careers in Computer Forensics

There are popular television shows that chronicle the work of medical forensics specialists, who examine bones and remains to determine facts about a crime. But there is another area of forensics that hasn’t been made into a television show, and that’s computer forensics. This is the field that uses investigation along with techniques for analyzing computers to determine whether or not a crime has been committed, or to derive evidence that can be used in

Most computer experts understand that when you erase a file, you don’t completely erase it. Even after you empty the “trash can” icon, there are often still traces of files left. That’s why many experts recommend that when you discard a computer, you actually remove the hard drive.

Computer forensics is a highly specialized and exciting field, it’s in high demand and it pays exceptionally well. Computer forensics experts are often called in by high-powered law firms to derive evidence in a case. In addition, prosecuting attorneys often use computer-based evidence, as well as the services of computer forensics experts, to find incriminating documents. Another big user of computer forensics is insurance companies, who may use these techniques to ferret out fraud. Even individual municipal police departments use them, especially if they have carried out a warrant to seize computer equipment.

Computer forensics is used surprisingly often, in criminal cases, white collar crime cases, intellectual property investigations and others. In general, it is very time-consuming work, and probably not glamorous enough to make a television series, but as a career path, it can be quite rewarding. Many computer forensics professionals have not specifically taken forensics courses, but rather have a deep understanding of hardware and software, computer security protocols, and several years’ experience. Many computer forensics experts are former law enforcement professionals who have combined expertise in technology and law enforcement investigation. Today, there are several certifications and programs for studying this field, from places including the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, which educates law enforcement professionals in the field of computer forensics.

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Learning Photography for Fun and Profit

Most people find that an interesting hobby can add an exciting dimension to their lives, especially when a heavy work load or a full schedule of study seem to occupy too much of one’s precious time. Hobbies can be relaxing and refreshing, but an extra dimension is added when they are profitable as well. Although ideas are almost without limit, photography is a particularly interesting hobby with real profit potential.

It is possible, of course, to study photography seriously with a view to participating in competitions and art shows. If this is the primary objective, then support and assistance are not far away. Classes, lectures, and workshops are readily available in most communities. Libraries also contain a wealth of information in books and on videos, providing the photography enthusiast with every opportunity to learn how to produce artistic, award-winning pictures. Award-winning pictures are one thing, however; saleable pictures are another.

Enthusiasts who want to turn their hobby into a profitable venture will need to examine what particular characteristics of a picture make it saleable. An award-winning picture sporting the blue ribbon is not necessarily one that someone would want to buy. In fact, most of the photographic pictures sold in North America are family related, whether wedding groups, special occasions, or simply ordinary family portraits. An amateur photographer can easily tap into this market by learning some simple techniques practiced by experienced professionals.

Clients wanting to purchase family portraits or group pictures expect professional results showing interesting dynamics and happy, smiling faces. Professionals invariably insist that this cannot be achieved without correct lighting. It is essential to show full face angles in a soft light, using a flash to prevent unattractive shadow around the eyes. Even outside, it is often advisable to use a flash, though in full sunlight this would not be necessary.

Attractive body positioning is also essential to good photography. Pictures taken straight on are the least attractive and should be avoided if possible. It is better to have small groups in different positions, preferably with heads at different levels. This can be achieved by having some individuals standing, some seated, and others kneeling or crouching. Heads should be slightly tilted and hands shown on side view with fingers together.

Large groups can be more difficult to arrange. Straight on shots can hardly be avoided with a large group picture, but it is still important to pay attention to detail. This kind of picture usually requires the front row to be seated on chairs or on the floor, and if this is the case, attention must be given to the arrangements of legs and feet. Professionals would advise that legs should be crossed at the feet only, not at the knees. This is more artistic, and it is more pleasing to the eye. Other ideas about how to take saleable pictures can be obtained from a variety of sources.

For those who are interested in developing an interesting and profitable hobby, photography is hard to beat. It is not overly expensive to start up, and once a few contacts have been made, a small business can grow very quickly. The best advice is to keep it simple, stay with the hard-and fast-rules, and insist on happy, smiling faces.

