Making a Move: 9 Essential Tips You Need to Know When Buying a House

When you are ready to buy a house, it can be an exciting but stressful time. There is so much to be done before you can make your new home truly yours! From the endless cycle of house hunting until you find your perfect match to the financial drudgery of mortgage loans and homeowners’ insurance, there is a lot to learn along the way.

If you are starting from scratch without a real estate or mortgage background, this process can become intimidating and overwhelming. But with a little research, you can gain the knowledge you need to make buying your home a simplified, streamlined course to get you ready for your new life as a homeowner!

Here are 9 essential tips every new buyer needs to know when they are in the process of purchasing a house.

9 Things to Know Before You Buy Your New Home

1. Planning early can help you get a much nicer home for a much smaller monthly payment.

It happens all of the time – someone decides they want to buy a home, so they start shopping around the next day. They get excited about the ideas in their heads, but then the problem becomes that their budget can’t support the home they were imagining. Instead of a fun, exciting time, it becomes a stressful process of crunching numbers and getting in over their head financially.

To avoid this, you should plan ahead and not jump into the home buying process. Save up a substantial down payment; 20% is recommended by most lenders, although 3% is a common amount. The more of a down payment you put down, the higher the shopping bracket you can browse through or the lower of a monthly mortgage payment you will have.

2. Know your mortgage options.

Before you start looking at homes, research your mortgage options and know what you will be approved for so you have a range. There are multiple different financing avenues available depending on your circumstances.

You may be approved for a commercial mortgage, government-sponsored loans, or even Veterans Affairs assistance. Whichever way you choose, contact a bank agent before you get in touch with a real estate agent. With a guaranteed loan backing you up and an idea of your monthly payments already in mind, you can confidently start home shopping.

3. Find the right real estate agent.

For a while, your buyer’s agent is going to be as close to you as your best friend. They will know your hopes and dreams for your house and your future and will be scrounging all of the best homes available that would suit your needs and communicating with you about them.

They should be working in your best interest, and they should be skilled and knowledgeable about the area you are shopping in and each aspect of home buying. You can read more about what to look for in a real estate agent here.

4. Carefully consider your ideal home and neighborhood.

Don’t just throw a limit out there to your agent. This is going to lead to you having to weed through a lot of unnecessary homes before your agent understands what you are really looking for.

Think about the aspects of your home you are not willing to compromise on. This may be something like the number of bedrooms, the neighborhood it is in, a school district, the size of the yard, or other amenities. Come prepared to your agent with this list and let them do the work for you to narrow the available options down.

5. Don’t forget about closing costs.

When you are preparing financially for your big purchase, your down payment is not the only big cost you will have to deal with ahead of time. Your home’s closing costs will be somewhere between 2 and 5% of your total loan, on an average. While some sellers offer to pay part or all of the closing costs, prepare ahead to plan for closing expenses like homeowners’ insurance, title searches, inspections, and other potential costs upfront.

6. Be careful not to put all your money into the purchasing.

A common mistake that happens to many buyers is that they save, save, save and then use every drop of their savings to buy their new home. There are many unexpected costs that creep up after you purchase your house – from repairs and renovations to expenses like property taxes or running cable through the home. Keep a nest egg aside for anything that may need to be fixed throughout your first year as a new homeowner.

7. Pay attention to that homeowners’ insurance policy.

In the excitement of the purchase and the scramble to get your dream home to fit into your monthly budget, one of the items that are manipulated is often the insurance policy.

Instead of looking for the cheapest rates, find a good company that can give you comparable rates but covers everything that may be necessary and has a decent deductible. If you go for the cheapest without looking at what it includes, it may end up a major expense later when you need to file a claim only to find out your policy doesn’t cover that particular problem.

8. Utilize the home inspection to your best interests.

Once you have gone through your potential home a few times, you may think you know it inside and out. But an inspector is trained in spotting things that are not necessarily a problem…yet. They will go over all of the details of the house, including things you can’t see.

The inspection report may bring up problems like a faulty air conditioning unit or a leak. Instead of running for the hills and starting over with the shopping process again, use these issues to try to negotiate a better price or have the sellers fix the problem before you buy.

9. Have a back-up plan.

Any seasoned real estate agent will tell you that a home buying process is never smooth. There are a million and one reasons why a perfect sale might fall apart at the last minute. Maybe the title check doesn’t clear or the inspection comes back with a problem that the bank won’t approve.

For whatever reason, you need to prepare mentally and financially to have a back-up plan just in case your dream home can’t become a reality. Remember, it’s better to deal with the problems before you have a hefty financial responsibility in fixing them than to end up stuck with them down the line.

Now That You’ve Prepared, It’s Time to Go Buy Your New Home

With enough knowledge to prepare you to know what you are getting into, you should be able to confidently navigate the waters of a home buying experience now. It’s an exciting time – go full speed ahead!

