The Best Way to Choose a Loan that’s Right for You

There are comparison websites that on the surface take the hard work out of research. They compare products within a similar sector to narrow down the best alternatives for what you are looking for. You may want the cheapest flight to a chosen destination, the most competitive insurance or utility supplier. You may want to know the best credit card alternative or even the best loan for your particular circumstances. No one would suggest that it is not worthwhile looking at such sites; certainly when it comes to flights there seems little to gain by the site omitting any alternatives. However when it comes to products where the original source may provide commission for referrals the question must be asked as to how accurate they may be and whether there are omissions purely on the basis that a source will not pay commission to a comparison instant www.realisticloans.com website.

The point is that it is usually worthwhile to look a little deeper just to make sure than an obvious provider has not been omitted.

Beware

There are some obvious points to bear in mind. No one should have to pay any fee upfront during the application process. Good lenders will be completely transparent about the interest that will be applied to a loan, the terms and conditions and all fees involved. Those fees should make part of the whole total to be repaid and that should be part of a contract before it is signed. You should know the monthly instalments involved and the term of the loan with no scope for hidden extras either at the time or at any point during the full term of the loan.

Post-Recession

The financial environment has changed since the recession. It caused damage to more than individuals; many banks had taken on board toxic debt and they had to make immediate provisions for writing off that debt and take the losses on the chin. The result is that they are even more cautious even though the economy is improving. They place great reliance on an applicant’s credit score and those who have some blemishes on their credit history and hence their scores have suffered may find some doors closed when they apply for loans.

Credit Score and Affordability

If you are looking for a loan you should perhaps start by obtaining your credit score and if you feel that it should be higher, check that there are no inaccuracies, entries that should not be there or omissions that should. Your credit score is your route to a wider range of loans but that does not mean that there are not perfectly good online lenders that will approve a loan even if your score is less than impressive. You will be judged on your ability to repay a loan on time throughout its term rather than your credit history. To make out your case you will need to provide bank details and evidence of employment and regular income. If a lender believes the sums add up then you ought to get your loan without delay.

That is not to say you should not seek to improve your score. Successful future instalment payments will do that. You may be carrying balances on credit cards and only be able to pay the minimum on each every month. You are paying a high level of interest without significantly reducing those balances. A consolidation loan to pay off those balances will help your overall financial position, reduce interest payments and put you in a stronger position in future when you are seeking finance.

If you have blemishes on your credit history you may be charged an interest rate that is a point or two higher than for someone without such problems. The point is that you will be approved and can work towards a better situation in the future. You may be able to start the process of saving or making better provision for retirement. Loans can play their part in your financial future if you use them wisely and as your credit worthiness increases your options will as well. Make positive use of the internet and be thorough in your research. It should lead you towards a good loan provider to take you forward.

August 28, 2015 at 6:36 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: Lola’s Money

Lola's Money

Book Description:

Lola French is stunned when she wins millions on the Lottery, and she is sure all her dreams are about to come true. However, right from the start, before she even claims her winnings, things begin to change and she separates abruptly and acrimoniously from the man she has been living with.

Lola’s colleagues are initially pleased for her, but eventually begin to resent her new status. One of them, Tom, whom she really likes, asks her out; but he does it on the day that news of her win spreads through the office and she sadly turns him down. She decides to leave her job as a Financial Adviser in Edinburgh and explore the limitless possibilities of her new lifestyle.

When Lola and her mother excitedly set off on a Mediterranean cruise, it’s not long before they both meet men they are interested in. However, their holiday of a lifetime catapults them into a life-changing sequence of dramatic and terrifying events that neither of them will ever forget. When she has to return to reality, Lola unexpectedly finds herself involved with Tom again! But the storm clouds are looming overhead, and as the recent past catches up with her and forces her to confront violence and danger once more, Lola risks losing Tom forever.

About the author:

Rosanna Rae is married with three grown-up sons and lives in Livingston, Scotland. She has a B.A. (Open) in Social Science subjects and also took a writing course with The Writers Bureau some years ago. She spent 16 years at home raising her family and then returned to full-time secretarial employment in Edinburgh.

