5 Things to Consider While Selecting a Financial Planner

Unlike someone calling himself a CPA or a physician, just about anyone can call himself a “financial planner” or a “financial advisor” regardless of their educational background and professional experience. Moreover, not all of them are unbiased in their advice and not all of them always act in their clients’ best interests.

To ensure your financial planner is well-qualified in personal finances and impartial in his advice, consider the following five things:

1. Planning Credentials: Having a highly-regarded credential in financial planning, such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), confirms that the professional you intend to work with has acquired the education and experience necessary to serve as a financial planner. CFP and PFS credentials are awarded to only those individuals who have met the certification requirements of education and experience in planning for personal finances. In addition, they have to pass the certification examinations and agree adhere to the practice standards and continuing education requirements.

2. Subject Matter Expertise: Financial planners are planning professionals, not necessarily subject matter experts. For example, a financial planner will be skilled in tax analysis and planning,but unlike a Certified Public Account (CPA) or an IRS Enrolled Agent (EA) he might not necessarily be a subject matter expert when it comes to tax rules Similarly,a he could be skilled in chalking out an investment plan, but unlike a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) he may not be an authority in the subject of investments. Work with a financial planner who is also a subject matter expert in those areas of personal finance that are important in achieving your financial goals.

3. Client Specialization: Not all financial planners serve all types of clients. Most specialize in serving only certain types of clients with specific profiles. For example, a personal planner may build his expertise and customize his services to serve only those individuals and families who are in certain professions, or a particular stage of life with specific financial goals and net worth. Ask whether the planner specializes in serving only certain types of clients with specific profiles to determine whether he is the right fit for your situation and financial goals.

4. Fee structure: The fee structure largely determines whose interests he serves best – his client’s or his own. A Fee-Only professional charges only fees for their advice whereas a Fee-Based professional not only charges fees but also earns commissions, referral fees and other financial incentives on the products and solutions they recommend for you. Consequently, the advice from a fee-only one is more likely to be unbiased and in your best interests than the advice from a fee-based financial planner. Work with a professional whose fee structure is conflict-free and aligned to benefit you.

5. Availability: He or she should be regularly available, attentive, and accessible to you. Ask the planner how many clients he currently serves and the maximum number of clients he is planning to serve in the future regularly. This clients-to-planner ratio is one of the key factors in assessing your planner’s availability to you in the future. Also, ask which planning activities are typically performed by the planner and which ones are delegated to a para planner or other junior staff members. Lastly, make sure the planner is easily accessible via phone and email during normal business hours.

Once you have shortlisted a few well-qualified and unbiased financial planners in your local area, consult the ones who offer a FREE initial consultation first. During the initial consultation, assess the planner’s availability and any other professional attributes you are seeking in your financial planner.

Having a well-qualified and unbiased financial planner by your side is extremely important in your journey towards your financial goals. When searching for one, consider the planner’s professional credentials, client specialization, subject matter expertise, fee structure, and availability to select the right financial planner for your needs.

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Tips For Credit Reports – How to Spot Mistakes

How often do you check your credit report for accuracy? If it’s not at least twice a year, you could be one of the 40 million Americans that have material errors on your credit report. There are some warning signs you might experience without checking your credit score that might tell you that you have errors.

Errors with your identity details
Occasionally one or all of the three major credit bureaus will have incorrect identifying information on your credit reports. It could be as something as simple as an incorrect address. That’s a relatively simple error that won’t be difficult to fix on your own. However, sometimes your name could be associated with someone else’s credit profile. Make sure when you check your credit report you go through it with a fine tooth comb to ensure everything on it is accurate and all accounts belong to you.

Incorrect or misleading account details
From time to time a creditor will provide incorrect or misleading information about your credit accounts to the credit bureaus. But more seriously, they could be reporting an incorrect credit limit which would affect your utilization rate or the wrong dates for your mortgage loan. Sometimes something could claim open when it’s closed or that you’ve missed payments when you haven’t.

Mysterious accounts
If there are items on your credit report that don’t belong to you, you might be a victim of identity theft. In 2015, an estimated 17.6 million American’s were victims of identity theft. Did you know that two-thirds of identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss? The Bureau of Justice recommends taking preventative action like checking your credit report regularly for accuracy. While some people were able to recover funds through their banks or credit card companies, other saw much more serious events like stolen social security numbers and new accounts opened under their names.

What do you do if you spot errors?
My best advice to you is to work with a credit repair agency. The hassle of getting your details updated or more serious, getting incorrect, misleading or unverifiable information off your credit report can be a total headache.

Catalogue the errors well and then bring them to the agencies attention. The more prepared you are the better a credit repair agency can help. Getting mistakes removed is a difficult process but thankfully credit repair agencies can do most of the heavy lifting for you.

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The Top 3 Export Credit Financing Mistakes Businesses Need To Avoid

Any type of business requires funds to sustain their day-to-day operations. Import and export companies face the same situation as well. Fortunately, there are various export credit financing solutions that importing and exporting businesses can rely on. With these solutions, these businesses will have fewer worries regarding the funds they will need for their operations.

To be successful in acquiring and getting the most out of these export credit financing solutions, it is important to avoid certain mistakes. These top 3 mistakes you have to avoid are:

1. Failing to fully understand your credit utilization ratio. Banks and financial institutions may examine the existing debts you have on your business’ books to see if your current and projected cash flow can handle taking on additional debt. You can avoid getting a rejection from these establishments by learning beforehand how to calculate both your personal and business’s credit utilization ratios (the amount you owe compared to your credit limit) before applying for a new loan or any type of financing option. Financial experts say that a good rule of thumb is to keep your utilization rate below 30 percent for both overall and for each revolving credit line.