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The Art of the Hors D’Oeuvre: How to Create Elegant Appetizers

Appetizers Set the Tone for Your Meal

As their name implies, the traditional function of appetizers is to whet the appetite of your guests for the meal to come.  Currently, appetizers, or hors d’oeuvres are often served on their own as finger food perfect for a party setting.  While there’s nothing wrong with serving the classic pigs in a blanket or simple cheese and crackers, learning to create elegant and tasty appetizers can take your entertaining skills to a new level.  When creating hors d’oeuvres, keep in mind their intended function.  If they are to precede a meal, serving too many appetizers can backfire by making your guests too full to appreciate the meal.  As party food, be sure to have plenty on hand as you don’t want to run out too soon.

Simply Elegant Appetizers
Hors d’oeuvres don’t need to be complex to be both elegant and delicious.  One of the most common appetizers is crudités (crew-de-tays), which is a fancy way to describe fresh cut vegetables.  Transforming a plain old vegetable tray to a dish worthy of its French moniker is simply a matter of presentation.  Start with a bed of romaine lettuce or spring greens to provide color.  Use a variety of cleanly cut vegetables in assorted colors for the best effect.  For fancy flourishes,  try edging seedless, peeled cucumbers, making radish rosettes or curled scallions.

Another easy to prepare, yet impressive, appetizer is to provide a selection of soft cheeses and pâtés.   While fois gras is certainly elegant, not all pâtés are created from goose liver.   To cater to friends that might be scared off by traditional pâté, try serving common variations such as sun dried tomato pâté, almond pâté or lentil pâté.  Some soft cheese choices include Boursalt , Chaource, Brie, Humboldt fog, and Camembert.  Both cheese and pâté should be served with a selection of breads and crackers.  Rye, pumpernickel and water crackers make excellent choices that will not overpower the taste of the spread.   Both spreads should be served at room temperature to heighten the flavor.  For a traditional presentation, create a “wheel” of cheese and pâté on a cloth covered round platter.

Hearty Appetizers
If you are planning to serve appetizers as your main source of food, you’ll want to be sure to include a few choices that appeal to larger appetites.  Bruschetta is delicious, substantial and very easy to put together.   Start with a baguette (long thin loaf) of French or Italian bread.  Cut the bread into ½” to ¾” slices (some delicatessens and stores will have pre-cut baguettes, but cutting your own is the only way to insure freshness).  Mix together in a large bowl 2 large diced tomatoes, 1 small sweet onion, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 pressed or diced clove of garlic and a teaspoon each of fresh chopped oregano, basil and parsley.  Apply the mixture to the bread, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and bake in a 400° oven for 8-10 minutes.  After a brief cool down period, your bruschetta is ready to be served.

Another bread-based appetizer option is cheese fondue.  Fondue sets are once again popular wedding gifts, but most people don’t take the opportunity to use them.  Aside from being absolutely delicious, fondue is a fun food for your guests to experience and is easy to prepare.  Start by tearing a loaf of fairly heavy bread (such as sourdough or hard French bread) into chunks about an inch in diameter.  You can vary the type of cheese you use, but a distinctively tempting option is natural Swiss cheese.

Before starting the fondue mixture, cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it along the inside of the fondue basin.  Next, add two cups of dry white wine (Riesling makes a nice choice) and heat it until it is warm, but not boiling.  Once the wine is warm, gradually add one pound of grated Swiss cheese that has been dipped in flour, continually stirring until it is completely melted.  Add a dash of pepper, nutmeg, and two table spoons of Kirsch (cherry brandy) or brandy to complete the fondue.  Fondue should be served while it is still bubbling.  If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add more wine to make it fluid.