Rosanna has wanted to write fiction since she was ten years of age, after reading an abridged version of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. She is delighted to be now fulfilling that early ambition.

Lola‘s Money‘ is the author’s fifth novel; she is currently writing her sixth book.

My Thoughts:

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you won the lottery? What relationships might change? Where you might live? What you might do and where you might go with all that money?

We’ve all heard the adage money doesn’t buy happiness. We all know lottery winners often end up destitute and broke yet most of us wouldn’t mind laying out hands on a winning ticket.

In Lola’s Money the main character Lola French’s life changes dramatically when she watches television and realizes she’s won the lottery. Unfortunately that lottery ticket brings heartache rather than happiness.

As a writer of a personal finance blog I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first chapter captured my attention as Lola discovers she’s won and immediately leaves her boyfriend behind in dramatic fashion. She leaves her world behind and gathers her mom for an on the seas adventure.

My husband always says I’d rather win money then earn it. He’s partially right. There is a lot of excitement and thrill in winning.

I don’t play the lottery but I have wondered what I’d do with a windfall. This book is s lot of fun to read for those who joke about winning the lottery.

Money doesn’t grant your every wish and sometimes it makes life rather complicated and messy.

Connect with the author:    Website  ~   Facebook  ~  Twitter

August 26, 2015 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

Plan For Your Future with These Tips

It is not always easy to plan accurately for your financial future, especially if you are a busy business person with many other things to think about and do. Yet this is probably one of the most important things you will do in life in order to build up a good series of investments that will ensure your comfortable retirement and financial security for your family.

Of course, the future is never clear, but most of its eventualities can be prepared for by good planning that utilizes advice from experienced financial specialists. Although there are some who prefer to take their own chances in planning their own investment portfolio, this is certainly not necessarily for everyone, and it may only benefit those who have significant financial experience.

Planning and advice

Individuals who don’t understand how the inside of an automobile works might try to fix some things themselves, but in reality, they need an expert to diagnose and sort out problems or possibilities and options. It is effectively no different with financial planning for retirement, and experts can help you develop an investment portfolio that will pay off when you are ready for retirement.

Take, for example, the highly respected Ken Fisher, who has been successful in the financial business for decades and writes for Forbes magazine. His company, Fisher Investments, has a long track record of helping business leaders, entrepreneurs, high net-worth individuals and many other successful executives and managers with their retirement planning options.

Face-to-face and telephone advice is important, but when exploring the options in retirement planning, the Internet holds plenty of sound investment advice with which to get started. Those not quite sure about where to go or where to start should check out 99 Tips from Ken Fisher, which is part of a series of guides with insight into all aspects of financial planning, including calculating net worth, estate planning and a whole range of options to consider for retirement planning.

Developing a portfolio

Anyone who has gone through college, borrowed money, gotten married and raised a family knows that money doesn’t grow on trees. It has to be earned, and in many cases it is spent on essentials for living.

Understandably, those under 30 may not think too much about putting money into savings plans with the distant future in mind. Yet in the early working years, even getting into the habit of reducing unnecessary spending, such as cutting back on dining out, can free up cash that can be put into a plan. If money is put into a pension plan earlier in life, there will be more returns later in life. It’s here where interest is compounded, so starting young and continuing and increasing payments towards a plan can develop a significant nest egg for your retirement.

Developing an investment portfolio is key to achieving financial security. It’s always important to remember that investments in shares can go down as well as up, and because of this, an advisor can help you make the right decisions. Choosing the level of risk for what you are prepared to invest is also important. Many investors choose safer areas such as government bonds where there is a payout after a specified time. The percentage interest may not be very high, but generally it is guaranteed to pay out.

Portfolios spread risk depending on what an individual wants to do. Business people, for example, are generally risk-takers and may be interested in mixing high-risk investments (such as tech start-ups that could fail but could also potentially make a lot of money) with a range of stocks in companies that appear to be performing well and some safer bond issues.

