Freedom Blog

Articles About Money

Introducing FreedomPlus

Posted in: Money

FreedomPlus-logo

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that our sister company, FreedomPlus, will  be offering consolidation loans of up to $35,000.

Whether you want to lower your monthly payment or reduce your interest rate, a personal loan from FreedomPlus could help.

The unique process enables FreedomPlus to:

  • Make personal loans available to a wider range of people
  • Offer a simple and private application process
  • Provide lower interest rates than most other credit alternatives
  • Reduce repayment cost through reasonable installment plans

FreedomPlus loans are funded by Freedom Financial Asset Management, an asset management company for accredited institutional accounts that want exposure to consumer lending. The company is a subsidiary of Freedom Financial Network (FFN) which specializes in providing comprehensive consumer advocacy services through its FreedomPlus, Consolidation Plus, Freedom Debt Relief and Freedom Tax Relief products.

To get a free, no-obligation loan quote, call 800-368-0061 or visit FreedomPlus.com to see if you qualify!

What Will You Do With Your Tax Refund?

Posted in: Money

Tax day is almost here, and many people are eagerly waiting for their refunds from Uncle Sam. However, it’s important to take stock of your financial situation before making any decision on how to use your tax refund this year.

Take our poll today: What will you do with your tax refund?

online poll by Opinion Stage

Frugal Habits of an Immigrant Family

Posted in: Money

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Over the weekend, I was able to meet up with my good friend, Wendy, who I hadn’t seen since college.

During our conversation, we talked about how immigrant families tend to save money at much higher rates than many Americans. This is certainly true for Wendy, and she feels that the reason she saves so much is because she maintains the “immigrant mentality” towards money.

Knowing that I write for the Freedom Debt Relief blog, she agreed to share her story with our readers.

“Hi, my name is Wendy, and I’m an ethnic Karen from Burma. Even though it feels like so long ago, I remember that my childhood was pretty happy. My family was poor by American standards, but I felt normal because everyone around me came from similar economic backgrounds.

In 2006, my family fled our village because there was increasing violence and persecution. After briefly staying along the Thailand border, we made the big move to the United States and found shelter as refugees.

The early years were hard – I still remember how worried my parents were about money and how they would try to save every penny. As their daughter, it was tough to experience the constant financial struggle, but I followed their lead and learned to never be wasteful.

My family never bought anything fancy, and we hardly even ate out. Sure – sometimes, I would get jealous if people had material things that I wanted. However, for the most part, it taught me to find fulfillment in family, friends, and other things that truly matter.

I think it must be this refugee/immigrant mentality that shaped me to be the way that I am today. Maybe it just makes me feel more secure – I save as though I have no job and no home. To this day, I still put at least 50% of my paycheck into savings. 

You just never know what tomorrow will bring, and I want to make sure I’m OK if anything bad were to ever happen again.”

Retire Your Debt Before You Retire

Posted in: Money

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In just a generation, the retirement landscape has changed dramatically.

Before, most middle-class families were able to save enough money during their working years to live with dignity in their retirement days. Many paid off their homes, got rid of all their debts, and retired with pensions from their employers. Even if all else failed, they could usually rely on Social Security to make ends meet.

These days, many people near retirement age have little to no savings and too much debt to even think about retiring. It’s bad enough that baby boomers carry mortgage debt into retirement instead of paying it off beforehand. However, they often have student loans and other kinds of debt too. This challenges their ability to retire the way they want to, or even to retire at all.

If you are nearing retirement age, make sure you get your financial house in order before you make the jump.

Ditch the student loans.
You can help your child with his/her tuition when they are young – but not when you’re about to retire. Don’t delay making retirement contributions in order to help pay for their college debt. As a parent, it’s tempting to want to help, but remember – these are their loans. Teach your kids to take full responsibility, and have them pay it down on their own. Then, move your money over to retirement savings instead.

Get rid of unsecured debt.
Ideally, you’ll head into retirement with no debt at all. However, if you have various types of debt to deal with, try to focus on the ones with the highest interest first (i.e. credit cards, car loans, etc.). If it is too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Sometimes, having the right partner on your side can be the difference between success and failure. Resolve your debt now, and your future self will thank you for it.

Prepare a retirement budget.
Don’t just estimate how much money you’ll need in retirement. Create an actual budget and spending plan. You need to give yourself an idea of what your expenses will be like when you are not working. Some costs may come down (i.e. commuting costs) but others may rise. You need to account for everything you plan to do in retirement. For instance, will you be traveling? Aside from covering the day-to-days basics, you may also need to set aside some funds for leisure in your golden years.

