7 Fun Ways to Teach Children to Save

Posted on Monday 26 March 2012

1. It’s All in the Visuals

Children tend to be visual learners. Hang up a savings goal chart, like an empty thermometer or table, that they can fill in as they reach their goal. For older children, have them create a ‘Wish List’ of items they want with the cost included. These visual reminders will help encourage them to save their money instead of spending it immediately.

2. Field Trip!

Every child loves a good field trip. Tell them you are going to take them on a field trip to the bank and watch their eyes light up. Many banks, including TD Bank, offer a joint savings account option that the parent and child can open together. Let them come with you when you open this so they can be involved in every aspect of their money management. Have them deposit money with you on a regular basis, particularly when they receive money for birthdays or holidays.

As a treat for filling up their coin jars visit the Penny Arcade at your local TD Bank and let them cash in their coins for deposit into their savings account.  The interactive coin counting machine even offers the chance to win a prize!

–          Visit the Store Locator to find the nearest Penny Arcade.

3. Penny Pinching

Compare prices in stores or online to help teach your child to spot a great deal. When shopping with your child, check the sale and clearance sections first. Let them know they may find something on their wish list or a similar alternative for a better, less expensive price.

4. Let Them Pick Up the Tab

Spending Mom and Dad’s money is easy! Help them to develop a better relationship with money by having them use their own money to pay for the items they want. They’ll appreciate the hard work that goes into saving your own money.

5. Give them a “Job”

Teach them the value of hard work by working out a reasonable rate for chores or other odd jobs around the house. Using these rates, share with them how many working hours it would take in order to afford the items on their wish list.

6. Here’s the Game Plan

Play a board game customized for teaching children about money or make up your own game! For a list of recommended games, check out this article from About.com. You can also visit the TD Bank WOW! Zone game room for interactive computer games for your child.

7. Let’s Make a Deal

Make a deal with your child that you will match a percentage of the amount they save if the save consistently or reach a certain amount. This could be anything from a video game to their first car—it’s whatever works best for your family!

In lieu of a percentage, reward your child for great savings habits. Some experts say it is most effective to reward children with something non-material like an extra hour of TV-watching, a later curfew one night or a sleepover!

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
How to Find Investors for Your Business Idea

Posted on Thursday 22 March 2012

Having a good idea for a startup business is only the first step in earning money from it. The concept itself may be marketable, but if you don’t have enough money to start the business yourself, you’ll have to come up with a way to get investors interested in your idea. There are people with money to invest that make it a habit to keep their eyes and ears open for new ideas. It’s up to you to find them, and convince them to take a chance on you. Following are a few tips on how to find investors for your business idea.

Define Your Needs

The first thing you should do when you decide to seek out an investor for your business idea is to define your needs. Basically–how much money do you need? If it is only a small amount, then approaching family members or friends may be your best bet. Convincing your mom and dad, your brother-in-law, or your best friend from college, to invest in your idea could solve your financial problem and potentially make some money for everyone concerned–and it would be nice to keep that money among family and friends. However, if your idea calls for a great deal of cash up front in order to start up a new business, or to expand an existing one, then you may have to look beyond family and friends and find a venture capitalist.

Have a Plan

If you do decide to seek a venture capitalist–someone willing to invest in your business with the expectation of a reasonable return–probably the single most important thing you can do to attract one is to come up with a bona fide plan–a well thought out proposal showing how the business will be operated, and the means by which it will generate enough profit to make it worth their time, effort, and money. The business plan should include a breakdown of the expected expenses and proposed income for a selected period of time. It should also include all the material and inventory the business will need to operate, as well as projected earnings. The more detailed you make your plan, the better able you’ll be to convince a prospective investor to listen to you. Be realistic in laying out your plan. Hopefully, an investor will be convinced that you’ve thought of every conceivable problem, and have a solution to that problem. You may want to think about hiring a business advisor to help develop the plan.

Invest Your Own Money

When you’re trying to find an investor for your business idea, make sure you let people know that you intend to invest your own money, as well. This will show a potential investor that you’re serious enough about the venture to risk your own cash. They will realize that you’ll put in the time and effort it will take to make the business succeed, because if you don’t, you stand to lose your own money.

Show How Their Money Will be Used

When you approach a potential investor with your business plan, you should also have a plan in place to show them how their money will be used to make the business succeed. Basically, you’ll need to show an investor how their money will make the business better and more profitable. Your proposal should convince the investor that their influx of cash will provide the business with the opportunity to expand at a rate that will make it worth their while to supply the money. For instance, you could show them that their money will make it possible to find new customers, which will in turn lead to higher earnings. Or, you can show how their money will be used to reduce the cost of making your product, thereby creating a higher profit margin.

Expansion, Not Survival

When you’re trying to get an investor to give you money for your business, you should be able to make it clear that the funds will be used to expand the business, and increase profits, and not merely keep the doors open. Not many investors will jump on the bandwagon if they know their money will simply be used to pay existing bills. You would probably be better off trying to get a loan for that purpose. In order to entice investors to your business, they will need to be shown a clearly defined route to potential profit–otherwise there isn’t much incentive for them to risk their money.

Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes for BusinessInsurance.org.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
7 Finance Tips for Landlords

Posted on Monday 19 March 2012

Whether you’re new to the landlord game or have been around for awhile, you know that there are various things you must do in order to make sure your investment property pays off. You can’t simply buy a rental property and expect the money to roll in without a little planning–it takes work and dedication. Following are a few finance tips for landlords.

Check Out a Potential Renter

You will want to make sure your potential renters are reliable people who will pay their rent on time. Having tenants that you can trust will make your job as a landlord much easier. In order to make sure that the people who you accept as tenants are the type of people you would like to have living on your property, it may be necessary to do a background check. You can find out a great deal about a person simply by entering their name in an Internet search engine. Many facets of people’s lives are a matter of public record and are easily accessible. If you’re in doubt about a potential renter, you can either conduct a more in depth search yourself, hire a professional to do a detailed background investigation, or refuse to rent to the person.

Get a Signed Contract

Once you’ve determined that the person is going to be a reliable renter, you should have them sign a detailed contract that spells out the rules and regulations regarding your rental property. You should make sure the contract includes a specific amount for rent, a due date, a grace period, and specific penalties for late payments. The contract should also include a stipulation for paying the first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit. It should also include a term for the rental of your property–i.e. annual, month-by-month, or some other length of time agreed upon by you and the renter.

Keep the Place Up

A good way to make sure you are able to receive as much money as possible for your rental property is to perform routine maintenance on a regular basis. Make sure the sidewalks and driveways are kept clear and the building is in good repair. Curb appeal is just as important for a rental property as it is if you’re trying to sell a home–potential renters will judge your property based on how it looks. If you keep the place up, you will attract a better caliber of renter and will be able to charge as much as the market will bear.

Make It Safe

Another aspect of keeping the place up is to make sure the property is safe. Your tenants will no doubt feel secure if you install sufficient lighting in the parking areas and solar-powered lights along the sidewalks, which are not only attractive, but will ensure that visitors and residents don’t twist an ankle because they don’t know where the edge of the sidewalk is. Upgrading the locks on the doors by installing deadbolts and putting security bars on the windows will let your renters know that you care about their safety and will be willing to pay more for the extra security. Keeping hallways and stairways illuminated will also increase your renter’s safety.

Have Adequate Insurance

Carrying adequate insurance coverage on your rental property will undoubtedly pay for itself over a period of time. You will enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re protected in the event someone slips and falls in a stairway. Liability insurance is vital in today’s litigious society where people sue at the drop of a hat, and no matter how safe you try and make your property, there may come a time when someone gets hurt.

Provide Services

The more services you can offer your tenants, the higher the amount you can reasonably charge for rent. If you install a playground for kids, and keep it well maintained, it will add to the value of your property. Most people nowadays use the Internet on a regular basis. If you can offer a high-speed Internet connection as part of the rental price, you will be able to charge a bit more per month per unit, which should more than offset the price of the service. Supplying an onsite, modern laundry room also adds to the value of a rental unit.

Keep It Clean

Above all, you should make every effort to keep your property clean and well maintained. The better a place looks, the more appeal it will have to potential renters who want to make sure they’ll be comfortable and secure in their rental unit. Make sure the hallways and stairways are clean and well maintained, without obstructions. Keep the sidewalks and parking lots clear of snow or leaves, and make sure only authorized vehicles are using the lot.

Guest post from Chris Black. Chris writes about renting and renters insurance for RentersInsurance.com.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
10 Things That Will Hurt Your Credit Score

Posted on Thursday 15 March 2012

Your credit score is more significant than you may think, as it tells a great deal about you and what type of credit history you have. Lenders and creditors use your credit score to determine if you are worthy of a loan or credit card, so the better the number, the better chances you have of being approved. Just like there are multiple ways to increase your credit score, there are many ways to lower it as well. The following things will hurt your credit score and should be avoided if possible.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

Paying your bills late can greatly hurt your credit score, as your payment history has a very big impact on your number. Not only will paying your bills late hurt your credit score, it will also add annoying late fees onto your account. By paying your bills on time each month, you will keep your credit score up and avoid late fees.

2. Applying for Too Many Accounts

By applying for too many accounts over a short period of time, your credit score suffers. Whether the applications are for loans or credit cards, your credit score will be checked each and every time you submit an application. When a creditor or lender checks your credit score, it is known as an inquiry. Too many credit inquiries on your credit report can hurt your score and show lenders you are irresponsible when it comes to money and credit.

3. Defaulting on a Loan

When you stop paying on a loan, your account is in default. This can greatly hurt your credit score because you have not held up your end of the loan agreement. It also shows lenders and creditors that you are not ready to be responsible with your debt.

4. Having High Balances on Your Credit Cards

If you carry high balances on most of your credit cards, it can end up hurting your credit score. This is because a portion of your credit score is determined by what is known as credit utilization. Your credit utilization is basically how much debt you carry in relation to your credit limits. If your balances are all near their limits, it can lower your score and show that you are reckless with your credit cards.