Investing is not a fail-safe process, but it is certainly possible to make money out of investments, both short-term and long-term, to ensure a comfortable retirement.

Real estate investment

Real estate always has its difficulties with changing and sometimes unstable prices, but people are always going to have to live somewhere, and businesses will always need rental property when they are starting out or expanding. Therefore, professional advice is essential to help investors look at market conditions in different states and see what may be appropriate for investing.

Keep planning

There are many options for retirement planning. Nowadays, company pensions may not offer what was originally expected, so investing in an IRA, especially if a company pension is not available, means that people can take more control over their own financial future.

August 24, 2015 at 5:42 PM Leave a comment

How to Prepare for Vacation: Saving Money on Food

costco

Over the years I’ve perfected the art of packing and preparing for vacation. I can load the car in a matter of minutes; ensuring we don’t forget anything important and finding space for absolutely everything we need. I know the quickest routes between points A and B and the best way to maximize our travel time. I never leave the house without snacks and ensure the kids and I will be well fed along the way.

What I can’t figure out is how to contain food costs during our extended stay; no matter how hard I try I still seem to waste previous time and money at the grocery store.

The worst part of grocery shopping on vacation is paying full price for items, because we simply don’t have the time to wait for a sale. On an average trip to the beach I would guess 95% of the stuff in our cart isn’t on sale and a grocery store bill for six to ten people can easily top $400.

This year, in an effort to save a little more money, I tried something new. In addition to stocking up on sale items long before our trip I took a last minute trip to Costco. I piled my husband and two children in the car and walked up and down the aisles in search of anything that we might eat on vacation.

We loaded the cart with a bunch of paper products like napkins and trash bags. Then hit the snack aisle for giant boxes of crackers, apple sauce squeeze packs and dried fruit. We also bought a bag of candy for after dinner treats and some chocolate covered fruit to hit that sweet spot before bed. In the dairy section we picked up large bags of shredded cheese and string cheese for the kids. We grabbed two large boxes of cereal and a giant box of Bisquick, which is my husband’s favorite choice for pancake breakfasts. We also loaded up on fruit and veggies including pineapple, grapes, pears and oranges.

Next on the list was steaks and chicken. The meat and poultry portion of our bill totaled $300, though half of this was cleaned, vacuumed sealed and left at home. My husband spent two and a half hours chopping and slicing chicken so we wouldn’t have to waste precious vacation minutes preparing dinner. Any time we need chicken for dinner we pull out one or two packs, let them soak in water for a bit and thaw exactly what we need.

Has this saved me any time or money? I’m honestly not sure. As a whole my family and I have taken four trips to the grocery store.

My son is a HUGE fruit eater. I’m not complaining about this. I am happy to hear him ask for fruit rather than candy or junk food, so I keep a plethora of fruits and veggies in the fridge at all times. Fruit is eaten quickly at our house and in the last three weeks we’ve filled the fridge with just about every option available. Pears, apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and oranges are his favorite. I don’t want to purchase too much produce for fear of spoiling, but it seems the fruit is gone within a few days of filing the fridge. We’ve also eaten through our fair share of milk, eggs butter and bread.

We could have purchased milk and eggs at Costco, but we didn’t have the means to transport so many cold items to the beach and don’t really have the room to store them here either. Sometimes bread can last for a week and other times it seems to grow mold rather quickly. A few rolls were tossed after turning green, but the rest were eaten as my family prepared daily sandwiches and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs that all required buns.

All told I’ve spent $300 at the grocery store and another $500 at Costco. We didn’t drag all the food we bought from Costco to the beach though, maybe $250 or $300 of it, so the grand total is probably $550 or $600 so far with another two weeks to go.

Do you have any tricks for saving money while on vacation? Do you stock up before leaving home?