The better you plan now, the more financially secure you will feel when you actually retire.

Famous Frugal Person: Mariska Hargitay

Posted in: Money

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Celebrity and thriftiness usually do not go hand-in-hand. However, some stars have the best of both worlds. They make millions but still possess the financial knowledge and discipline to keep their fortunes.

Today, our famous frugal person is Mariska Hargitay. You know her from the popular TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Even though Forbes once estimated that Mariska makes $8.5 million per year, she is known to be very sensible with how she spends her money.

Mariska even admitted, “I make a lot now, but I don’t feel that way, because I was poor and had no money for a lot longer than I’ve had it. As an actor, if the show ends next year, then what? As an aging woman, then what? I’m saving money to live on, for the future. There are not that many roles for women, and I’ve been blessed with one of the great ones.”

Her frugality seems deeply ingrained in her sensibility, and she knows not to take her fortune for granted.

I applaud Mariska Hargitay for her maturity, being able to look at things in the long term and recognize that life is unpredictable. Fortune is fickle.

Celebrity or not, wealthy or poor, that’s a quality that will keep us grounded and help us stay in charge of our finances.

Things You Do To Save Money That End Up Costing You

Posted in: Money

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When I was younger, my parents tried to teach me the value of the dollar and the importance of saving. They would say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to work hard and earn every penny. If you save today, you’ll be able to put aside enough money to buy something you really want.” So that’s exactly what I did.

Now as an adult, one of my greatest sources of pride is being smart with my money. I budget wisely and am diligent about monitoring my accounts, but up until recently, I didn’t realize there were still ways I was wasting money. I’ve discovered some of the things people do to save money that end up costing them more in the long run. Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of most of them!

Not having health insurance
If you’re relatively healthy and don’t visit the doctor often, you may think you don’t need health insurance. However, if an accident were to ever occur or you became sick, having health insurance may save you from financial disaster. In my opinion, it’s better to have that peace of mind.

Doing your own taxes
Some people do their own taxes because they think it’s cheaper than hiring a professional. However, if you don’t do it correctly, you could end up owing more than you expect. I’m not saying that you can’t do your own taxes, but in some cases, you may save money by going with a professional.

Buying cheap stuff
I try not to buy things I don’t need, but I certainly love getting good deals. However, I’ve made the mistake, on several occasions, of confusing what is cheapest for what is the best value. Several years ago, I bought a coffee maker for $10. What a great deal, right? Well, I thought so, until it broke 3 weeks later. Instead of saving $30 by foregoing a higher quality coffee maker, I wasted $10 by buying a crappy one instead.

Stocking up on groceries
Think buying in bulk will save you money? It may if you shop for a family of four. For a single person, you may actually waste more money. Unless you plan your meals carefully, you could end up tossing a lot of the food away. What a waste!

Driving around for cheaper gas
Driving, especially when you live in a big city, can be very expensive. You may think you’ll save money by driving around for better gas prices, but most of the time, you just end up wasting time, burning gas, and not really saving that much money.

Wasting utilities
I try to be mindful about not wasting utilities, but there are still times when I forget. It’s not just about saving money, it’s about conservation too. Just remember, if the lights are on in a room you’re not sitting in, you’re wasting money. Use only what you need, and don’t be excessive in your utility usage.

If you’re looking to save some money, keep these things in mind. It can help you save some serious cash in the long run. You may not be guilty of the items listed above, but there may be ways you can trim your spending.

 

20 Something’s Biggest Money Fears

Posted in: Money

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For the most part, being in your twenties is pretty cool. You’ve escaped the awkwardness of your teenage years, earned some new-found freedoms, and now have your whole life ahead of you to shape and mold into what you want it to be.

It’s a decade of growth and discovery – one where you will learn to navigate relationships, careers, and dreams. This time of change can be exciting, but at the same time, it can also be a bit stressful.

Out of all the things that stress out millennials, finances typically tops the list. Here are some of the biggest money fears that 20 somethings face and how they can overcome them.

1. Where and How to Get Started
Personal finance isn’t something that many people learn about in the classroom. Though you can take money management classes, it generally isn’t offered in school as a prerequisite to graduation. As a result, many millennials aren’t sure what to do when they get into the real world. My Advice: Start with step 1 of creating a financial plan by defining your goals. Is there something specific that you want to achieve (i.e. pay off your car in 6 months)? Where do you want to be in X number of years? By setting clear goals, you can figure out how much money you need to save and what you need to do in order to get there.