Making Millions: Your 5 Step Guide to Choose the Right Stock to Trade

Choosing the right stocks in which to invest in a complicated enterprise. The market, whether it has bull or bear tendencies, can turn on a dime, and that is, even more, the case with individual stocks. Should you invest in Apple stock, for instance, or Amazon? Should you invest in known commodities, or penny stocks about which you have a good feeling? Should you go all in on a particular stock, or are you better off spreading your cash around? Here are five considerations which will help you figure out whether a stock is worth your time and money.

Are There Any Rumors Regarding the Company?

One thing on which you’ll want to keep an eye if you’re thinking about adding a stock to your portfolio is whether any rumours are swirling about the company. If there’s the talk of a merger, then you may want to jump on board in anticipation of the stock soaring in value. What if there are mutterings that the company is going to go out of business? It’s probably best to stay away from the stock, as it’s likely about to tank.

What Time of the Year Is It?

Traditionally, certain stocks do better at particular times of the year. If it is around the holidays, then some stocks are likely to go up, as the company sees significant profits toward the end of the fourth quarter. If it is a time of year when a company does not do a lot of business, then that may be the time to buy, as the price will be lower. Right after the holidays, when the stock is trading briskly, is when you’ll want to sell.

What is the State of Global Politics?

The price of a stock may fluctuate according to whether there is turmoil or stability in the world. It is almost a guarantee that there is conflict happening somewhere, but if several of the world powers are involved, then stock market volatility will be higher than average. Stocks at that time are likely to be down, so generally speaking, this would be the time to buy rather than sell.

What’s the Rest of the Market Doing?

Stocks as a whole tend to rise and fall together, hence the notion of bear and bull markets. There are going to be outliers, but when the market is doing poorly, the overwhelming majority of stocks will fall. Again, this would be the time to buy heavily, assuming you feel you have the time to wait until a more profitable period when you can unload all that stock you bought.

Buy What You Know

It is also best to try and buy a stock in an industry that you know, so you’ll have a better chance of picking one and correctly predicting what it’s going to do. Don’t target stock in tech or pharmaceuticals, for instance, if you don’t know the first thing about them.

The stock market is always going to be a crapshoot, but if you follow a train of logic and look at past indicators, you should do okay. It is undoubtedly thrilling when you pick a winner and sell it off at the right time. If you want to make your fortune playing the markets, then you need some skin in the game, as they say. 

Property Purchase: The 7 Steps of the Real Estate Purchase

The real estate purchase is a very exciting adventure, but complex! The whole process lasts several months, and involves very different interlocutors, owners, notaries, banks, etc. the process is quite difficult which is the more reason you will have to consult attorneys for legal guidance before launching. However, very necessary to look into detail in this article the seven major steps that punctuate the path to the good of your dreams.

Calculate your Real Estate Budget

The first step is to determine your real estate budget and make sure it sticks with your aspirations. However, you should set the topmost price you could pay for your acquisition. For this, two steps, first, determine your borrowing potentials, which is the maximal amount you can obtain based on your income. Our simulator is here for that! Second, find out about the prices of the goods that interest you. Indeed, these prices differ according to the idiosyncrasy of the house and its locality. Can you notafford the duplex of your dreams? You are given some tips to optimize your borrowing capacity.

Find the Apartment of your Dreams

You have chained the visits, and finally, it’s love at first sight, you don’t want the house of your dreams to slip away. After negotiating the price and making a proposal to buy, you are launched. The sale is sealed by the sales agreement (or promise of sale) scribbled by the owner and you. As a buyer, you benefit from a cancellation period of 10 days succeeding the signature, after which it is difficult to cancel the purchase unless one of the conditions precedents of the pre-contract is fulfilled (for instance, if you don’t get your credit).

Apply for Mortgage

During this phase, you will seek the cheapest loan with the most advantageous terms. You must not only be vigilant about interest rates, but also associated benefits, flexibilities, credit insurance, and so on. To appeal for a loan, you will have to submit a complete file to the banks. This file, including your pay slips, your statements of account and your latest tax records, is your borrower’s CV for the bank. It is therefore important that you make theeminent impression possible, be now rigorous and organized.


Prepare your file before your search for funding; because once you found your property, it will be fast. Indeed from the time the promise is signed, a period of 45 days is commonly granted to the buyer to allow him time to find his financing. Manage your accounts healthily and especially avoid overdrafts, they will be visible on your statements and will make a very shoddy impression. As disclosed above, the time available for your search for funding is limited and you ought to hurry up. 

Get an Agreement in Principle and Reassure the Seller

You have found the bank that suits you. Bingo, she gives you a loan! You will be warned by an agreement in principle, i.e.,a document grouping the elements of credit, amount, rate, conditions, etc. You can, therefore, inform the seller that you have obtained your loan and confirm your decision to buy his property.

Sign the Official Loan Application and Validate the Insurance

To validate your agreement you will have to sign a loan request from the selected bank. It is at this time that the insurance must be validated, it can be done before the appointment of the signature loan application, or the insurance membership can be done at this appointment. In both cases, you must finalize a confidential medical questionnaire. If membership is at the signature appointment and your situation is simple, you can most often get an instant insurance agreement.

