6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier
Finding personal finance software is easy, because there are countless choices in mobile apps, online programs, and finance software you can run on your home computer. But they’re certainly not equal. Personal finance software should make your life simpler, not more complicated, and it should be customizable for your particular life, goals, and needs. You know you’ve found great software when your financial life becomes easier over time. Here are 6 signs your personal finance software makes life easier.
1. You Haven’t Paid a Late Fee in Months
Does your personal finance software let you know in advance of when bills are due? It should be easy to set up automated alerts that tell you a few days before monthly, quarterly, or yearly bills are due, so you can take care of them and avoid annoying and guilt-inducing late fees. Ideally your software should notify you by text, so you’ll be sure and get the message whatever you’re doing and wherever you are.
2. Spending Categories Correspond to Your Actual Life
When personal finance software requires you to shoehorn your actual spending patterns into pre-set spending categories, the result can be confusion and frustration. Look for software that lets you create an unlimited number of spending categories you can customize. Do you buy your employees breakfast once a month? You can make a spending category for it. Are you a coffee or microbrew aficionado? You can make a spending category for it. Your budget should conform to your life, not the other way around.
3. You See How Trimming Budget Fat Affects Financial Goals
Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it to hold back at the grocery store after a long day or when buying Christmas presents. But when your personal finance software shows you exactly how disciplined spending helps you achieve your financial goals, like a vacation or paying off a loan, it’s easy to avoid giving in to those little temptations you face every day. When you can see how your discipline pays off, you’re more likely to stick with your good habits.
Start now: Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler byÂ clicking here.
4. You May Have Faced One or Two Painful Truths
Powerful personal finance software can tell you things like how much you spent on fast food last week, or how much you’ve paid in non-network ATM fees this month. Sometimes, getting control of your personal finances means facing some harsh truths, like how much those little extras add up to. Your software should also be able to tell you how much more quickly you can reach financial goals if you cut a certain dollar amount from various spending categories. It’s a great way to stay on track to your goals.
5. You Know Exactly How Close You Are to Meeting Financial Goals
Maybe you want to save for retirement, or build up a down payment on a home. Your personal finance software should show you exactly how close you are to your goal at any time. You should also be able to receive monthly emails that track your progress and see how your everyday spending decisions affect how much you’ll have left over at the end of the month. Don’t settle for software that doesn’t let you track your progress easily.
6. Your Personal Finance Software Goes With You Everywhere
Personal finance software that links your computer and your mobile devices empowers you to make smart spending choices anytime, anywhere. Thinking about buying an item you unexpectedly find on sale? You can check your account balances right on your phone and know instantly if you can afford it. You can also set up convenient alerts that can tell you right away such things as whether you’re approaching your credit limits on your credit cards.
Personal finance software has come a long way since the days you had to manually enter checkbook balances and draft amounts. Today’s software offers an astonishing array of features that not only help you achieve financial goals, but actually make your everyday life easier. And when it links your accounts to your computer and your mobile devices, likeÂ MintÂ does, you have all the budget tools you need, wherever you go.
Start now:Â Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler byÂ clicking here.
The post 6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier appeared first on MintLife Blog.
If you have an irregular income, you know how great the good times feelâand how difficult the lean times can be. While you can’t always control when you get paid or the size of each paycheck if you’re a freelancer, contractor or work in the gig economy, you can take control of your money by creating a budget that will help you manage these financial extremes.
Antowoine Winters, a financial planner and principal at Next Steps Financial Planning, LLC, says creating a budget with a variable income can require big-picture thinking. You may need to spend time testing out different methods when you first start budgeting, but, âif done correctly, it can really empower you to control your life,” Winters says.
How do you budget on an irregular income? Consider these four strategies to help you budget with a variable income and gain financial confidence:
1. Determine your average income and expenses
If you want to start budgeting on a fluctuating income, you need to know how much money you have coming in and how much you’re spending.
Of course, that’s the basis for any budget. But it can be particularly important if you’re trying to budget on an irregular income because you may have especially high- or low-income periods. You want to start tracking as soon as possible to build up accurate data on your average income and expenses.
For example, once you have six months’ worth of income and expenses documented, you can divide the total by six to determine your average income and expenses by month.
Many financial apps and websites can help with the tracking, including ones that can connect to your online bank and credit card accounts and automatically pull in your transactions. You may even be able to pull in previous months’ or years’ worth of data, which you can use to calculate your averages.