2. Dealing With Student Loan Debt
Higher education is often correlated with better jobs and higher salaries. Going to college is a personal investment for the future, so even though it’s expensive, many people feel the costs are justifiable. However, even with a degree in hand, it can be daunting to tackle student loans, especially in today’s competitive job market. You’ll need to take note of how much you owe, select a repayment option that works for your financial situation, and be diligent about taking care of your student loan debt.

3. Not Making “Enough Money”
“Enough money” is a relative term. What may be sufficient for one person may not meet the needs of another. Regardless of location or life stage, one worry that many 20 something year-olds have is not being able to make enough money to be independent and achieve the things they want in life. For example, many people want to be able to purchase a home by a certain age. This can be a great goal to work towards – to own a home that you can afford. However, don’t jeopardize your financial situation to buy/keep a house that is out of your budget. It just isn’t worth it!

4. Not Being Able to Retire
Life expectancy is higher these days, and when you do the calculations, you may be shocked to see how much you’d need to save in order to retire. It’s daunting to feel that you’d need to work well into your golden years before that can happen, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Even though retirement may seem far away for people in their twenties, they have an advantage: time is on their side. Though it may feel like putting money into retirement savings is cutting into current cash flow, you need to remember that your future financial security is largely dependent on what you do now. It’s never too early (or too late) to start saving for retirement.

Dealing with money issues can be stressful, but with a good plan in place, you’ll set yourself up for financial success. No matter what age you are, it’s time to take control of your finances, practice smart money management, and wave goodbye to your money fears once and for all.

What’s Your Spending Style?

Posted in: Money

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Trying to clean up your finances in 2014?

When you understand your emotional approach to money, it can help you manage your finances more effectively. Take this short quiz to discover what triggers you to spend, and uncover your real attitude towards money!

You just got your paycheck. Where is the money going?
A. Make plans to go to Happy Hour with my friends.
B. Pay for “needs” first before spending the rest on “wants”.
C. Pay off my debts.
D. It’s going straight into my savings account.

If you buy something on impulse, you feel:
A. Fantastic! There’s no high like a purchase high.
B.  Happy but a little nervous because I know I can’t afford it.
C. A little reckless but I have the money to pay for it.
D. I rarely do this and start having buyer’s remorse the moment I leave the store.

What do you spend the most on?
A. Entertainment – everything from trips to concerts to eating out.
B. Things that my friends and family enjoy.
C. Paying off my debts.
D. Monthly mortgage payments on a house I can afford.

What do you generally do for lunch?
A. Hit up my favorite sushi spot.
B. Grab a sandwich from the corner café.
C. Bring leftovers, but if co-workers suggest eating out, I always go.
D. Brown-bag it. I can save approximately $40 per week!

How are you saving for retirement?
A. What retirement? I can’t think about what’s going to happen so far in the future.
B. I’ll do it myself and just save a bit here and there.
C. I’m enrolled in my company’s 401(k) program, but I don’t know exactly how much I’m saving.
D. I’ve got it covered: 401(k), Roth IRA, a high-interest savings account, etc.

When it comes to saving money:
A. I don’t have enough money, so obviously I can’t put any of it into savings.
B. It’s very difficult. I need to take care of my debt problem first.
C. I try to save regularly, but I know I should be saving more.
D. It’s become second nature. I want to be prepared for whatever life throws at me.

How do you feel about your finances?
A. It’s not something I like to think about. I have an “ignorance is bliss” attitude.
B. I worry about money issues and how I’m going to pay the bills.
C. Money isn’t everything. As long as I have enough to get by, I’ll be fine.
D. I feel secure about my financial situation, but there’s always room for improvement.

This best describes your attitude toward credit:
A. I’ve never known life without debt. How am I supposed to survive without credit?
B. I overuse credit but I’m still able to make my minimum payments.
C. I have debt and am trying to live on cash and debit cards only.
D. I pay off my credit cards on time and in full each month.

 

Mostly A’s: Reckless Spender
You may be in serious financial trouble! You love the rush of spending money and believe that life is too short – so just enjoy it and live in the moment. However, there’s a high price to pay for living above your means. It may be beneficial for you to consider getting some professional debt help.

Mostly B’s: Imprudent Spender
You worry about money, but you aren’t taking the necessary steps to actually improve your situation. Temptation often gets the best of you, and you end up make money choices that you later regret. You’re not sure what to do, but it’s essential that you start being proactive about managing your finances.

Mostly C’s: Conscientious Consumer
You are cautious about how you spend your money, but you don’t keep track of where every cent goes.  You may carry some debt, and though you’d like to pay it off, you’re not overly worried about it. You’re more focused on living within your means.

