blog, John J. Bowman Jr Accountant, John J. Bowman Jr. Accountant, personal finance

Improving a FICO Score in Four Steps

A high FICO score can unlock many doors for consumers, including the doors to low mortgage interest rates, attractive credit card offers, and zero-interest car loans. A low FICO score, however, keeps many of those entrances locked and creates a far more expensive borrowing experience. To improve a credit score and gain access to all the benefits afforded, borrowers can try these steps.

Paying bills before the due date

Over one-third of a FICO score is determined by a borrower’s compliance (or lack thereof) with payment due dates. Thus, when a creditor pays a bill late, it is reported to the credit bureaus and can have a devastating impact on a credit score. Paying bills early and maintaining automatic bill pay through a bank can help ensure consistent, timely payments and remove the risk of garnering a low score due to late payments.

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The Differences Between CFAs and CPAs

CFAs and CPAs may sound like the same thing, but their responsibilities differ. For people who are not familiar with the financial and investment industries, the differences between the two may not be that clear. While CFAs and CPAs are both financial professionals, these individuals travel along different educational and professional paths.

What is a CFA?

A CFA, or chartered financial analyst, analyzes financial reports. Such reports include financial statements revolving around wealth planning and mutual and hedge funds.

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Debunking Personal Finance Myths

Personal finance is one of the most fundamental topics and aspects of our individual lives. Much has been said regarding how to practice good personal finance practices. Unfortunately, some of the information available out there is rooted in misconception. Here is an overview of some of the commonly perpetuated myths about personal finance.

“To make an investment, you need to be rich”

This misconception is based on the fact that most investments today are capital-intensive. One does not, however, have to be rich to successfully establish a business, as there are numerous options to source for startup capital. In addition, one can start a successful business with minimal savings and gradually advance the investment portfolio.

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Choosing Between a 401(k) and Roth IRA

When it comes to retirement savings, two of the more popular vehicles are the 401(k) and the Roth IRA. Both are tax-advantaged retirement accounts, but there are significant differences. Depending upon your specific situation, you may find that one fits your needs better than the other.

What are the savings limits?

For workers who haven’t yet reached age 50, it’s possible to save as much as $19,000 in a 401(k) as of 2019. Those who have passed 50 can save an additional $6,000 as a catch-up contribution. Depending upon their age, those who want to save in a Roth IRA can save $6,000 or $7,000 per year. Both are great savings vehicles, but those who are looking to max out their savings would most benefit from using a 401(k).

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Finance Tips for the Holiday Season

The holiday season can get pretty expensive. Starting with candy and costumes for family and neighbors in October, followed by a feast of food in November and all of the gifts, gatherings, and extras around the winter holiday season, bills can really add up. Unfortunately, your wallet may not be able to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are several ways to help you save money while still allowing you to delight in the magic and wonder of the holidays.

Set a budget

It’s easy to spend money when you don’t try to set a cap on how much you’re allowed to spend. Without a budget, you’ll be more likely to overspend. Sit down and work numbers before even setting foot in a store so you know exactly how much you have to spend. On average, people spend around $704 during the holiday season, but that is all dependent on an individual’s personal financial situation.

Do your research

Everyone is going to be advertising that they have the best deal on a specific product during the holiday season. It’s up to you to do your homework and see who’s actually telling the truth. You can comparison shop right from the comfort of your own home by looking up prices online. That way, you’ll know you’re getting the best deal.

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Budget-Friendly Features of Autumn Travel

While it may not feel like it in some parts of the country, the summer season has officially come to an end. This means that the comfortable temperatures and beautiful colors of autumn will be here in no time. One of the best ways to celebrate the turning of the seasons is by going on a nice vacation. These are the three ways you will save money when traveling in autumn.

Reduced Travel Cost

The most expensive part of going on vacation is the cost of getting to and staying at the destination. You will be able to greatly save on these costs by traveling in autumn. Since families are unable to travel with the kids back in school, airlines and hotels are forced to reduce their rates to entice travelers. Many people believe winter is the off-season for traveling, but airline tickets are actually cheapest in the month of October. Travel costs start to go up in the winter because of poor weather conditions and the holiday season.

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Drafting a Personal Spending Rulebook

If you’ve never given much thought to personal finance, there’s no time like the present to do so. A personal spending rulebook is a great way to get started on saving and proper spending. If you want to be a smarter spender, these tips will make personal finance easier to learn.

Use Tried-and-True Methods

Anyone who has looked into personal finance has likely encountered the 50-30-20 Rule. Its popularity stems from its simplicity, making it ideal for people of all incomes and financial know-how. The numbers correspond with what percentages of your income should go where. According to the rule, 50% of your income should go to living expenses and other necessities, including rent, utilities, and food. 30% of your income counts as “flexible spending,” money to be used however you please for entertainment and non-essential travel. The last 20% should go towards savings or loan payments. While the percentages are flexible, avoid exceeding 20% or 30% limits for financial goals and flexible spending, respectively.

