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  1. Cost of Travel Increases as United Rolls Out “Extra Legroom” Package

    June 8, 2013 by

    Is it just me, or is the cost of traveling starting to get really ridiculous? United Airlines just announced some new packages where travelers prepay for a year’s worth of either checked baggage fees, or seats with legroom near the front of the plane. I mean, in theory it’s a good idea: pay a chunk of money upfront to save money in the long run, like buying a beach parking pass or a season pass for lift tickets. But in reality, I still think it’s crazy that travelers have to pay for baggage in the first place, so to ask for nearly $500 for an “Economy Plus” pass for a year is just silly to me. United is basically locking you in, ensuring that you’ll fly with them and no other airlines for the next year, and if you don’t fly at least five times you lose money on the package deal. What will airlines come up with next? Melanie Hicken of CNN Money reported on the new packages:

    “United (UAL, Fortune 500) announced two new subscription programs this week where travelers prepay for a year of checked baggage fees or the ability to reserve seats in the so-called “Economy Plus” section near the front of the plane, which boasts extra legroom.

    United says its the only airline to offer the subscription programs, which are priced based on travel destinations and number of travelers. The new programs come as many airlines continue to tack on extra fees and upgrades — from early boarding fees to charging for carry-on baggage.”

    Click here to read more about United’s new pre-pay packages.

    You guys will never see me buying these packages, I can guarantee it. I’m more of a train/drive kind of guy, which might take a little bit longer but saves a ton on airfare and, of course, baggage costs. I will be pretty curious to see how well these packages do though, because my prediction is not so hot–but we’ll see!

  2. U.S. Consumer Credit Climbs with Non-Revolving Loans

    June 8, 2013 by

    Here’s a confession, guys. I’m torn while writing this article. See, consumer credit absolutely jumped from March to April when consumers started taking out loans like crazy (we’re not talking going credit card swipe-happy, we’re talking more like auto and student loans.)

    On the one hand, that makes me happy to see, because it shows that the economy is recovering enough so that consumers feel confident in borrowing and spending money again. On the other hand, it makes me nervous, because I don’t want people jumping the gun here. The interest rates are down, so consumers are naturally trying to take advantage of them, but if you’re not in the position to do so, I don’t think you should be pushing it. Here’s what Jeanna Smialek reported for Bloomberg on the topic:

    “Consumer borrowing in the U.S. accelerated in April as Americans took out more education and automobile loans.

    The $11.1 billion increase in credit followed a revised $8.37 billion increase the previous month that was more than initially reported, Federal Reserve figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a $12.9 billion gain in April.”

    Click here to read the entire Bloomberg article about what is happening right now with consumer spending.

    The economy is still in recovery-mode, and unemployment is still down (in fact, down another .01% according to data released by the Labor Department today, according to the above-mentioned Bloomberg article.) Don’t push it guys!! Spend what you can afford, stick to a budget. Otherwise it’s gonna be a tough summer of paying back stuff you can’t afford.

  3. Credit Tips for New College Grads

    June 7, 2013 by

    It’s that time of year when the birds are chirping, sun is shining, and ladies’ skirts are, um, shortening.

    June is a great month, housing the longest day of the year, the first beach days of the summer, and for grads, newfound freedom and rejoicing. Being that it is the month of graduations, we figured it’s a good time to focus on some money management and finance tips for new grads. College grads, I’m talking to you guys in particular. You’re about to enter the big bad “real” world, and we thought you could maybe use a hand in figuring out some of the financial stuff. Take it from Jeanne Kelly of the Huffington Post, who dedicated an entire article to covering the biggest credit mistakes that recent grads make and how NOT to make them yourself. Check out Kelly’s rad article:

    “Along with the increasing panic about impending exams, college graduates have the additional weight on their shoulders of thinking about what they’ll do after graduation. For most graduates, that means finding a job and a place to live.

    It’s a new stage in life, which means there are many unknowns and a lot of learning (but this time, it’s not classroom-style learning). If you are a new graduate, you are setting up your life — which doesn’t just include a job and a place to live but also a credit history. The credit history you establish today is something you can build on (and rely on!) for years to come.”

    Click here to check out the rest of Kelly’s article–the good stuff is in the middle of the page.

    Ideally, you’ll learn these types of lessons–credit stuff–without being on the receiving end of a low score. With everything, there’s trial and error, and of course learning from experience. But trust me, one thing you don’t want to learn from experience is a credit lesson, because a low score can take years to repair and actually cost you tons of money–besides making it a pain in the ass to rent a place, qualify for a credit card, or even get hired. Take a lesson in credit this summer in lieu of a summer class, and you’ll thank me later.

  4. Light at End of U.S. Economy’s Tunnel?

    May 31, 2013 by

    If you’re wondering where the state of our nation’s economy is headed, you’ve gotta check out this article.

    We’ve all felt it. The economy is picking up speed. People are charging more to their credit cards, but they’re also paying their cards on time, people are vacationing again, getting hired, finding work, getting raises. New businesses are opening up and small ones are growing. It FEELS like it’s springtime after a long, cold winter, and all the buds on the trees and flowers are starting to come out and enjoy the certain warmth that lies in the summertime ahead.