Appetizer Masterpieces
Creating more complex hors d’oeuvres doesn’t require the efforts of a master chef.  There are many simple recipes that will provide you with scrumptious appetizers that only look like the work of a professional.  Mini-quiche in individual pastry shells look like works of art, taste divine, and are fairly simple to make.  Here’s a recipe for roasted red pepper and sweet onion quiche to try at your next event.  Start by gathering the following ingredients:

  • Preformed mini-tart shells from your grocer’s freezer (thawed)
  • ¼ cup roasted red peppers, either cooked at home or from a jar
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pkg dried cream of onion soup mix

Set your oven to preheat to 375° and place the mini-tart shells on a baking sheet.  Divide the cheese and peppers equally amongst all of the shells.  Now mix together the eggs, cream and soup mix with a whisk and pour evenly into the tart shells.  Bake these treats for 20-25 minutes and you have an aesthetically pleasing and delicious appetizer ready to serve.

Another elegant choice is filo cheese straws.  Not only are these some tasty pasties, but they offer many unique presentation options and can be served with a variety of dips and sauces.  Start by preheating your oven to 375° and melting a stick of butter in a saucepan.  While the butter is melting, mix together 8 oz of softened cream cheese, a beaten egg, ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Next transfer this mixture to a pastry bag.  If you don’t  have a pastry bag to work with, you can improvise one by putting the mix into a plastic sandwich bag and snipping off one of the corners.  By this point, the butter should be melted, so you are ready to start working on the dough.  Brush the first sheet of dough with melted butter and pipe the filling along the long edge, leaving about a half inch on either end.  Fold both ends over to keep the filling inside and roll the dough lengthwise into the shape of the straw.  As each straw is complete, transfer it to a baking sheet.  Once all the appetizers are complete, back the straws for 12-15 minutes, at which time they will appear golden.  How you serve the straws is a matter of preference, but one way is to create little trees.  Fill tall shot glasses with about a ¼” of sauce (marinara, pesto, and cocktail sauce work nicely) or dip and arrange 3 or 4 filo straws per glass to create the tree effect.

Categories Lifestyle & Culture

Interview Tips

There are certain very important aspects that one should keep in mind while preparing and facing an interview such as: Emotional Preparation, It’s OK to Be Nervous, Look Better, Look Them in the Eyes, Answer Briefly, Feel Better, Be Quiet and Focused.

Less talk and straight to the point
When it comes to conversation during an interview, sometimes less is more. As a common rule, you should speak one-third of the time and definitely no more than half of the time. The finest interviews have a give-and-take atmosphere. To do this, you need to ask questions and try to illustrate out your interviewer rather than talking about oneself nonstop. When it’s your turn to speak, don’t waver to peddle yourself, just remember to stop talking after you do.

Feeling tensed is a natural instinct
Not only is it OK to be tensed about an interview, but also it is essential for you to accept how you feel. Telling yourself you should feel in a different way than you do is unrealistic and just makes you feel terrible about yourself. What’s the nastiest that can happen at an interview? For many, it would be not receiving an offer. Did you ever think that maybe the work wasn’t right for you? Try to look at the procedure as a learning experience.

Emotional breakthrough
Preparing emotionally for the interview is as important as researching the company. The right mood helps you perform at your best. Try these suggestions for preparing emotionally: get moving — go for a walk, run, exercise, meditate, do yoga, stretch, dance, something — activity gets blood flowing to your brain; sing your favorite song while driving to the interview; repeat an inspirational phrase aloud that’s meaningful for you; or simply remember a time when you felt terrific.

Walk and Talk Neat
If you want to be well groomed up at your appearance for the interview but can’t afford new clothes, consider varying an outfit you already have by blend it with a different shirt, tie, or accessory. Even on a tight resource, you can find some real good deals out there. For better or bad, looks can make a difference.

Eye to eye contact
Eye contact is one of the most vital aspects of nonverbal communication and can make a major difference in how you present yourself. If you look absent when speaking to someone, you’re viewed as missing confidence or interest. If you have a difficulty looking into your interviewer’s eyes, try looking at the “third eye” right on top of and between the eyes.

Some of the other major tips are:

  • Your References
  • Know What You Offer
  • Keeping Time
  • Ask the Power Questions
  • Attitude Adjustment
  • Prove What You Could Do
  • Think of an Interview as a First Date
  • Don’t Forget to Listen
  • Managing Time in a Job Interview

Well there you are. Go for it now and ask your way into a better job!