2. Not calculating your annual percentage or APR. There are many numbers and fees involved with any financing offer. Interest percentage rate, daily debits, and service fees are just some of these numbers. You can understand and make sense of all these numbers by first calculating the APR of your offer before signing any contract. The APR pertains to the true cost per year of borrowing money and is usually higher than the advertised interest rate. It takes into account the interest rate and compounding effects as well as any additional fees and charges. As such, it is essential to ask about the APR when looking at loan offers. If you can, learn how to calculate it yourself. If a bank or financial institution won’t give you the information you need to calculate the APR, they may not be looking out for your best interests and it would be best to consider another company.

3. Not asking for feedback from banks or financial institutions that rejected your application. Lastly, if one of your financing applications is rejected, don’t give up easily. Ask the institution for feedback and make an effort to learn from the process. Business financial consultants say you should politely ask for an explanation of the lender’s decision to see what and how you can improve for your next attempt.

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5 Factors That Affect Your Business Credit

What makes up your business credit score? What gives you the best chances of getting a loan? Here are a few factors that play into your business credit picture, and what you can do to make the most of them:

1. Payment History – Your payment history is an important part of your business credit profile, and is what your D&B Paydex score is based on. Many credit opportunities come with a minimum Paydex requirement. What you can do: always pay vendors EARLY. On time is “okay”, but paying early (as in before you receive the invoice) is best.

2. Credit Applications – Believe it or not, multiple applications for credit can be a red flag that will keep you from getting approved for a loan. Too many in a short period of time will make your company look desperate and be a sign to potential lenders that things are going downhill. What you can do: plan your use of credit accordingly, and keep applications to the minimum necessary to accomplish your goals.

3. Blanket UCC Filings – One thing that many people don’t realize is that they need to pay attention to the order in which they get certain types of loans, and what UCC filings the lenders will file. Some lenders may file a “blanket” UCC filing, which essentially says they have an interest in ALL of your assets. These blanket UCC filings will then take precedence over any subsequent ones, which drastically reduces your ability to get credit elsewhere. What you can do: plan your credit carefully, and negotiate UCC filings according to what your needs are. For example, if you need particular assets excluded from a UCC filing to use as security for another loan, explain that fact in advance to get those items excluded from any blanket filings, or, alternatively, get the loan or account with the more specific UCC filing first. Some experts recommend opening accounts with competing UCC filings at the same time, and negotiating the details with each party simultaneously.

4. Company Financials – With D&B, it’s important to make sure your financials in your credit file are up to date. If they are not, it could negatively reflect on your company when the lender is comparing the available data. What you can do: update your financials on your credit reports so that they reflect your current circumstances, and plan to do so periodically.

5. Company Legal Structure – The legal structure of your company (LLC versus INC versus Partnership, etc.) can also affect your business credit. Lenders are less likely to loan money to Sole Proprietorship’s and Partnerships than Corporations or Limited Liability Companies. What you can do: if you aren’t incorporated, you should be. The advantages span far past just your ability to get credit.

There are other factors that affect your ability to get credit, such as the amount of debt you already have, how heavily invested you are in your company, and even your personal credit can play a role in your approval or denial. Here we’ve covered five of them. In the end, the better the all-around picture you can paint, the better your chances of getting approved for loans will be.

My Tips on Improving Your Finances for Life

There is no way to avoid dealing with money and finances these days. Therefore you should try to learn as much as possible to help you make good financial decisions and to increase your confidence about money.

When you make a budget, it should be realistic regarding your income and spending habits. Be sure to include all of your income such as alimony, child support, rental income, or any other. Always use your net income not your gross earnings in these calculations. Once you have the numbers, you can consider how to adjust your spending to stay within your income range. To maintain your budget never exceed your incoming cash flow.

The next step is to total up your expenses, and you should make a list of all monthly expenses. Your list should document each and every expense that you have whether it expense, spontaneous or just a one time expense. Remember that this list needs to have a complete breakdown of your costs. Be sure to add in expenses that you have from restaurant dinners and fast food as well as grocery bills. Reduce expenses linked to your cars, such as gas and insurance. If you have payments that you make quarterly or less frequently, divide them up to reflect a monthly payment. Make sure you include incidental expenses, for instance, baby sitters or storage unit rentals. Try to have the most accurate list possible.

Now that you have a good idea of your income and expenditures, you can start planning a new budget. Look at each expenditure on your list, and decide what you could do without. If you normally buy coffee from a cafe, calculate how much money you would save on a weekly basis if you bought it from McDonald’s instead, or made it at home. Exactly what and how much you are willing to compromise is completely up to you. The first step is identifying expenses that are not necessary so you can use the money for something else.

If your utility bills are rising, you may want to upgrade your appliances to save some money. Upgrading to well-fitted double-glazed windows, for example, can reduce your heating bill dramatically. Besides you can repair any leaky pipes and only run the dishwasher with a full load.

Swap old, inefficient appliances for those that use less energy. Although doing so may cost you some money upfront, over the long-term you will save a fair penny on your utility bills. Unplug the appliances you do not need. In time you will notice significant savings in your energy consumption.

You can make a significant decrease in your heating and cooling bills by improving your insulation, as well as the roof above it. Insulation or roofing issues can be very costly, as maintaining a regular temperature in the home can be expensive. If you invest in the upgrades, it will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Using these tips not only saves you money, but it also helps you start bringing your budget under control. An expensive upgrade can save a lot of money in lowering electricity or water bills. This is one way that you can make your budget more reliable.

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