The Loan Offer: The Last Moment to Think

After the validation of the insurance and following the opening of the account, the bank sends you and the sureties, an offer of an official loan by registered mail. You have a 10-day cooling-off interval, which you must use; you cannot give an answer during this period. Be patient! Additionally, the loan offer remains valid for 30 days. If you reject the offer, you will not be charged by the bank – but beware, the advance paid when signing the trade-off will probably be withheld to compensate the seller.

Passage to the Notary: You Officially become the Owner

Congratulations, you are there! The signature of the authentic act, which is more often called “passage to the notary” is the formalization of the passage of title deed. This is where you pay the property and pay the notary fees and agency fees. The capitals are released days before the signing of the deed on an account held by the notary. Attention, the funds can be released only if the signature of the authentic act takes place within six months following the acceptance of the loan offer. If you decline from visiting the notary within this time, the loan will be canceled, andthe bank may claim fees.

With Intention Comes Wealth

I stopped reading the majority of personal finance blogs in my RSS reader a few years ago. After reading blogs day after day for years I simply couldn’t find any new ideas that I hadn’t read or thought of before. I stopped blogging myself for this very same reason. What could I possibly say that no one had heard before? Honestly, I couldn’t come up with much. So I stopped writing and filled this blog with paid posts, because well, I wasn’t sure what else to do.

After awhile even the websites of amazing personal finance bloggers begin to feel stale and old. Most of the rules for accumulating wealth are simple. Increase your income, decrease your expenses and figure out how to invest the money you’ve saved. The blog ESI Money, which stands for earn, save and invest pretty much covers it.

So if that’s all you have to do than why don’t more people follow these principles? That’s a tough nut to crack, but I think that the majority of money management comes down to intentionality.

Before I begin let me say that not everyone can become a millionaire. I know there are may factors involved in the accumulation of wealth and some of those factors are out of our control.

If you are disabled, ill, paying for family members expenses or dealing with a devastating accident than you may not be able to climb the financial ladder or at a minimum you may not be able to climb as quickly as those around you.

But if you are making a half-decent wage and not dealing with unfortunate life circumstances than the odds are pretty high that there is nothing holding you back from wealth other than you.

To find the path to wealth I believe you need to live with intention. If you have an aim, a plan, a purpose, an objective, a target, whatever you want to call it, you are more likely to reach your goal.

Many of us live our lives from moment to moment without any real plan in mind. I recently had a conversation with a forty-year old friend of mine. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I don’t know.” I asked him if he wanted to travel. He said, “I don’t know.” I asked him if he would consider moving to a new state. He said, “I don’t know.” I asked him if he had plans to switch jobs. He said, “I don’t know.”

The fact is that my friend wakes up every day and steps through the motions of life. He takes a shower, gets dressed, drives to work, parks his car, works for 9 hours, gets back into his car, drives home, eats dinner and goes to sleep. My friend is an amazing guy, but he does not have a plan. How many of us can say the same about ourselves?

In order to reach a goal you have to set one. If you want to attain wealth, retire early, travel the world, do whatever your heart desires, you have to set a course and follow it closely.

So what does living with intention mean when it comes to your finances? First, put your finances into auto-pilot. Begin contributing to a 401(k) through your employer. Let your money slide straight into your retirement account without ever realizing it’s missing. If you can do the same with automated savings accounts. Move money aside each month and see if you can live without it.

Second, avoid shopping whenever possible. If you avoid the temptation of brick and mortar and online stores you will keep more money in your pocket, period. If you want to buy something ask yourself “is this a need or a want?” If it’s a want, then think long and hard about your end goal and decide if the item you covet really needs to be purchased at this very moment.

If you find yourself wavering then tape a picture of your goal to your credit card. I kid you not, this works. If you want to retire early to a beachside retreat then tape a picture of yourself at the beach. If you want to travel the world, then print a picture of an airplane flying around the globe. If you want to stay-at-home with your children then add their beautiful little faces to the top of your credit card.

Now, every time you pick up that credit card to pay for something you will come face-to-face with your goal and that reminder may be all you need to place that credit card back in your pocket.

Third, avoid feelings of jealousy and envy. When you visit your friends luxurious home filled with beautiful furniture and tchotchkes remind yourself that your goal may be different from theirs. If you want to travel the world you don’t need a five bedroom house to live in. If you want to retire early you might hop into an RV and travel around the country. Again, remember to keep your goal in mind. Do your best not to be distracted by others.

Fourth, remember that people are more important than things. All of the things in the world don’t add up too much if you are alone. Focus your intentions on creating meaningful relationships with those around you. Fill your life with people who fill your soul and you will suddenly realize that you don’t need much to make you happy in this world.

Fifth, revisit your plan often. Track your expenses, search for ways to earn more income and try to remain optimistic about meeting your target. Every time you stop yourself from spending you will reach one step closer to the finish line.

Sixth, find those who will cheer for your success and pick you up when you fail. It can be difficult to talk about money with others, so search for an online community or blogger who can guide you. Over the years I’ve met many amazing bloggers who now feel like life long friends.