5. Getting an Account Sent to Collections

Your credit score can suffer greatly if you get an account sent to collections. When you get an account sent to a collection agency, it means the original creditor is no longer going to pursue the debt. They hire a third-party agency to do the work for them, which means trouble for you. Not only will your credit suffer, but the collection agency will be very aggressive in trying to get their money.

6. Going Over Your Credit Limit

If you have credit cards, you should always try your best to avoid going over your credit limits. Charging more than what is available on your account can hurt your credit score tremendously, and can also tack large over-the-limit fees onto your account. Try to keep your balances far from their limits and you won’t have to worry about these issues.

7. Filing Bankruptcy

Filing bankruptcy will have a huge negative impact on your credit score, and it is easy to see why. When you file bankruptcy, most or all of your debt is forgiven or written off, meaning you will never have to pay what you owe. Try your best to be responsible with your debt and avoid taking on more than you can afford to pay.

8. Closing Old Credit Cards

Some people believe that closing out old or unused credit cards will help their credit score, but in reality it can actually hurt it. As long as your accounts are in good standing, you should keep them open for as long as you can. This will lengthen your credit history and show it is established, which can in turn boost your score.

9. Adding an Authorized User to Your Account

Most credit cards allow you to add an authorized user to your account. This means the authorized user has the same card privileges as you, which can often be risky. The authorized user has the potential to rack up charges without your knowledge, meaning your credit score can suffer greatly if charges are made recklessly. If you do happen to add an authorized user, make sure there are boundaries set immediately and a written agreement is in place.

10. Losing Your Home to Foreclosure

If you are facing foreclosure of your home, it is best to talk with your mortgage company to see if they are willing to work with you. Losing your home to foreclosure can greatly lower your credit score and hurt your chances of getting loans in the future, so try to avoid it all costs.

All of these things will hurt your credit score, so you should do your best to avoid them if you can. Try to maintain a responsible credit history and your credit score will stay at a desirable number, making it easier for you to be approved for loans and credit cards down the road.

Guest post from Riley Finnigan. Riley writes for Creditscore.net.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances
The Importance of Saving Early for Retirement

Posted on Tuesday 13 March 2012

This is a guest post by Ellen Davidson.  Ellen’s passion for reading, senior care and research studies has allowed her to pursue a career in writing. She is currently a staff writer for a Senior Living Information site.

In these tough economic times, the last thing about which many people are thinking is their retirement. With nearly 13 million Americans currently out of work, there is a large segment of the population that can not afford to save for retirement. In addition, many people who do have jobs have struggled to just make ends meet: real wages have hardly grown at all in the past decade.

These difficulties have been reflected by the subpar returns of the stock market: in the first decade of the 21th century, equities gave investors a negative rate of return and underperformed most other asset classes. Given that stocks are generally the focal point of any asset allocation strategy for retirement, these numbers are very discouraging for people who want to save for the future.

In fact, the numbers are so discouraging that many people simply don’t save for the future. Despite the advice of many financial experts, who advise people to save at least ten percent of their income, the personal savings rate in the United States is just 4.6 percent. The average 401(k) balance is only $71,500, which is far short of the goal that most people need to reach in order to retire. Even worse, a majority of all Americans have less than $25,000 in total savings, which makes the possibility of retirement nearly nonexistent.

If you wish to avoid the fate of many of these people, it is essential that you begin saving earnestly for retirement as soon as possible. Over the course of 30 or more years, there is a decent probability that stocks will outperform bonds and other asset classes. Since 1928, stocks have had an average annual return of 9.2 percent, which is more than four percent better than the return from Treasury bonds.

Of course, stocks come with significant volatility, which is why retirement investors must have a long-term time horizon in order to benefit from higher expected returns. This fact helps to explain the importance of beginning your retirement planning early in your life. When you start saving for retirement at a young age, you increase your chances of earning a higher return on your investment. In addition, you allow your savings to compound for a longer period of time, which can significantly increase your nest egg as you reach retirement age.

Fortunately, the government has created a number of tax-advantaged savings accounts that makes retirement planning much easier. The most popular of these accounts is the 401(k), an employer-sponsored account that allows workers to save as much as $17,000 per year. Contributions to a 401(k) can be deducted from your income, which reduces your current income tax burden; however, your 401(k) assets will be taxed when you withdraw them during retirement.

This tax deduction provides a strong incentive to save for your retirement, but there are even better reasons to contribute to your 401(k). Many employers will match a percentage of the contributions of their employees. This is essentially free money and should not be passed up by anyone who is offered such a deal.

Of course, the 401(k) is not the only retirement account to which you can contribute. For instance, the Roth IRA has become a popular supplement to the 401(k) for retirement savings. Anyone with earned income can contribute up to $5,000 per year in a Roth IRA. Although contributions can not be deducted from your taxes, you can withdraw the money during retirement without any further tax liability.

Both the 401(k) and the Roth IRA should be used as part of an overall retirement strategy. By saving as much money as you can in these tax-advantaged accounts, you will increase your chances of amassing a nest egg that is large enough to pay for a comfortable retirement.

savvy @ 8:00 AM
Filed under: General Finances