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Save Money Buying a Home: The Government’s Tax Credit

It is the American dream to own your own home. Home-ownership helps to stabilize a person’s financial future, assuming he or she buys the right home. However, many people have been scared away from home ownership due to the rising number of foreclosures. Home values climbed so high over the last ten years and some people were simply locked out of the housing market.

Times have changed for a number of reasons:

  1. Property values have fallen drastically, making it far more affordable to buy a home.
  2. Mortgage interest rates are at very low levels. You can get into a mortgage with good credit for less than six, sometimes five percent.
  3. Government programs such as FHA make it even easier to qualify and they help to reduce the cost of closing on that property.

However, one of the most lucrative tools for saving money is the current tax credit available to home buyers. The First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit equates to an $8000 reduction in your taxes. In addition, those who are current homeowners who plan to buy a home (either new or existing) in the approved time period will earn a $6500 tax credit for doing so. Take a look at some of the details of this opportunity.


Those who are first time home buyers, or current homeowners who buy a new or existing home, will qualify for their deduction as long as they buy the home between now and April 30th, 2010. This can be any type of home, including a single family home, co ops, condos and townhomes, though it does have to be your principal residence to qualify.

The amount you earn through this program is based on the price of the home and your income. Those homes valued at over $800,000 do not qualify for this particular type of tax credit. Single buyers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 will qualify for the maximum credit towards the purchase of their home.

Why Should You Invest?

Now is an excellent time for individuals to buy the property that they need and want to own. Do plan to stay in your home for some time so that the value can grow over time. Also, you do want to look for the right home loan for your investment. A low interest rate is critical to being able to afford a home. You do not want to put yourself in a position of foreclosure.

To make it even more affordable, follow these tips:

  • Have as much of a down payment as possible before you buy. Some lenders are now requiring 20 percent, though FHA requirements are less.
  • Do negotiate with lenders to get the lowest interest rate possible for a fixed rate mortgage loan. This provides affordability and stability to you both now and in the long term.
  • Do try to pay more than the minimum payment each month. This allows you to pay off your loan faster and saves you thousands of dollars per month.

Do take the time to consider how this tax credit can work to your advantage. For many people, it is an ideal reason to start investing in real estate. Keep in mind that you do have to close on or before April 30th to qualify for this tax credit and there is no information available to determine if that date will be extended.

Categories Real Estate

Personal Finance and Your Future: Your Retirement Account

Some people do not feel they have the money needed right now to live on. If you are employed, you should be thinking about your retirement. Social Security will not be enough. Your employer may not be offering you a pension. It is up to you to start looking at retirement right here and now, even if it means just a few dollars per paycheck.

Compound Interest

The sooner you start to invest in your retirement, the less difficult it is to accumulate the amount of retirement investment you need and want to have to pay for your expenses. The reason behind this is compound interest. When you put money into an account earning 2 percent interest, that 2 percent not only applies to the initial investment, but also to any interest earings you have in the previous period. For simplicity sake, if you have $1000 in a retirement account at just 2 percent interest, you would have $1020 after the first cycle. This time around, that 2 percent is applied to the $1020 and after the cycle ends, $1040.40. On a larger scale and with better investments, this build up in value over time is substantial. The sooner you start saving, the more time there is for compound interest to work on your behalf.

Types of Retirement Accounts

There are a number of retirement accounts available to you. Each one offers something different and is for a specific person. Take a look at a few of the options you have and their advantages.

401K: This common employer based account makes retirement savings easy. You choose the amount you deduct pretax from your paycheck and deposit into your retirement account. Like other employer based accounts, your employer may match any amount of that investment. Your money grows tax free throughout its lifetime until you start to withdraw it.

Traditional IRA:Perhaps your employer does not offer this type of benefit to you. That is no problem. You can set up your own IRA in a local credit union, bank or investment firm. You are able to deposit up to your limit (based on your age and the tax year) each year. The funds go itno your traditional IRA before taxation and you are taxed only when you begin to withdraw from your accounts during retirement.