If you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income and apps aren’t your thing, you can use a spreadsheet or even a pen and notebook to track your cash flow. However, without automated tracking, it can be difficult to consistently keep your information up to date.
2. Try a zero-sum budget
“There are several strategies you can use to budget with an irregular income, but one of the easiest ones is the zero-sum budget,” says Holly Johnson. As a full-time freelance writer, she’s been budgeting with a variable income for over seven years and is the coauthor of the book Zero Down Your Debt.
With a zero-sum budget, your income and expenses should even out so there’s nothing left over at the end of the month. The trick is to treat your savings goals as expenses. For example, your “expenses” may include saving for an emergency, vacation or homeownership.
“There are several strategies you can use to budget with an irregular income, but one of the easiest ones is the zero-sum budget.”
Johnson says if you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income, you can adopt the zero-sum budget by creating a “salary” for yourself. Consider your average monthly expenses (shameless plug for tip 1) and use that number as your baseline.
For example, if your monthly household bills, groceries, business expenses, savings goals and other necessities add up to $4,000, that’s your salary for the month. During months when you make over $4,000, put the extra money into a separate savings account. During months when you make less than $4,000, draw from that account to bring your salary up to $4,000.
“We call this fund the ‘boom and bust’ fund,” Johnson says. “By building up an adequate amount of savings, you will create a situation where you can pay yourself the salary you need each month.”
3. Separate your saving and spending money
Physically separating your savings from your everyday spending money may be especially important when you’re creating a budget on an irregular income. You may be tempted to pull funds from your savings goals during low-income months, and stashing your savings in a separate, high-yield savings account can force you to pause and think twice before dipping in.
You earned it. Now earn more withÂ it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
An easy way to put this tip into action when creating a budget with a variable income is to have all of your income deposited into one account, then disburse it into separate savings and spending accounts. “Transfer a set amount on the first of every month to a bill-paying account and a set amount to a spending account,” Winters, the financial planner, says.
“The bill pay account is used to pay for all of the regular expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, student loans, etc.,” Winters says. These bills generally stay the same each month. The spending account can be used for your variable expenses, such as groceries and gas.
When considering your savings accounts, Winters also suggests funding a retirement account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
If you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income as a contract worker or freelancer, you may also want to set money aside for taxes because the income and payroll taxes you’ll owe aren’t automatically taken out of your paychecks.
4. Build up your emergency fund
“The best way to weather low-income periods is to prepare with an adequate emergency fund,” freelancer Johnson says. An emergency fund is money you set aside for necessary expenses during an emergency, such as a medical issue or broken-down vehicle.
Generally, you’ll want to save up enough money to cover three to six months of your regular expenses. Once you build your fund, you can put extra savings toward other financial goals.
When you’re budgeting on a fluctuating income, having the emergency fund can help you feel more at ease knowing that you’ll be able to pay your necessary bills if the unexpected happens or when you’re stuck in a low-income period for longer than anticipated.
A budget can make living with a variable income easier
It can be challenging to budget on an irregular income, especially when you’re first starting. You might have to cut back on expenses for several months to start building up your savings and try multiple budgeting methods before finding the one that works best for you.
“Budgeting requires a mindset change regardless of which type of budget you try,” Johnson explains.
“The best way to weather low-income periods is to prepare with an adequate emergency fund.”
However, once in place, a budget on an irregular income can also help free you from worrying about the boom-and-bust cycle that many variable-income workers deal with throughout the year.
The goal is to get to the point where you can budget with a variable income and don’t have to worry about when you’ll get paid next because you set your budget based on your averages, planned ahead during the high times and have savings ready for your low times.
The post 4 Tricks for Budgeting on a Fluctuating Income appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it? If you answered yes to these questions, youâre probably an investor with a high risk tolerance. Hold up, Evel [â¦]
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
2020 has shaped all of us in some way or another financially. Whether it is being reminded of the importance of living within our means or saving for a rainy day, these positive financial habits and lessons are timeless and ones we can take into the new year.Â
While everyone is on a very unique financial journey, we can still learn from each other. As we wrap up this year, it’s important to reflect on some of these positive financial habits and lessons and take the ones we need into 2021. Here are some of the top financial lessons:
Living Within Your Means
Itâs been said for years, centuries even, that one should live within one’s means. Well, I think a lot of people were reminded of this financial principle given the year weâve had. Living within your means is another way of saying donât spend more than you earn. I would take it one step further to say, set up your financial budget so you pay yourself first. Then only spend what is leftover on all the fun or variable items.