Lastly, once you apply the notion of intentionality to your finances you will find yourself applying similar principles to other aspects of your life. A lot of people talk about retiring early, but once they’ve met their financial goals they have absolutely no idea what they actually want to do with their lives.

Create a plan for your relationships, your career, your children, your passions and anything else you can think of. Set your goals and strive to reach them. I can only speak from personal experience here, but maintaining the goal to accumulate wealth played a huge role in my success with money.

I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

6 Scientific Reasons Online Video Connects with Viewers

Whether you’re looking to market your own business or working as a professional marketer, you might have heard about video marketing. Since the consumption of videos is growing faster than ever, companies are using videos to make their presence felt. The main reason behind this is that videos connect with audiences much more effectively than just a bunch of text or pictures. This doesn’t come as a surprise – marketers know that visuals are much more compelling than plain text. 

Did you know that the average attention span has reduced from 12 minutes in 1998 to just 8 seconds in 2018!? So, now more than ever, your business needsto have a robust video marketing plan. A lot of research has been conducted to figure out the exact causes behind such high levels of engagement. To break it down, here are 6 scientific reasons that explain why online videos grab viewers’ attention quickly and effectively.

Videos help the audience focus on your message:

Some businesses and their mission statements are simpler to explain while others are not. If your business model feels too complicated, opt for an explainer video to convey the right message. Too often, long pages of text feel tedious to read and ultimately becomes incoherent. This drastically brings down audience engagement, rendering your marketing efforts completely useless. Instead, use a video to get your message across. In almost every case, a short, coherent, and quality video makes your message clear and succinct. Your message will also likely be well-received by your viewers. 

Videos swiftly grab your viewers’ attention:
Yes, the average attention span is just 8 seconds now. So, it’s much more important to create your content in ways that would make the viewer stop, stare, and engage. Only text or images aren’t going to be enough. Our brains are wired to pay attention to moving images and actionable activity. So, when compared with the other kinds of media, videos automatically become the top choice in this aspect. But attracting the viewer’s attention isn’t everything. You also need to ensure that you keep them immersed throughout the video. That way, their participation and engagement with the videos are assured. The best way to do that is to keep your video short, simple, and interesting.

Videos enable higher levels of retention:
An image is a powerful medium of communication that can even convey intangible ideas. A video, on the other hand, can convey multiple complex ideas within a small period of time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, according to a study, one minute of video is worth approximately 1.8 million words. So, it makes sense to completely shift to videos, right? Not exactly, since different types of content still require text and pictures. So, increase retention rates by breaking up the monotony through videos. Incorporate an interesting video wherever possible as sifting through a series of images or reading long paragraphs of text can get boring. 

Videos evoke complex emotions:

To make your company relatable and humane, you need to infuse your content with emotions. However, with such short attention spans, the only way businesses can truly evoke emotion is through videos. Whether it’s an informational whiteboard video, an emotional cartoon video or a funny animated short, you can use the power of emotions to hook your audience. Instead of making us understandit, emotion in videos makes us feelthe video. Compared to what we read for over 10 minutes, we remember how we felt in that short amount of time. Use videos to press the right emotional buttons and you will witness sustained boosts in engagement.

Videos easily explain tough ideas or concepts:

Videos are a good way to explain concepts or mission statements as they grab your viewer’s attention. Videos also make it easier for the brain to break down the information. Every time we read, we automatically use our “inside voice” and interpret the words in our brain. Since this takes effort and time, people with shorter attention spans would move on before you can get your message across. When we watch a video, the amount of time taken to interpret that information reduces dramatically. Hence, we absorb and retain the same amount of information quicker and easier when the content is in a video format. 

Videos bring your company to life:

Since the history of humans, we have always been drawn towards a community. In the digital age, videos are what draw us together from different parts of the world. Have you ever felt like you’ve missed out on something when you don’t watch a viral video? Alternatively, do you feel belonged after you know all about that viral video? The reasoning behind viral videos is basically the same. Essentially, your videos can be potent enough to build a community around your business. People who are involved in such communities tend to stay loyal to that particular business. These passionate fans bring in more people, thus increasing your customers and your brand value.

As demonstrated above, opting for more video content can be very beneficial for your business. The science behind why we connect with videos has validated the benefits of video marketing. It has begun to change the game of internet marketing. Companies looking to grow their presence need to focus more on connecting with audiences through astute marketing strategies and powerful videos. 

However, all your efforts will fall short if your videos don’t have impressive content. Quality is key because your videos represent your company. If you don’t have an internal media team, outsource the work to a credible commercial video productioncompany. Since you’re entrusting them with your money and your company’s image, thoroughly check their work profile and past client testimonials. Once you’re satisfied, contact them and schedule a meeting. Choosing the right video production company can boost your marketing efforts, ensure improved ROI (return on investment), and bring in more convertible leads. So, restructure your video marketing plan to make it smarter, better, and more effective. 

Money Matters: 10 Powerful Ways to Help You Save Money on Your Tax Bill

The running joke throughout the world is that there are only two things guaranteed in life: death and taxes. It’s sarcastically spoken, but there’s a great nugget of truth in there. Everyone at some point will have to be faced with dealing with paying taxes, and the action itself has become synonymous with stress.