Mostly D’s: Savvy Saver
You like to be in control and are usually on track with your finances. You take the time to weigh out your options before making decisions. Your spending style may be more conservative, but you believe it can help prevent financial mistakes down the road.

 

The Worst Financial Mistakes

Posted in: Money

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None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes at some point, including financial ones. The point is to learn from them and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. When I look at all the common money mistakes that people make when handling finances, there are five that end up hurting us the most in the long run.

1. Not having an emergency fund and relying on credit cards to get by.
If you do this once or twice, you should be able to pay back your debt fairly quickly. However, if it becomes a habit, you will quickly rack up a large amount of debt. Too many households are living paycheck to paycheck, so if disaster strikes, it could cause financial devastation. You never know what curve balls life will throw at you – that’s why it’s extremely important to build an emergency fund. Credit cards should only be used when you are able to pay them off in time and in full each month.

2. Putting off saving for retirement.
The majority of people who contribute to their retirement accounts have just one regret: not saving earlier! It’s true – the earlier you start to save, the better. When you are in your twenties and still have a ways to go before you can retire, it’s hard to get motivated about putting money away. However, if you start making regular contributions to your account, your money will have a longer period to grow, providing you added financial security when it’s time to retire.

3. Paying off debt with retirement savings.
Yes, it is extremely important to get debt under control. However, you may want to think twice about borrowing from retirement savings. It’s hard enough to build these accounts in the first place, so if you take money out, it’s pretty likely that you won’t pay it back. Even the most disciplined savers will have a hard time rebuilding these accounts.

4. Trying to save money by dropping health insurance.
If you’re relatively young and healthy, you may not feel that you need insurance. You think, if you don’t buy insurance, you can save yourself a good chunk of money. However, medical conditions are always unexpected. There are years when you may not visit the doctor at all, but there may be other years when you have to go regularly. Life is unpredictable, and health insurance gives you peace of mind and protects you from coming out of the hospital with a huge load of debt.

5. Not having a budget or financial plan.
Regardless of whether you have debt or not, you need to create a sound budget and have a financial plan. You need to know what you are currently doing with your money so that you can make necessary changes to improve your financial future.

It takes most people a long time to build significant wealth, but it doesn’t take very long to lose it. It usually isn’t one decision – more so a collection of choices that bring financial issues. To avoid major pitfalls, start tracking your money, planning for emergencies, and have a plan for what you want to achieve. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.

Earn Extra Cash for the Holidays

Posted in: Money

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Regardless of whether you’re buying gifts this year, the holidays can be a great time to pick up extra work and earn more cash. If you’re looking to make some money for holiday purchases or just want to boost your income, here are a few ways to get you started.

1. Sell your stuff.
Have some things that you want to get rid of? Host a garage sale or post your gently used items online. It may be just the thing that someone else is looking for. As a famous rapper likes to say, “One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up.” Besides, clearing out your home will help you de-clutter, while putting more money in your wallet.

2. Work in retail.
People go into shopping overdrive during the holidays, and many retailers need additional staff to accommodate the higher traffic. That’s why there are usually lots of seasonal job openings. It’s only temporary, so you should be able to find something that works within your schedule.

3. Freelance.
If you have a marketable skill like writing, graphic design, or web development, you may want to think about doing some freelance work to pad your finances. There are clients who may be willing to pay for your services. In many cases, you can determine your own schedule and work from the comforts of your own home.

4. Do odd jobs.
Don’t mind doing various things here and there? Sites like TaskRabbit are perfect for people looking to earn extra money by helping others do random tasks (clean house, run errands, fix plumbing issues, etc.). Or you can apply to be a Lyft driver, so long as you don’t mind having a fluffy, pink mustache attached to the front of your car!

5. Do odder jobs.
If that’s too boring for you, or you simply have a quirky, specialized service to offer, you can advertise it on sites like Fiverr. Example – get paid to write someone’s name on rice, sing “Happy Birthday” in 10 different languages, or beatbox a holiday message! It may sound a bit odd, but it can also be a lot of fun.

6. Sell hand-made goods.
Are you good with crafts? Perhaps you’re amazing at making origami! Post your hand-made goods on sites like Etsy. I’ve seen people selling everything from reusable sandwich bags and fuzzy leg warmers, to ocean driftwood collected from the beach. You never know – buyers are in the market for all sorts of things!

So long as you’re willing to put in some effort, there are plenty of ways to earn extra cash for the holidays (or for the rest of the year)! Have fun, be creative, and let us know your ideas for supplementing income this season.

 

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