Setting up your budget in the Mint app or updating your budget in Mint to reflect the changes in your income or expenses is a great activity to do before the year ends. Follow the 50/20/30Â rule of thumb and ask yourself these questions:
Are you spending more than you earn?
Are there fixed bills you can reduce so you can save more for your financial goals?Â
Can you reduce your variable spending and save that money instead?
The idea is to find a balance that allows you to pay for your fixed bills, save automatically every month and then only spend what is left over. If you donât have the money, then you cannot use debt to buy something. This is a great way to get back in touch with reality and also appreciate your money more.Â
Have a Cash Cushion
Having a cash cushion gives you peace of mind since you know that if anything unexpected comes up, which of course always happens in life, you have money that is easy to liquidate to pay for it versus paying it with debt or taking from long-term investments. Having an adequate cash cushion this year offered some people a huge sigh of relief when they lost their job or perhaps had reduced income for a few months. With a cash cushion or rainy day fund, they were still able to cover their bills with their savings.
Many people are making it their 2021 goal to build, replenish, or maintain their cash cushion.Â Typically, you want a cash cushion of about 3- 6 months of your core expenses. Your cash cushion is usually held in a high-yield saving account that you can access immediately if needed. However, you want to think of it almost as out of sight out of mind so it’s really there for bigger emergencies or opportunities that come up.
Having the right asset allocation and understanding your risk tolerance and timeframe of your investments is always important. With a lot of uncertainty and volatility in the stock market this year, more and more people are paying attention to their portfolio allocation and learning what that really means when it comes to risk and returns. Learning more about which investments you actually hold within your 401(k) or IRA is always important. I think the lesson this year reminded everybody that itâs your money and it’s up to you to know.
Even if you have an investment manager helping you, you still need to understand how your portfolio is allocated and what that means in terms of risk and what you can expect in portfolio volatility (ups and downs) versus the overall stock market. A lot of people watch the news and hear the stock market is going up or down, but fail to realize that may not be how your portfolio is actually performing. So get clear. Make sure that your portfolio matches your long term goal of retirement and risk tolerance and donât make any irrational short term decisions with your long-term money based on the stock market volatility or what the news and media are showcasing.
Right Insurance Coverage
We have all been reminded of the importance of health this year. Our own health and the health of our loved ones should be a top priority. It’s also an extremely important part of financial success over time. It is said, insurance is the glue that can hold everything together in your financial life if something catastrophic happens. Insurances such as health, auto, home, disability, life, long-term care, business, etc. are really important but having the right insurance policy and coverage in place for each is the most important part.
Take time and review all the insurance coverage you have and make sure it is up to date and still accurate given your life circumstances and wishes. Sometimes you may have a life insurance policy in place for years but fail to realize there is now a better product in the marketplace with more coverage or better terms. With any insurance, it is wise to never cancel a policy before you a full review and new policy to replace it already in place. The last thing you want is to be uninsured. Make sure you also have an adequate estate plan whether itâs a trust or will that showcases your wishes very clearly. This way, you can communicate that with your trust/will executorâs, beneficiaries, family members, etc. so they are clear on everything as well.Â
Financial lessons will always be there. Year after year, life throws us challenges and successes to remind us of what is most important. Take time, reflect, and get a game plan in place for 2021 that takes everything you have learned up until now into account. This will help you set the tone for an abundant and thriving new financial year.Â
The post Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Reader Alesia writes, âI disputed a collection account from 2016 on my credit report with all three bureaus. Two of them deleted the account. However, Experian did not and the creditor has updated the date of collection to November 2020. Does this mean it will now stay on my report until 2027? And why did the two delete it and not the other? I still dispute the account. What can be done in these situations?â
When you donât pay your credit card bill or loan payment on time, the creditor eventually declares it delinquent. And typically six months after the time you first stopped paying your dues, it will either write it off or send it to collections. If itâs the latter course of action, the delinquent account becomes a collection account.
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Alesia, the three credit bureaus â Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are all independent of each other and have their own processes. Thatâs why you rightly disputed the collection account with all three of them individually.