It doesn’t have to be so bad, though. If you know what you are doing or you work with a tax expert, your tax bill can be cushioned from the blow it may otherwise have landed you. 

Whether you are doing your taxes solo or getting help from a pro, here are 10 powerful ways you can save money on your tax bill this year.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Taxes

1. Begin with the end in mind as you organize. Taxes are not something you should put off until right before you go to do them. If you get a process in place to keep your receipts, books, and finances organized in the beginning, it becomes a simple matter of a few steps you can do each day or week.

2. Claim everything that you are eligible for. Be sure you are claiming all of the tax deductions that you can and all of the tax credits that you can. This is where a tax expert comes in handy. For more information on reputable tax companies, view here.

Deductions can be performed in one of two ways. You can take a standard deduction, in which case you will receive the basic deduction given by the IRS to millions of Americans, or you can itemize your deductions if you think that your individual deductions will add up to more than the standardized one.

3. Don’t forget to donate! It may seem counterproductive, but donating to charities is considered a good cause and you can claim it on your taxes. As long as the charity you are donating to is considered to be a qualified charity (your children and your spouse don’t count), you can write off donations of money, goods, and stocks as long as you save the receipts.

4. Consider your future. The government does not want to have to be fully supporting you when you retire, so they look favorably on retirement plans and people who plan ahead. Contributions towards your retirement account are tax deductible and can help you reduce your taxes.

5. Healthcare is also a tax relief. While you may have to spend money in a Health Savings Account, a Flexible Spending Account, or straight to the medical provider, these expenses may be able to be used to cushion your tax bill if they meet certain requirements. They are funded with pretax money. An HSA can only be used if you have a qualifying health insurance plan that has a high deductible.

The caveat with an FSA or HSA is that you have to use up the majority of your contribution annually or it disappears. Some employers give you a grace period, but not everyone. There’s also a contribution limit, so be careful when you place your pre-tax money in one of these accounts and make sure you are not going over the annual contribution limit.

6. Don’t immediately cash in on your investments. Short-term assets are taxed at a regular income tax rate, which can be quite expensive and decrease the capital gain you would have otherwise had. Instead, try to keep the asset for over one year, turning it into a long-term holding. This reduced the tax rate, helping you to save some money.

7. Consider your mortgage. Buying and selling a home makes a huge impact on your taxes the following year. If you purchase a home, you now have monthly mortgage payments with lots of interest. The good news about this significant interest is that it is tax deductible if you are itemizing your deductions. 

Selling your home makes a big impact, too, so you have to be careful when you decide to make this change. There’s a home sale exclusion rule in which you can exclude a big chunk of the gain of your home’s sale if you follow the rules carefully. If you don’t fit this exclusion, you can expect to pay a hefty tax on your gains.

8. Be sure you are using the correct filing status. Read up on what each of the filing statuses means. If you can qualify for “head of household,” you can get better tax rates and a higher standard deduction, giving you a smaller overall tax bill.

Married couples can decide whether the numbers make more sense to do “married filing separately” or “married filing jointly.” 

9. Watch for changes in the tax codes. Part of what makes filing taxes so overwhelming to a lot of people is that they are always changing. Sometimes these changes are for your benefit, though, so pay attention to them as much as you can. 

If you know about the tax codes early enough, you may be able to use them to reduce your tax bill. For instance, recent changes capped deductions for income, sales and property taxes at $10,000, so if you were planning on deducting more, you may have to rethink your tax strategy. On the other hand, the marriage penalty is almost gone, so if that was keeping you from tying the knot, you can go full speed ahead!

10. Hire a tax professional. When it comes to your taxes, it’s not financially smart to play around with them if you don’t know what you are doing. Sure, a professional may cost you an upfront fee, but they may also be able to save you that fee and much more! 

Money Matters: Keep Your Money in Your Pocket

No one wants to pay more to the IRS than they have to, but they also don’t want to mess up and bring the wrath of the IRS down on them, either. Knowing the tax code and how to file your taxes correctly can help you do exactly what you need to do and still save money on your tax bill every year.


Have you played SwagIQ? It’s a live trivia game show where you test your knowledge to win cash prizes. It’s free to play, just download the app to get started. To earn money, you must be a member of SwagBucks. It’s also free to sign up, and there are plenty of ways to get free gifts cards by using the site! Just click on my referral link to get started!

Here’s a little more about Swag IQ:Monday through Thursday they broadcast a live game. Simply tune-in at the appointed time by launching the SwagIQ app and log-in with your Swagbucks account credentials. The game show host will ask a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. You’ll have 10 seconds to answer each one.

Get it right; you get SB (points you can use to get gift cards) and move on. Answer them all correctly and you can win a grand prize! If more than one player wins, the winners split the grand prize.

Get it wrong; still play along. Some questions have an SB award attached to them. If you answer those questions correctly, you get SB, even if you’re out of the running for the big money. And, if you’re in a groove but miss a question, you’ll have the option to rejoin a game by redeeming a few SB.Have fun!