Roth IRA: With a Roth IRA, the funds you put into your account are taxed prior to being placed into the account. Then, the funds grow tax free throughout your lifetime. You do not have to pay taxes later when you withdraw these funds. All of the funds within your account are in fact your own for retirement.

You Don’t Have Enough

Many people believe they just do not have enough money to start an IRA or a 401k and therefore they just do not believe they can put money away for retirement. Even a small amount per paycheck will make a difference in your future. Try for $20 out of your paycheck. Increase this as you get more comfortable with having less in your paycheck. Chances are good you will not notice it and it will provide you with an outstanding way to pay for your retirement expenses long term.

Going without a retirement account is not a good idea. It puts you in a position of having to worry about how you will pay your bills. Or, you could become one of the ever growing statistics in which elderly parents are relying on their children to care for them in old age. Start today to plan for your retirement.

Categories Personal Finance

Save Money By Cutting Out The Extra

More people than ever are trying to save money. According to a New York Times report, more Americans are saving money now than they have been since 1993. People are putting away, on average 6.9 percent of their income. That is a great place for many to start, especially after the financial difficulties of the last few years. But, saying that you will save and putting this act into practice are two very different things. And, they can be incredibly limiting to those who think they do not have any money to put away. You do.

Save Money By Cutting Costs

The best way to save money is to have more money to put away. You could get an extra job (and this is something you want to consider if you hope to build your savings faster.) However, consider the following ways you can reduce your costs significantly and put those funds back into your savings account.

  • Do you work in the same five-mile radius as you live? If so, jump on a bike to go to work and leave the extra car at home. In fact, moving from a two or three car household down to a one or two car household could save you hundreds of dollars in interest fees (if you still have a loan) and hundreds of dollars on insurance costs, not to mention the discounts in fuel.
  • Find your money waster. This is the item that you buy every day or every week that you just do not need to. It could be that $5 gourmet coffee in the morning or the $10 a week you spend on soda at work. Cut it out. Put that money towards your savings. $5 a day savings equates to $150 a month for savings, or $1825 a year.
  • Eat out less. Buy a $30 slow cooker, start your meals in the morning in it and then skip the take out. This in itself can save most families between $50 and $150 a week in eating out. That is money to put into your savings account so that you can take a trip or even just pay down debt.
  • Cut utility costs. When was the last time you called your cable provider to reduce your monthly costs? Have you taken the time to consider bundling your services (phone, Internet, cable) into one to reduce your costs? How about the water bill? you can save hundreds by repairing leaky faucets and reducing shower time. A programmable thermostat keeps the home warm when you are home, but decreases costs when you are not. Unplug those electronics.

One of the biggest money savers is to have a budget. Work out a budget that you can live with and then stick with it. Do not rely on credit cards at all for your monthly costs. Rather, focus instead on a cash only budget. Give yourself money to eat out or for entertainment, but limit these costs so that you can actually be putting money away.

You can save a great deal of money by simply learning how to cut out the extras in your budget. However, to know what those extras are, you need to keep a record going of what you are spending money on. Everything from parking meters to the kid’s school lunches should be part of it. This gives you a clear idea of where your money is going. Then, you can cut out the extra and start saving money.

Categories Saving Money

Before The End Of Year Tax Advantages

The end of the year brings new opportunities for next year. However, keep in mind that there is more work to be done right now. Some of these opportunities may spill over into next year, too. Taxes are coming. However, if you take a few minutes right now to consider any deductions you may be entitled to, you may be able to reduce the amount of tax you owe to the IRS. This is an excellent way for individuals to save money. In some cases, you are getting more back, too.

What Dedications Can You Take?

You do want to work with a tax professional who is willing to spend a bit of extra time with you right now (and there are many that will) to help you to minimize your tax liability. The following are a few of the tax deductions many people can take. Whether you qualify for them or not is determined through your tax professional.