Equifax, one of the three credit bureaus, advises in online commentary, âItâs important to remember that disputing information with one credit bureau may not impact information on credit reports from the other two bureaus. Also, dispute procedures may not be the same at all bureaus, so be sure to follow the procedure with the bureau where you’re filing a dispute.â
When you file a dispute with a credit bureau, the bureau will contact the creditor and ask it to look into the information and check its records. The creditor then has a 30-day time frame to respond to the credit bureau with accurate information. If the creditor does not respond by this deadline, the credit bureau can then act on any information the consumer has provided to update the account or remove it.
It may be that the creditor did not get back to Experian in time with the relevant information, and the credit bureau did not make any changes on your account. Or it may not have responded to all three of them in time, and each then acted on its own information (each has its own input on your credit history) and processes in dealing with the account. It could also be that the lender did not provide the same input to all three credit bureaus, for whatever reason.
Also note that the coronavirus pandemic has upset these dispute investigation timelines, and the CFPB has even said it will be lenient in allowing the stretching of this time frame somewhat for lenders and credit bureaus that are looking into disputes.
See related: A collection agency is pursuing me for an old debt I don’t recognize. What to do?
Date of first delinquency is whatâs important
Alesia, you report that the creditor updated the date of collection on the account with Experian to November 2020, whereas this collection account goes back to 2016. One important date related to delinquent accounts and collection accounts is the date of first delinquency.
This is the date on which the debt first went delinquent. The debt will be reported on your credit report for seven years after this date. In the case of a collection account, it will be on your credit report for seven years after it went into collection, which is typically six months after the date of first delinquency.
This means it will show on your credit report for up to seven-and-a-half years following the date of first delinquency. The creditorâs updating of the date of collection to November 2020 would mean there is a change to the date of last activity on the account. It does not change the actual date of first delinquency. So the debt will be reported through 2023 and not 2027.
See related: What should I do if my debt’s date of first delinquency is incorrectly reported?
You could initiate another dispute
The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to initiate a dispute with the credit reporting agency or the creditor that furnished the information to an agency if you donât agree with whatâs in your credit report. Alesia, you have gone through this process with all the credit bureaus, but you donât agree with the result provided by one credit bureau.
You should contact the collection agency that provided the input to Experian to find out how this happened and see if you can sort out the issue. If there is a mistake it agrees to rectify with the credit bureau, donât forget to get written input about the resolution for your records.
If that doesnât work, you have the option of filing another dispute with Experian, and also with the furnisher of the information. Make sure to provide any additional and relevant information that could boost your case, such as updated credit reports from the other two credit bureaus.
If you donât agree with the dispute resolution, you could also have a statement added to your credit report providing your account of the dispute.
Another course of action is to file a complaint with the CFPB, using its consumer complaint database. In case you donât get a desirable outcome after all this, youÂ could even talk to a lawyer specializing in FCRA matters to get more detailed assistance on your particular situation.
Alesia, I hope the matter is ultimately resolved to your satisfaction!
Dan Stous works in financial planning and wealth management. Online savings accounts initially came on his radar when he saw their interest rates steadily rise.
“The whole reason I was looking for an online account was because deposit rates at traditional brick-and-mortar banks have continued to stay low despite rising interest rates,” says Stous, who is the director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management in Lincoln, Nebraska.
He and his wife opted for a DiscoverÂ® Online Savings Account, named Best Savings Account by NerdWallet in 2020, and started making monthly transfers into it to help save for a car. They were pleased to find the funds growing quickly with the account’s high interest rate and annual percentage yield (APY).
Whether you’re saving for a new set of wheels like Stous and his wife, a home down payment, an emergency fund or [enter your next big financial goal here], an online savings account could be your ticket to success.
What are the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account? Here are six things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account that will help you take your savings game to the next level:
1. You can grow your savings with a high interest rate
Regardless of your financial goal, you’ll want your savings to earn interest (and then you’ll want that interest to earn even more interest). One of the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account is that you can grow your money with a savings account interest rate over 5x the National Savings Average.1
You earned it. Now earn more withÂ it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
With online banks offering superior yields compared to traditional banks, Stous recommends online savings accounts to his clients as a financial strategy. “We have been steering people to online accounts because the rates have been so much better,” Stous says.