Why I Don’t Use the Phrase: “We Can’t Afford That”

I spend a fair amount of time talking to my children about money. I tend to begin the conversations when we are trapped in the car together. I find a captive audience is often an attentive one.

Once, on an hour long drive to my parent’s house, I introduced my five-year-old son to the concept of mortgages and credit cards. The next day I sat on the couch depicting graphs with variable interest rates. It sounds ridiculous, but he was mesmerized to see how quickly debts can rise.

My son has always been mathematically advanced and because he is capable of understanding complex numbers I take every opportunity to teach him about money management. The way I see it money makes the world go round and like it or not our civilization is dependent on the transfer of currency from one person to another. As long as you need food and shelter you will need to find a way to pay for them.

Some of my friends believe I am teaching my children too young, but the truth is children are inquisitive little creatures and if you ignore the topic your children will most likely create their own misguided dialogues about money. In a time when credit cards are used more often than cash the waters of money management can become quite murky in a child’s mind.

If you don’t believe me here is a perfect example. When my son was four he loved turning our house into a grocery store. One afternoon he arranged a bunch of fake plastic food along the couch cushions and instructed me to buy whatever I wanted. He handed me a reusable bag and off I went adding plastic carrots, corn, blueberry muffins, pancake mix and chocolate chip cookies. When I reached the checkout line he began to ring up my groceries.

That Christmas my son received a cash register from his grandparents and he was so eager to scan my groceries like a “real cashier.” The cash register had a little button on top and when he scanned each item it beeped and audibly announced its price. When his pretend conveyor belt was all clear he pressed the total button and the register reported the amount I owed. “That will be $40.32,” he said. I pulled the fake money out of my plastic toy wallet and counted out $40.32. That’s when my son said, “mom just use your credit card then you don’t need any money.”

“Well,” I told him, “I don’t need any money now, but I will need to pay the bill later.” His puzzled little face stared at me for a moment. Then he explained that credit cards were magic and that no payment was ever necessary. Sure enough he passed that toy credit card through the register’s slot and my balance magically turned to zero.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that my son would think this way. At the store he sees me pull a shiny, rectangular piece of plastic out of my wallet and voila my groceries are bagged and we walk out to the car. He doesn’t watch me log in to my bank account later that month to pay my credit card bill.

So many monetary transactions occur behind the scenes that it’s no wonder children don’t understand much about money. I remember going to the bank with my dad to cash his checks or going to the ATM so he could retrieve cash. Now banks automatically deposit our paychecks and just about every establishment I frequent accepts credit cards. My children rarely see dollar bills or coins in my hand.

I try my best to be honest with my children and when it comes to finances I share as much as I can about our own successes, trials and tribulations. This includes talking a lot about past jobs, the importance of education and just as importantly how and when to spend money.

When my children ask for something I avoid the phrase “We can’t afford that” for a number of reasons. First, my children know that my husband earns a high wage. They are aware that their dad is a software developer and that he is highly compensated for his skills.

When my children ask for something I could very easily tell them “we can’t afford that,” but in most cases that would be a lie. To date we can afford everything they’ve asked us to buy. Instead I tell them that we all have to make important decisions about how to spend the money we earn.

Instead of saying “I can’t afford that” I say “Let’s think of other ways we might want to spend our money” or “I have other plans for our money.” Then we discuss the options or plans.

Say my son wants to purchase a toy. Before placing the desired object into the cart I might ask him “would you rather have a new toy or spend an afternoon with your brother at the pinball arcade”? Or “would you rather take a friend bowling or sign up for karate lessons?”

We can also talk about using that money to pay for something that benefits the entire family rather than purchasing a toy that only benefits him. Should we defer buying toys and games right now so we can save our money for a long term goal like a snowboarding trip or quite simply keep our money in our pocket and refrain from buying anything at all.

When I leave the decision in my son’s hands I find he often makes the choice to defer spending. By pausing to consider his choices he is less prone to senseless splurges.

This also helps my son recognize the difference between wants and needs. In a store he might want to buy something he saw on the shelf, but after we leave empty handed he will either forget about the item or decide he didn’t want it after all. New items look awfully shiny, but once he returns home he decides he doesn’t need one more toy.

It’s important to note this is not just about saying “no” to my kid. If my son mentions a toy or experience multiple times after that initial visit we will talk about it. We won’t immediately drive back to the store though. Instead we search online together for a lower price, wait for a sale or even check out second hand stores for cheaper options. We will also say no when it’s appropriate.

That four year old who thought credit cards were magical is now seven and while he doesn’t understand everything about money his decisions to save and spend are carefully considered.

Every summer he runs a lemonade stand that earns roughly $100 from generous friends and neighbors. With three summers under his belt, and one or two stands each summer, his savings now totals $400. He can now afford many of the toys he covets, but interestingly enough he rarely spends his money on new things.

If my son is skilled and lucky enough to become successful in a high paying occupation I want him to remember these early conversations about money. We’ve all heard stories about high income earners who needlessly blow their money. I want my son to understand that just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you should.