  • Tally up your medical expenses. However, you do have to reach a specific limit, if you have been putting off a procedure or a doctor’s visit that would qualify, do it now. If you have spent enough on medical costs, you can deduct them. This includes things like crutches, hearing aids, contact lenses, medications and even prescription glasses.
  • Job seeking expenses may be a deduction. Tax code allows for any costs associated with locating a job to be included as a tax deduction. This cannot be your first job out of college and there are a few other qualifications. However, those who have spent a lot on travel expenses or other needs may be able to take advantage of this.
  • The small business owner has plenty of tax discounts available to them. Did you keep track of your mileage for business use? Do you use your cell phone for business transactions? Are you factoring in half of the self-employment tax paid as a deduction? Do you need specialized clothing not suitable to wear outside of the work place? Did you invest equipment into your business? These are all deductions you may qualify for.
  • Deduct gambling losses up to the amount of your gambling wins. You do have to have some proof of these losses to qualify for them.
  • Have you donated significant value to charities? If not, now is the perfect time to do so. Donate that car you do not use. Donate old items around the home. Get a receipt. Do take into consideration monetary donations as well. These all help you at tax time and do help those in need at the same time.

In addition to these tax deductions, do check out your investments. Have you invested as much as you can for the year? For those under 50 years of age at the end of the year, you can contribute as much as $5000 or the amount of your taxable compensation in 2009. For those over the age of 50, you can contribute $6,000 or the amount of your taxable compensation. Both of these go into your traditional or Roth IRA. If you have not contributed enough, now is the time to do so.

Saving money just makes sense. There is no reason for you to put more money into your taxes than is necessary. In fact, now is a good time to access just how much money you are giving to the government out of each check. If you are getting a refund, remember that this is simply an interest free loan you are giving to the government. Adjust your withholdings to ensure this does not happen.

Categories Taxes
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Be Ready For Change

The definitions of the financial classes are changing.  More companies are changing the definitions of their jobs as well.  With outsourcing and freelancing becoming a more viable resource, the job market and the jobs available are shifting accordingly.  This means even more upheaval for people who are unprepared for a quick change in their financial environment.

The days of long tenures with powerful companies are all but gone. The time of getting a single job and working it until you retired or died is nearly at an end.  The market for jobs, an ever evolving and changing entity, has eliminated some jobs and created new ones.  This is wonderful news to the people who can evolve with the change and are ever increasing their knowledge base and their skills.  For those who are not so flexible, this could be a painful and depressing transition.

When the automobile became a household item, companies that manufactured traditional horse drawn carriages became obsolete.  All the people who had made whips, carriages, harnesses and fittings for that industry had to find other work eventually.  This is just an example of what happens continually in our marketplace.

One of the biggest changes in the last twenty years has been the increasing flow of outsourcing work. There is room for outsourcing in nearly every industry and for people who “get replaced” by cheaper contractors, it can mean devastating financial consequences.  No matter the job you hold, you need to be prepared for the next advancement in the markets.  Computers, networking, the internet and other technologies have caused the erasure of dozens of markets – but they have also created jobs in their wake.  Just like the carriage builder who left the carriage house and went to work for Ford, people today have to move with the existing tide.

One way of preparing for this shift is to hone your skills. Freelance markets are all over the Internet for people who have been laid off or their jobs have been eliminated.  If you have a marketable skill, considering a freelance career may be a good backup plan for you.  Learning a new skill or trade while you are still working your current job is never a bad idea either.  With a few exceptions such as the medical field, there is virtually no job that is one hundred percent guaranteed to never be outsourced.  Even a great many jobs in the medical field are being outsourced to talented and cheaper sources overseas.

Protect your investments and your future by investing in your education and your skills. Learning a new trade or revising your current one may be a bit of a task, but in this market, you are virtually forced to continually upgrade yourself.  If you have already felt the ax fall in your market, do not be discouraged.  A great deal of companies that are taking advantage of the freelance market will search out American freelancers to do their work.  Consulting is another field that will almost always be a viable option for those who wish to change venues.

Be ready for change, and you can soar into the next market shift!

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