Categorize Purchases

It’s easy to see how much you spend each month, but that looking at the big picture doesn’t help on its own. Dive deep into your spending habits by categorizing the purchases you make. Basic categories include “necessities” such as rent, “loans,” “food,” and “entertainment.” Additionally, you can create subcategories to explore your habits more. “Food” can be split down further into “groceries” and “snacks,” depending on what and when you purchase. These categories explain what you’re purchasing and how much, and can be used to set individual limits on specific spending habits.

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Why You’re Overspending (And How to Stop)

Compare your monthly income with your monthly spending. Do you notice a glaring discrepancy? Are your earnings in the red? Can’t figure out how you spent hundreds on groceries? You aren’t alone. Overspending is easy to do, and purchases can accumulate in the blink of an eye. Here are some reasons why you’re overspending and advice on how to stop.

You’ve fallen into a bad habit

Do you buy lunch at the deli down the street every day? This is just one example of a bad spending habit. It may be comfortable and convenient to make a daily or weekly purchase, but ten dollars per day, five days a week, four weeks a month equals $200 each month just for lunch.

The best way to remedy a bad spending habit is to ease yourself out of the habit. For the lunch example, try packing a meal most days each week, and only go out once a week or so as a special treat. You don’t have to quit anything cold-turkey, and easing yourself towards a better spending habit might inspire you to be more mindful of what you buy.

You ignore automatic payments

This one is easy to notice, especially if you subscribe to magazines and newspapers that clog your mailbox. Still, with the rise of streaming services and other digital subscriptions, you may not be keeping track of all the services you subscribe to. It’s easy to let automatic monthly payments slip through the cracks, but those payments are also an easy way to lose money.

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4 Reasons People Accumulate Debt

22 trillion. That’s how many dollars the United States of America owes to world powers such as China. Debt can be a worrisome four-letter word, not just for the country as a whole, but for its independent cogs and gears as well. While the average American doesn’t owe $22 trillion of their own cash, debt is still a reality for many. Below are four ways debt can accumulate. Do you recognize any of these in your own life?

Credit cards

Plastic beats paper in the world of transactions; over the past several years, cash payments have increasingly given way to credit and debit card charges. And, while 90 percent of consumers still use cash for some purchases, the age of credit card swiping and chip reading draws closer. However, credit cards make it easier for consumers to purchase items, sans the lighter wallet. Credit card debt has steadily risen over the past five years, and it can be easy to fall down a rabbit hole of debt if paying by card is your preferred method of shopping.

Poor spending habits

We’ve all splurged on a snack at the grocery store or a newly-released book. While the occasional treat is fine, purchasing a treat every day is a red flag. Poor spending habits are easy to fall into and difficult to climb out of, particularly if you aren’t the only member of the household struggling to save. Taking time to learn how to manage money is vital for anyone who wants to avoid falling into debt. In fact, creating a personal spending rulebook can help you and your household members understand the impulses behind your spending and ways to avoid personal debt.

Gambling

Any casino from NYC to Vegas employs psychological and mathematical tactics to take your money. From the absence of windows and clocks to lengthy slot machine algorithms, casinos are practically vacuums for your wallet. Gambling disorder is officially recognized by the DSM-5 as a psychiatric concern, and the impact it has on one’s money is no joke. Avoiding the casino is a sure-fire way to not waste your money, and there are plenty of free ways to have fun.

Loans

From student loans to mortgages, this type of debt is often the least controllable. While one can practice appropriate spending and avoid gambling or credit card usage, loans are often necessary to move forward in life. In this case, the best strategy is to stay on top of the debt and follow a strict regime for saving up to pay them off.

This article was originally published at JBowmanAccountant.info.

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3 Things to Consider Before Investing in Stocks

As an increasing number of books, websites, and apps introduce the stock market to the general public, more people find the stock market to be accessible. Even though software and guides have streamlined the process, adequate research is essential for anyone hoping to get into the stock game. It’s crucial to keep numbers in mind, but nuggets of advice are equally important. Whether you’re a first-time investor or seasoned stock aficionado, the following three tips are important to keep in mind.

You have to set goals

Throwing your cash in random directions and hoping something sticks is the exact opposite of what a good investor should do. Look into the industries that interest you and seek out key players and up-and-coming competitors. Then, develop a strategy by deciding how much money you’ll invest total, and how much each investment will be. It’s best to start simpleif you don’t have much investing experience, which means you should stick to regular investments and establish a well-researched foundation. Once you’ve started that foundation, give yourself a timeframe before you check on those stocks again—as you’ll see in the next section, obsessing over the numbers is going to hinder you.

You have to keep a level head

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has maintained for years that the buy-and-hold strategy is the best option for any investor. Real-time updates cause dramatic fluctuations to the stock market. While sudden drops in stock rates are worrisome, a goal-focused investor should be safe, even if rates are down. This is especially key in the short-term, as split-second decisions can be dangerous for the success of an investor’s stock portfolio. A volatile market is one in which long-term negative changes come into play. A short-term downturn is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

You have to diversify your investments

Don’t just invest in a bunch of businesses from one industry. Check out a few industries and businesses of interest to you, and ask yourself whether they fit in with your overall goals and budget. A diverse portfolio reduces the overall effect of a downturn on your portfolio. This may not be doable early into your investing journey, but as your portfolio grows and your investing confidence improves, diversification is going to be important.

This article was originally published at JBowmanAccountant.org.

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