2.Â You can save yourself the hassle of fees
A bank account fee here and there can really add up. And who wants sneaky fees to eat into your hard-earned savings? One of the top benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account is that you won’t be charged an account fee.* Common fees that you won’t see with your Discover Online Savings Account include fees for:
Official bank check (there’s also no fee if you need expedited delivery of your check)
Deposited item returned
Stop payment order
Another thing to know about a Discover Online Savings Account is that the lack of maintenance or activity fees means you don’t have to stress about initiating certain account behavior (say, a regular direct deposit) to avoid a charge that could set your savings back.
“The whole reason I was looking for an online account was because deposit rates at traditional brick-and-mortar banks have continued to stay low despite rising interest rates.”
3. There’s no balance requirement
When considering important things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account, add no minimum balance requirement to the list. If you are just getting started with your savings (way to go!), it can be challenging to set aside a large chunk of cash just to avoid a balance requirement fee. With the Discover Online Savings Account’s no minimum balance requirement, you can start small and continue to add to your savings as your budget allows.
Getting ready to make a big withdrawal for an exciting big purchase? No problem. If you’ve reached a goal and need to put your savings to work, go right ahead. You won’t need to stress about getting charged for the lower balance that remains in your Discover Online Savings Account, and you can start building up your funds again for the next big thing.
4. You can manage your account onlineâand on the go
Your life is online and on the goâso your savings account should be right there with you. You can open a Discover Online Savings Account from the comfort of your couch (or when commuting in your rideshare) in three easy steps:
Enter the essentials (personal information like your address and Social Security number).
Fund the account with a starting balance of your choosing (or come back and do it later if you prefer).
Check your inbox for an email confirmation.
Once you are up and running, you can easily transfer funds between different accountsâDiscover accounts as well as external onesâand set up automatic transfers into your savings account so you can grow your funds on autopilot.
If you’re on the move, the account’s mobile app is control in your hands via your smartphone or tablet. Whether you’re in line for a coffee or waiting for your child’s extracurricular activity to wrap up, you can easily transfer money between your Discover Online Savings Account and other accounts, view your account activity and electronically deposit checks. Only have a second but want to check in? Quick View is a benefit of a Discover Online Savings Account that allows you to view your savings account balance without having to log in.
“The mobile app is very user friendly,” says Rick Vazza, financial planner and president of Driven Wealth Management. “It’s easy to use and easy to sync with a checking account. There’s a seamless flow.”
5. You can experience top-notch customer service
Customer service can be hard to evaluate, but the ability to quickly speak to a real person is certainly one sign of good customer relations.
“I’ve been seeing people particularly attracted to value-added services. The first being customer service,” Vazza explains.
Discover’s customer support is 100 percent U.S.-based and offers the ability to speak with a live person 24/7 without having to go through a bunch of automated prompts. Having knowledgeable and friendly customer service adds to the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account.
“People like the fact that Discover is an all U.S.-based service,” Vazza adds.
“I’ve been seeing people particularly attracted to value-added services. The first being customer service. People like the fact that Discover is an all U.S.-based service.â
6. You can easily access your funds2
When and how you can withdraw money is important to know before you open a savings account. “How easy it is to get the money is a huge question, particularly with older generations,” Stous says. Having multiple ways to withdraw is a plus.
With a Discover Online Savings Account, your withdrawal options include:
Setting up electronic transfers between your Discover Online Savings Account and other internal or external bank accounts.
Requesting a no-fee official bank check.
Initiating an outgoing wire transfer.*
On your mark, get setâsave!
Understanding the things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account could help you make the decision to open an easy-to-use and high-yield financial solution for storing your cash. Whether you’re saving up for something special or creating a savings safety net, it’s tending to these areas of your financial plan that will better prepare you for what comes next.
Learn more about a Discover Online Savings AccountÂ today.
* Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge.
1 The Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for the Online Savings Account as of 01/01/2021 is more than five times the national average APY for interest-bearing savings accounts with balances of $500 as reported by Informa Research Services, Inc. as of 01/01/2021. Interest rates and APYs are subject to change at any time. Although the information provided by Informa Research Services has been obtained from the various institutions, accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
2 Federal law limits certain types of withdrawals and transfers from savings and money market accounts to a combined total of 6 per calendar month per account. There are no limits on ATM withdrawals or official checks mailed to you. To get an account with an unlimited number of transactions, consider opening a Discover Cashback Debit account. If you go over these limitations on more than an occasional basis, your account may be closed. See Section 11 of the Deposit Account Agreement for more details.
The post 6 Benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.