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Archive for June, 2009

Tweeting Stocks

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Nowadays, Twitter is used for everything. Traders are also using Twitter to let the world know what they are trading. I am sure at least some of them are trying to influence the trading behavior of others. Recently there is a lot of activity on stock related activity in Twitter. If you type a stock symbol, for example “AAPL“,  in twitter search box you will see all tweets related to that stock.

CNBC wrote an article about this with the title — “Day Trading 2.0“! Appropriate title, I believe.

Stocks have best quarterly gain in 10 years

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Though the stock market fell some today, stocks finished the second quarter with their strongest performance since 1998. The S&P 500 finished up about 15% for the quarter. The Dow gained about 12.3% for the quarter, and the NASDAQ was the strongest performer of them all, finishing the quarter up by more than 22%. Why such a strong quarter from the stock market? Opinions are mixed on this, but the truth is you have to take a look and see how far things had fallen prior to this quarter. The last quarter of 2008 was brutal, and though this quarter looks nice, it comes a long way from repairing the damage done in the stock market last year.

What does it mean for the average investor? For the average investor it simply means that your stocks are worth a fair amount more than they were three months ago, but don’t get too excited, since they are likely still worth far less than they were just a year ago. The market has been able to recoup a small amount of its losses because there have been signs that the economy could be finding a bottom.

Where will the market go from here? Obviously no one knows exactly where the market will go from here, and if they did they would be extremely rich. The truth is there is no way of telling if the current rally is simply a bear market rally or something more important. There are positive signs that things aren’t getting worse in the economy, but in order to get a real bull market going we are going to have to see real signs of economic growth upcoming. In the end the stock market can’t continue a huge run on simply news that isn’t as bad, rather it will need some news that things are turning the corner and corporate profits will benefit. The summer quarter is generally a tough one for stocks, so be cautious when investing right now since history isn’t on your side and the economic uncertainty is still abundant.

Five ways to save money grocery shopping

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Grocery shopping isn’t the most fun thing to do, but it is an essential for everyone. Grocery costs have gone up quite a bit in the past few years, and the average consumer has seen their normal bill at the grocery store rise substantially. The rise in the costs of groceries has come at the same time as a recession which is hurting the wallet of individuals everywhere.

Five ways to save money grocery shopping

  1. Cut out coupons- Clipping coupons from the newspaper or printing off coupons from online are definitely worth your time. In fact, buying an extra Sunday newspaper can be worth it, so you can get the extra amounts of coupons for a limited cost. Coupons add up in the long run.
  2. Price comparison shop- There is no reason why you can’t do some price comparing before you make your purchases. Far too many consumers simply buy their food and supplies at one store no matter the price, rather than searching for the best deal. Price comparison shopping is an absolute must!
  3. Look at the weekly advertisements- Many stores put out a weekly advertisement where they put a fairly lengthy list of products on sale for one week only, and shoppers can save a large amount from shopping using these advertisements. Make it a habit to look over the advertisements before going shopping.
  4. Make a grocery shopping list- Make a list before you go shopping and don’t deviate from that list. You can get yourself into trouble when you start buying things on impulse. Plan ahead and that will make it much easier to keep your costs down.
  5. Buy in bulk- With non-perishable items this is a no-brainer, but many people do not take advantage of it. If something such as canned goods or paper towels goes on sale make sure you buy ahead and save yourself from having to pay full price later.

In today’s economy saving money on grocery shopping is more important than ever. Use these five tips to help your bill be lower the next time you get to the cash register.

Four steps to finding the best online broker

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Are you looking for an online broker? There aren’t nearly as many online brokerages as there once were since there has been so much consolidation, but there are still plenty of options for investors. There are several things you should consider when looking for the best online brokerage, and some of them have to do with your particular situation.

Four Steps to Finding the Best Online Brokerage

  1. Clear cut fees- All online brokers are going to have fees, but you shouldn’t have to deal with fees that you don’t know about or that aren’t explained clearly to you. Before signing up for any kind of brokerage account make sure you understand the fees associated with having an account there.
  2. Phone access- Even in today’s modern world there are times when the servers will go down and your account will not be accessible via the Internet, but if you have phone access through your online brokerage you can still make a trade or check your portfolio.
  3. Quality Research Tools- Maybe this isn’t a must since you can get stock or mutual fund research information from other sources, but it certainly is nice to have a brokerage that offers top research tools. Some of the top online brokers offer in depth research from many different sources such as Standard and Poors, Morningstar, and Value Line.
  4. Great Customer Service- Customer service is a huge deal in this business, so make sure the brokerage you are choosing has solid customer service ratings from its customers. Eventually you will definitely have to deal with the customer service representatives at the brokerage and it is important that they be helpful and easy to deal with.

There are several services that give their list of top online brokerages; such as Smart Money, Kiplinger, and Barron’s. Use these as part of your guide to finding the best online brokerage for you and your situation.

How to Manage Unpaid Hospital Bills?