    That is all well and good, however John W. Schoen of NBC News reports that the “headwinds from federal spending cuts are expected to blow harder this year.” In a nutshell, we’ll see how that fares with our blossoming economy. Check out Schoen’s fascinating article:

    “Like a steam engine leaving the station, the American economy is gathering momentum. The wheels are turning, the engine is pumping and the engineers have opened the throttle full bore. If only Washington would get out of the way.

    The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.4 percent annual rate during the first quarter, down a tenth of a point from an initial estimate, according to revised figures from the Commerce Department released on Thursday. Economists had forecast a 2.5 percent gain, the initial reading reported by the government last month.”

    Click here to find out why Washington, DC is hindering the light at the end of the U.S.’s financial tunnel.

    Guys, I’m not sure whether to tell you to buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride, or let the convertible top down because it’s shaping up to be a glorious one. We’ll have to see how everything shakes out, but what I can recommend is keeping your nose to the grind stone–same as always–not getting lazy with finances or your budgets, and you’ll do just fine regardless of how the wind blows.

  5. Money Incentives = Weight Loss Results

    May 27, 2013 by

    Well, folks, it’s been confirmed: the one thing that drives us, motivates us, inspires us, and really incentivizes us in almost all aspects of life issss… drum roll please…. you guessed it. Cold, hard, CASH! Recent research and studies have found that people who are having a hard time losing weight are best incentivized when there is the chance to win or make money as a result of their fat-burning efforts. And apparently this is a fairly recent thing. The Fox News article written by Dr. Jennifer Landa (below) reports that the earning-money-for-losing-weight thing began in January of this year (although I would argue that it started years ago, when the “Biggest Loser” TV show was born. Contestants compete against one another to win a cash prize of $250,000.) But this trend has got every day Joe’s like you and me signing up for websites or company-funded weight loss competitions in order to earn some cash. Dr. Landa reported for Fox News,

    “The secret to weight loss may be much simpler than anyone ever imagined – so simple, in fact, you may wonder why it hasn’t been thought of before?

    A study completed by Mayo Clinic researchers has discovered that money is the most effective motivator when it comes to weight loss. When conducting a comparison between study groups, one group was incentivized, the other was not. The results were overwhelming, with 62 percent of study participants from the incentivized group completing the study, compared to only 26 of the non-incentivized group. And, the incentivized group lost an average of 9.08 pounds versus 2.34 pounds in the other group.”

    Click here to read about the ways people are using money to incentivize themselves to drop pounds.

    There you have it, guys. Money is apparently more motivating than lowering cholesterol, decreasing your chance of diabetes, increasing heart health, and in general looking and feeling good and having more energy. But, I guess if you can have all of these things AND some extra cash, it’s a win-win, right?

  6. Women Handle Debt Better than Men

    May 23, 2013 by

    Shout out to the ladies: a recent Experian study surveying 750,000 credit reports revealed that even though men earn 23% more than women in general, they had higher credit scores, less debt, lower mortgages, AND had less past-due credit accounts. Okay, ladies, you win. Guys- time to shape up! Getting a handle on debt, credit, and finances doesn’t just catch us up to speed with the ladies. It saves money in the present and in the long run, improves our credit scores, makes us eligible for the best interest rates, and just feels damn GOOD. Plus, aving your financial house in order gives piece of mind on top of everything else. I do wonder what it is about dudes that makes us more inclined to have more debt and a lower credit score? The good thing is, it’s not impossible to reverse these habits. Chipping away at debt and working at improving our credit are things we should constantly be striving for, and maybe this is a good wake up call to get serious about putting in a hard-core effort. Here is the Reuters article by Mitch Lipka, including information that hasn’t even been released yet about Experian’s survey:

    “When it comes to managing credit, American women have a slight edge over men, according to a study of credit reports by the credit report agency Experian Plc. Experian looked at 750,000 credit reports, a sample of what it collected nationwide, and found that while women earn 23 percent less than men, they know how to handle debt.

    “When you start from there, you recognize that women have less money to spend,” says Michele Raneri, Experian’s vice president of analytics. “And their delinquencies are less.” “

    Click here to find out in what ways women have the edge over men financially.

    Okay gents you’ve been challenged: get that credit score, credit report, and mound of debt in shape–if for nothing else other than to keep up with our female counterparts who are creaming us at it.