If, on the other hand, my son maintains a job with a lower salary I still want him to refrain from saying “I can’t afford that.” I want him to consider his options, reflect on the items or experiences before him, and remember that by mindfully spending he can align his purchases with his long term aspirations. It may take him longer to save for the things he wants but every time he avoids negative self talk and impulsive purchases he will find himself one step closer to his goals.

What To Do When You Suddenly Find Yourself In Tax Trouble

When you’re a self-employed individual or an owner of a small business, there’s a chance that you’re not bothered much by tax, unlike your corporate counterparts. You are not trying to evade, but, rather, you are not informed of what you need to do regarding your taxes. You’ll be surprised when one morning, while you’re having a cup of coffee, a letter regarding tax debt makes its way to your mailbox. The amount indicated is quite a big one. Because of this, you start to panic. What are the things you can do to get yourself out of trouble?

According to Forbes, there are ten common tax issues. It is most likely that you’re having the same problem on the list. The list consists of accuracy-related penalties, trade or business expenses, gross income, summons enforcement, appeals from the collection due process hearings, failure to file and failure to pay penalties, charitable deductions, frivolous issues penalty, civil actions to enforce federal tax liens, and relief from joint and several liabilities.

There are ways to make things more bearable, especially if you’re caught off guard by the sudden turn of events. You can opt for tax debt relief options which will be beneficial for both parties.

One of the first options is to make a partial payment early on and to proceed to an installment agreement later on. The IRS has long-term payment plans at a reduced dollar amount, which is better than paying large sums at once. This is a great option if you are qualified for the Offer in Compromise program. It is also a good option for those hoping for a chance to get relieved for penalties and interest.

Another thing you can do is to file for a “Not Currently Collectible” program from the IRS. If you file for this program, the IRS will mark you as a person that has no ability to pay his or her tax debts. In order for your application for the program to be granted, you have to submit evidence for the inability to pay. This is one of the most effective ways to stop an IRS levy, lien, or denial of an installment agreement.

Similar to the “Not Currently Collectible” program, filing for bankruptcy is one way to make your debts a little easier to handle. This is the case if you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 governs the process of liquidation, while Chapter 13 governs the reorganization of the debtor. While Chapter 7 makes the full discharge of debts allowable, Chapter 13 provides a restructuring plan and repays some of the debts. Based on where you fall, you will be able to reduce the debt that you owe.

You also have the option to work with your credit card company by consolidating tax debt with your loans and credit cards. This option is only available when there is still no federal tax lien on any of your property. If there is already a lien from the IRS, your tax lawyer can help you temporarily remove the lien so you can consolidate your debts with your loans and credit cards. This is a good way to reduce the interest because credit card companies often have lower interest rates compared to the ones used from IRS.

There are more tax debt relief options that you can do in order to ease the burden of paying your debt. With additional effort, you can do the filling and processing on your own. But you will have more advantages when you hire a lawyer’s services. Law is a complicated thing, especially the tax laws. It would be better if you acquire help from a tax law professional.

Some of the benefits in acquiring the help of a tax lawyer include their expertise in the subject, which helps them determine the best options for each unique case. Based on the framework they made, they will help you file for things and will remind you of the important time frames.

Being caught with an unexpected debt will make most of us panic and might resort to things that are not legal to compensate. However, there are legal steps to make your life easier when paying a debt. Keep the financial discipline and you’ll be able to make it.

Financial Empowerment: Encouraging Women to Become Financially Literate

I’ll be honest. I think a lot about money. In fact, I think about money more than anyone else I know. This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. It’s just the way I’ve always been. Many of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories involve rolling coins, keeping my brother away from my stash of cash or feeling inadequate and disappointed by a lack of money.

As a woman who has been interested in the finer points of finances for my entire life I am intensely saddened by my married female friends and family members who claim to know little to nothing about their finances.

I feel downright sick to my stomach when I read stories about women who scramble to learn about their finances after an unexpected death in the family. These stories are all so eerily similar. A few weeks after laying her husband to rest a grieving wife finds unpaid debts or finds out that her husband never applied for life insurance. As bills pile up this poor woman cannot find the checkbook or log in to her husband’s bank account to pay them.

No one should be thrust into the world of money management this way! No one should receive their first money lesson while staggering through a crisis!

So why does this happen time and time again? Why don’t women know the basics about their own personal finances? I really don’t know the answer to this question, but I’ve gathered a few ideas after polling many friends, family members and coworkers over the years. (If you have other thoughts please provide them in the comments below.)

Some women tell me they don’t have a knack for numbers. They tell me their husbands are simply better at math. Better at math?, but managing your personal finances requires little more than addition and subtraction. I promise! You don’t need to understand algebra and calculus to project your income and expenses. Please don’t let the fear of math prevent you from learning about personal finance or anything else for that matter. I swear the math is simple and there are plenty of online calculators available to help you.