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Are you overwhelmed by the medical debt you have accumulated? If so, you are not alone. Many people find themselves unable to pay hefty hospital bills. Unfortunately, medical debt can affect your credit history especially if the hospital decides to refer your case to a collection agency.

How can you manage unpaid hospital bills?

First, get a clear idea of how much you owe. This should be easy. Just ask someone from the hospitals billing department to send you a detailed bill of the services you have received and the cost of service. Details such as cost of tests, scans, and doctor’s fees should also be included in the itemized bill. Once you receive the detailed bill, verify it and make sure it is correct.

Next, think about a plan that would allow you to repay the outstanding amount without getting you in a financial bind. The best thing to do would be to try and negotiate a plan with the hospital. Explain your financial situation to them and work out a plan that permits you to pay off your debt in installments. Remember to be honest and practical about the amount you can pay each month. Ask the concerned authorities about any late fees or miscellaneous you will have to pay so that it does not come as a surprise.

Once you have worked out a plan, try and pay your installments on time. You can either pay in person or by check or online.

Demand that the hospital provides you a receipt for every payment you make. Keep the receipts safely so that you have ample proof that the bills have been paid. You can also ask the hospital to give you a statement mentioning that your bills have been cleared.

If you cannot afford to pay in installments, try and seek help from charities. Several charities are willing to help those who genuinely require financial aid with their hospital bills. Search the internet for charities which offer financial help with medical bills. Medical Billing Advocates of America is one such charity. There are several others which you can approach.

Some people choose to declare bankruptcy in their efforts to get relief from hospital bills. Try your best not to do this. Bankruptcy is sure to be on your credit record for a long time and this will not create a good impression with those who run a background check on you. For instance, you may need to get one done while looking for a job.

Similarly, mortgaging your house or paying off your hospital bills with your credit card is not a good idea. You will have to pay interest while repaying the debt. Medical bills do not charge interest so by choosing to pay it though mortgage or credit card; you will be spending money unnecessarily. Moreover, you will be paying an even bigger amount than you would if you negotiated with the hospital directly. Also you will be putting your home or property at risk.

Debt collection agencies are another hassle you will have to deal with if you have unpaid hospital bills. You can ask debt collectors to verify your debt before they contact you so that you get some time to arrange for payment. You can also request them not to contact you while you work out a suitable medical debt repayment plan.

Clearing medical debt requires a good deal of patience and negotiation from your side and from the hospital authorities. You can work out a plan together that works fine for both parties.

Federal Reserve Statement Disappoints Many Investors

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The Federal Reserve Board announcement today was that there will be no change at all in its policy from it’s previous policy statement. The Federal Reserve said it will keep interest rates at the unprecedented rate of zero to 0.25% for the foreseeable future, saying it would “keep interest rates low for  an extended period.” The Fed also said that it will continue its previously announced Treasury buys to try to bring more confidence to the marketplace and stimulate the economy. Treasury market investors were actually fairly disappointed today, as some had expected the Fed to announce an increase in the amount of purchases it would be making.

Stock traders were also fairly disappointed with the Federal Reserve announcement because of the lack of changes. The fact that there was no change in the federal funds rate was expected, but the lack of any kind of additional stimulus news or details on what the Federal Reserve may do to help the economy exit this deep recession did shock quite a few people. It seems that the statement was taken as just continuing with the status quo, and many traders and strategists on the street wonder whether that will be good enough to help the economy move higher.

In fairness to the Federal Reserve, it is in a very tight box right now. The Fed has taken heat from many about fiscally irresponsible, and is trying to stay within its boundaries as best as possible while still responding in a firm way to a major economic crisis.  Over time if changes need to take place I certainly hope the Fed will be quick to respond to an economy that changes on a daily basis. For now it seems that the Federal Reserve believes that things are getting better very slowly, and that the current course is the right course for this economy.

*If you would like to read the full text of today’s FOMC Monetary Policy Statement Click Here*

Second Fiscal Stimulus? Not yet says Obama.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Over the past few weeks there has been growing amounts of chatter in Washington that there may be a need for a second fiscal stimulus plan to bolster the economy. Today President Obama weighed in on that issue publicly for the first time. President Obama said that he believes a second fiscal stimulus is not yet needed, and that we need to wait and see how effective the first stimulus plan is before taking any further action. Obama also said that he does believe the unemployment rate in the United States will top 10%, but he believes it is premature to think about a second stimulus package.

There is an interesting debate raging in Washington and all across the country right now regarding the stimulus plans and how useful they have been or will be. Many Republicans are saying that the Obama stimulus plan is proving to be very ineffective and that the debt our country is going into will be a crushing blow to our children and even their children. The administration has responded by saying that it believes without the stimulus things would have been even worse than they currently are, and that the stimulus plan results are still to be seen.