  7. Bad Credit vs. No Credit: Which is Worse?

    May 22, 2013 by

    When discussing whether having bad credit or having no credit would be worse, it certainly is like deciding between the lesser of two evils. A recent article debated the answer to this question, and outlined what the major differences were between the two. I would say I’m more inclined to feel as though having no credit is actually worse, because you can clean up what credit you have even if it’s not the best. If you have no credit however, it’s difficult to prove that you’re trustworthy enough to be lent money– a cruel catch 22, needing credit in order to qualify for credit. So I’d have to say I would rather have poor credit than no credit. And interestingly enough, this article pointed something out to me. I always thought that the general demographic who had no credit are young adults, college-aged kids and 20-somethings who haven’t had a chance to build any credit yet. This article pointed out that senior citizens can actually come across the scenario of not having enough credit too, if they pay everything in cash and don’t ever use credit. You learn something new every day. Here is the hot debate in an article by John Oldshue:

    “Many people assume that “no credit” and “bad credit” are the same thing, but that is not the case. This is not like taking a test in school, where 0 and 50 both lead to an “F”. Having no credit at all does not send the same messages as having bad credit, but it could put you in a similar situation. In either case, you should strive to build up a good credit score.

    Is no credit worse than bad credit? What can you do to improve your credit score? Check out the tips below to find out.”

    Click here to find out which is worse, having no credit or having bad credit.

    If you’re in the boat of having no credit, it can be tough starting off. Try easing into the world of credit by applying for a retail card such as a gas card or a Macy’s card. Often, they are not as strict about requiring a credit history because their credit limits are much lower. A secured credit card is also a good way to go to build some credit. Good luck!

  8. Credit Reports Used in Court

    May 22, 2013 by

    The tagline of this story reads, “Just when you thought you knew every way your credit report could be used against you.” It goes on to tell the tale of a domestic relations trial between a divorced couple, where the ex-wife’s credit report was used against her in court to discount her claim that she had no access to available credit. Oops. Be careful when you make a claim about your finances, because even though many credit reports have minor inaccuracies in them, they are pretty darn good at offering a peek into somebody’s financial background. And that “back”ground might not be in the very distant past–one’s credit report includes all current credit lines and loans, offering a very accurate picture of where a consumer stands presently. Adam Levin of Forbes reported,

    “Whether we are talking about mortgage loans, credit cards, auto or student loans, most people know that credit reports play an important role in our lives. And they, like you, understand that having poor credit can impede our efforts to gain financing at competitive rates and terms.

    However, as was recently pointed out by my friend John Ulzheimer who used to work at FICO, Equifax and and who often serves as a credit expert witness in court, our nation’s lawyers have found a new use for credit report data–divorce proceedings and alimony consideration.”

    Click here to find out just exactly how a divorcee’s credit report was used against her in court.

    Long story short: don’t say anything that your credit report can’t back up–and adversely, don’t lie about anything that your credit report can disprove! Oh, and keep your credit reports and scores in top condition, for you never know when you’re going to need to use them.

  9. U.S. Consumers Fail on Credit Score Survey

    May 16, 2013 by

    Yikes, guys. Yikes. Just read a scary stat– several, actually, proving that Americans know diddly squat about credit and credit scores. PLEASE tell me our readers don’t fall into these percentages of consumers who scored horribly! It sounds like many consumers knew what could help their credit rise, but had no idea about the types of things that could really harm their credit. It’s as important to be informed about the latter as it is the former, however. Otherwise, consumers will just be walking around inadvertently lowering their credit because they just don’t know any better. Kathy Lynch of Financial Advisor Magazine reported the other day,

    “A lack of knowledge about credit scores could prove costly for consumers. A survey released today found that about 40 percent of respondents did not know that mortgage lenders use credit scores to determine credit availability and pricing. About the same percent wrongly believe that age and marital status are used in calculating the scores.

    “Misperceptions about credit scores are extremely concerning to us,” said Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions, which released the survey along with the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).”

    Click here to see what other questions consumers failed to answer correctly.

    OK boys it’s time to go back to Credit Scoring 101. It’s crazy that Americans are so unschooled in the credit department, considering how many of us have credit cards, car loans, mortgages, student loans… Time to brush up on your credit knowledge!

  10. Key Factors in Understanding How Credit Works

    May 13, 2013 by

    I see this happen all the time: people unknowingly damaging their credit score because they don’t understand how their score is factored, or what exactly influences the number. Things like closing a credit card account after it’s been paid off, or going after the credit cards with the freebies–even if that means having 5 or 6 open credit accounts, all of which have hit your credit when they checked you out for eligibility. But then, there’s just the key components that make up a credit score, the specifics which most people are surprisingly a bit hazy about. Ashlea Ebeling of Forbes jotted down five of the biggest credit misconceptions, and how they can hurt a consumer, taking care of course to counter those with how to make the credit system work in your favor:

    “Key factors about credit scores continue to be widely misunderstood, and the misconceptions are potentially costing consumers tens of thousands of dollars, according to a conference held today by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions, a FICO competitor.

    “People who fail to understand exactly what can impact their score have little incentive to manage the things that can truly make a difference,” said Barrett Burns, president and chief executive of VantageScore Solutions.”

    Click here to read about the key factors that can affect your credit score, and which ones are often misconceived.

    Fun fact from Ebeling’s article: on a standard 60-month auto loan taken for $20,000, a consumer with a poor credit score would pay about $5,000 more in interest charges than a borrower with a really good score. So literally, having a good score is like money in your pocket.