Some women believe they don’t earn enough to justify a seat at the financial table. This is pure hogwash. Just because you stay-at-home with your children or earn less than your spouse does not mean you should have less say in your overall financial picture. As a married couple both spouses need to be on the same page to succeed financially. After all, even if only one spouse earns an income, both will need to manage their expenses and spending. Both will also need to make investing decisions so the money they save can grow. Don’t allow your lack of income to make you feel inferior and don’t discount the important non-financial roles you play in your household.

A number of women told me their husbands prefer to manage their household finances and that one person should be in charge of the day-to-day money management tasks. I’m not going to argue with this notion as long as it isn’t a reflection of the “I’m not good at math” mantra or that you live in a patriarchal marriage where the man controls the money solely because he was born with an extra “Y” chromosome.

I think it’s perfectly fine for one spouse to handle the majority of household transactions and your husband can certainly choose to accept those duties. One person can be in charge of paying the bills, deciding when to refinance the mortgage and ensuring that your income covers your expenses. One person can also be in charge of buying stocks, bonds and mutual funds, although I will point out that choosing investments is a very slim piece of your overall personal finance picture.

I’m not arguing that your husband cannot be in charge of putting your financial decisions into action. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to manage your finances in order to understand them. You don’t have to push any buttons or make any phone calls right now, but if the need arises you should know how to perform all necessary actions.

Take a deep breath in. Now breathe out slowly. Listen carefully to my words. I’ll repeat them again. You don’t need to act now. You just need to know how to act if the need arises. Does that help eliminate the stress of it all? Does it help at least a little?

You won’t be pressured to pay bills, choose insurance options or move money between savings and checking accounts. Right now you just have to focus on learning how to do these things and why they should be done.

So what can you do to learn more about your money?

First, ask your husband to sit down with you to review your finances. (If you are a married man offer to review your finances with your wife.) Ask to see an overview of your net worth as well as a breakdown of your accounts and statements. Find out which financial institutions hold your money. Many of us have retirement accounts like 401ks in a completely separate bank than our checking and savings accounts. Know where your checkbook is stored inside the house.

Make sure you understand how to log into your bank accounts to view your current balances. Try logging into websites to view your credit card bills and mortgage details.  Know which bills are paid directly through ACH withdrawals and which you need to physically pay via bill pay or check. Learn how to pay your bills.

Other facts you should know. How much life insurance would you receive if your spouse died? Where can you find the policy numbers and contact information?

Write down all of this information and keep it somewhere safe.

Understand your basic household figures. How much is your average credit card bill? How much do you spend on housing? How much do you and your husband earn? Does your income cover your expenses? These are numbers and facts you should be able to recite without more than a second’s pause. Heck you may find that your husband doesn’t even know the answers to these questions. You may need to investigate together.

Once you gather the basics move on to other topics. Review your paystubs and your bi-weekly deductions. Figure out how much you spend on medical insurance and dental insurance. Do you or your husband have access to life or disability insurance policies through your employer? If so, do you take advantage of them? If not, why not? Make sure you understand the implications of these decisions.

Set aside time each month, quarter or at a minimum a couple times a year to review statements, plan for short and long term financial goals and discuss all money matters and concerns. I find a lot of women are concerned about their financial picture, but fail to voice their concerns. Simple, straight forward conversations could alleviate those fears. Speak up and ask questions. Ask lots of questions and don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask them.

Some women find it easier to talk to other women about serious topics like finances and money. Try starting simple conversations with other women or research books written by female authors. Search online for blogs about personal finance and contact the bloggers who write about money if you have questions. Don’t pay anything to gain an understanding of your money. All of the information is available for free now. Search for a mentor who can guide you.

I was blessed with an amazing money mentor: my grandmother. She was born in the early 1920s but she controlled the finances in her home. She taught me the importance of saving up enough money to buy the items I coveted, to think carefully before spending, to bargain shop and to wait patiently for sales and deals before spending my hard earned money. My grandmother focused on the importance of education. She knew it was important to maximum income while simultaneously decreasing expenses and living within your means. When she died at the age of 94 she left a small inheritance for her children. She lived frugally throughout her lifetime to ensure her financial legacy could be passed on. I feel eternally grateful for the wisdom and strength my grandmother instilled in me. She was an incredible female role model for me.

If you have young girls talk to them about money and let them see you speaking to your spouse about money too. Let them know that money conversations don’t have to take place behind closed doors and that women can be a powerful force in the household even if they don’t earn money on their own. Money management should not be solely controlled by the spouse earning the highest income. Highlight the ways in which mindful spending can make a difference in your spending and saving.

If you are knowledge about your finances speak out loudly and clearly to the next generation of women. Let them heed your words so they can gain confidence with their money.

What are your thoughts? If you aren’t knowledgable about your finances what is holding you back? If you are knowledgable do you have any ideas on how we can come together to create a community of confident, financially savvy women?

Note: This post is about inspiring confidence in women. Having said that I believe men should be equally knowledgeable about their finances. This post is not meant to exclude them. In fact, married men play a pivotal role in helping their spouses gain knowledge. Couples are often more successful when they forge a path together. Fathers can also teach and inspire the next generation of financially competent women.