For now it seems that a second stimulus plan will not occur. I believe that is a good thing. I understand the need to stimulate the economy, but I also believe that the government should take a long-term look at the debt that our country is getting into as well and realize that there will be a price to pay for endless spending of funds. While many representatives are pushing for another stimulus because they believe their constituents want it, they should consider the long-term health of our economy as a whole as well. In the end we can’t just throw endless amounts of taxpayers money into stopping the recession, rather there must be a new plan or course of action taken. The results of the first stimulus are yet to be seen, but I believe it is a positive that the government is avoiding a second stimulus at this time.

Four reasons to limit the number of credit cards you have

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Credit cards can be great as long as you use them properly and take advantage of the rewards they offer, but you should keep the number of cards you have to a minimum. As an individual your goal should be to be that credit card holder that the credit company hates because you pay off your entire balance in full every month on time. Obviously the credit card company makes the big money off of people who constantly are paying interest on their debts, but you don’t want to be one of those people! Why should you keep the number of cards in your wallet or purse to a minimum? Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Simplicity- Put quite simply, the less credit cards you have to keep track of the easier it will be for you to pay the bill on time and take the proper steps necessary to minimize debts you may owe. Easier tracking of when to pay and easier to stay away from fraud and theft.
  2. Less addictive- As strange as it may sound to many, credit cards can become very addictive if you have too many of them. Those who overuse credit cards and have a card from each store they shop in are much more likely to become addicted to spending money using that plastic.
  3. Maximize Rewards- The best way to maximize the rewards out of your credit card is to have less cards and be able to build up more points over time. Too many cards leads to spreading the points out and not getting the impressive rewards.
  4. The Fine Print- Credit cards come with fine print, that’s just the way they are. A salesperson can make a certain card sound perfect, but it has fine print and if you continue to rack up card after card you are bound to get burned sooner or later.

Credit cards can be a great thing if used properly, but you should never “marry” the plastic in your wallet or purse. Find a top credit card offer and signup for one of the best credit cards, and try to maximize your benefits from that.

Five tips for getting the best CD rate

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Getting a good return on deposit options such as certificates of deposits is next to impossible now, but as a wise investor of your money you must do everything you can to maximize your results, even if they are smaller than what you would hope for them to be. I wanted to give the average individual some guidance on ways to find the best CD rates available to you.

Five ways to find the best cd rates

  1. Check Bankrate.com for the best CD rates locally- This is a good place to start your search. The lists that Bankrate provides are less exhaustive in that they sometimes don’t include the smallest of banks, but it’s a good place to begin and get a baseline for normal rates.
  2. Call Around to all the Local Banks– This is a must for all who want to get the best CD rate. Banks don’t always advertise the very best of their cd rates, so you need to call around and ask for the very best they have. Be proactive to get the highest yield possible.  
  3. Look for odd numbered months and rate specials- The banks know that most people who come in will simply ask for a common time period such as one year or six months, so they will almost never make their rate specials on those common time periods. You’ll often find  the best cd rate specials for periods such as 7 months, 13 months, etc.
  4. Pay attention to the economy- Why do you need to pay attention to the economy? If you know the economy is starting to head down, it’s a good time to lock in interest rates for a long time. If the economy is beginning to head up and the Fed is set to raise rates, settle for very short-term rates.
  5. Consider non-traditional banks- Online banks, insurance company banks, and other non-traditional banks often have the best cd rates. If you are willing to open up and look in these areas you’ll probably find a better high yielding cd than you will at your local bank.

CD rates will fluctuate over the years, but as a wise investor you must use these tips to find the best one in every single environment. Be proactive and earn that money over time.

Three signs of an investment scam

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The sad truth of the matter is in today’s economy scams are becoming more numerous by the day, and investment scams are one of the fastest growing types of scams. Why do stocks lend themselves to scammers trying to take advantage of people? It’s quite simple really, stocks are held by investors who are  looking to make money and those scammers are feeding on the need for the consumer to make money. Where there are investors looking to make huge returns there are scammers that are promising those unrealistic returns.

Three Major Signs of an Investment Scam

  1. Unrealistic promises- This is definitely the easiest way to look for a stock scam. Scammers often sell their investment services as bring a “guaranteed” return of a huge amount, or tout an average return which is clearly not attainable. Don’t fall for these ridiculous figures, rather be realistic and understand that this is a very bad sign.
  2. No clear strategy- Always make sure you have a clear understand of what kind of strategy is going to be used to try to help your investment portfolio. Investment scammers are good at glossing over the facts and the details of exactly how they will make your investment grow. If you don’t understand how they will make you money, you shouldn’t be investing with them.
  3. No risk involved- Any real investment manager understands that there is always risk involved in putting your money into investments such as stocks, mutual funds, and other similar assets. There is no such thing as an investment in stocks that comes without risks. As soon as you hear “no risk involved,” head for the exits.

Investment scams can be difficult to pick up on because these schemes can be very well thought out. When investing your money remember that investing is a very serious task that requires plenty of homework and thorough research. There is no “simple” method of growing your money through investing.

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