August 23, 2015 at 1:35 PM Leave a comment

Things I Stopped Buying

11471837784_55ab7479e5_z

I’ve spent a lot of money on home renovations lately, but other than big ticket items like mortgages, utilities and bi-weekly groceries I just don’t open my wallet up much these days. There are a lot of things I no longer buy. Here are just a few that top that list:

  • Nail Polish – I never spent a ton of money on this, but I do have a large box full of bottles sitting in my closet. More than I could ever use or need. Also, I never seem to find the time to paint my toe nails.
  • Decorative Towels – Yeah, this is a strange one, but I used to buy a towel for every season and special occasion; pumpkin towels for Halloween and Santa towels for Christmas. Now I buy plain old ordinary towels in one solid color. They can be used year round and look good no matter the season.
  • Holiday Decorations – I used to be a sucker for cute Christmas bowls and little Santa Clauses. The home section of TJ Maxx and Marshall’s were a magnet for me. These days the Scrooge in me avoids that area of the store. I don’t need any more decorations that only come out once a year.
  • Clothes – I won’t buy any clothes while I’m exclusively nursing. I love the nursing tops I currently use and although I am more than sick of looking at them I see no need to switch over to anything else. After my nursing days are over I would like to restock my wardrobe. Hopefully I’ll lose a couple of pounds between now and then.
  • Knick-Knacks – I have no desire to fill the house with anything that requires dusting. The house looks a whole lot emptier than it used to, but I prefer the open space to a bunch of stuff that sits around unused.
  • Lotions, Potions and Other Things That Smell Wonderful – The lure of apple scented soap no longer lures me into Bath and Body Works or the Body Shop. I typically purchase standard, unscented, Eco-friendly products and use an entire bottle before opening another. I always check the EWG Database before buying any of them.

How about you? Have you stopped buying anything lately?

August 21, 2015 at 2:40 PM 1 comment

Book Review: No Poverty Between the Sheets

No Poverty Between the Sheets

Book Description:

This book documents the strong ties that bind generations together. When the author poses the question to her Irish Granny, “If you were so poor why did you have ten children?” Says she, “To be certain, there was no poverty between the sheets!” This sassy saga of a large family that is half Irish and half French Canadian captures hilarious voices and comical antics of a vibrant family that is cloaked in love. A horse theme and song lyrics are neatly knitted throughout the layers of generations.

My Thoughts:

This is a memoir of a tight knit Irish family. The author highlights many different members of the family over generations and includes cute little catch phrases and conversations amongst the members. The title of the book is a great example of those catchy phrases; “no poverty between the sheets” immediately caught my attention.

I would imagine that the author’s family enjoyed reading this book. Not all of the family members have been highlighted in the best light, but I bet it would be interesting to reflect on past events, especially as they are being told from the author’s perspective.

I’ve always thought of writing a memoir and I would LOVE to watch the faces of family members as they read the details of prior events and envision those events through my eyes.

Unfortunately, as a common reader, and clearer not a family member, I found little interest in the stories that were told.

I received this book in the mail just as my youngest went down for a nap. I picked a cozy spot on the couch, poured a glass of ice water and started reading, but the book did not capture my interest the way I expected. I enjoy reading all sorts of genres and topics, but this book was simply not my cup of tea.

I’ll be honest; I gave up on reading this book all at once time and read a chapter a day for a couple of days. I was able to finish the book but never found much interest in the stories that were told.

Meet the Author:

Pauline Kiely has been an avid student of Creative Writing her entire life. This author has consistently taken various courses and workshops offered at University of Toronto and Trent Universities. A year long memoir course with Susan Reynolds brought out this witty honest voice that shoots straight from the hip aiming for the heart.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook
Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 20, 2015 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Most People are Good

unlocked

After my last post I received a bunch of emails from long time readers asking about our desire to provide items to guests. “Why would you fill your house with nice things?,” one reader asked.

As I mentioned before we try to provide a happy, fun, easy atmosphere for our guests. We know that most folks only get one week of vacation per year and we do our best to provide the amenities that help make our house feel like a home. If we can provide beach chairs, umbrellas, pool toys, etc. then guests don’t need to cram so much in their cars.

If we can provide pots, pans, bowls and nice serving ware families can cook and eat together. The kitchen can smell like bacon and eggs in the morning and chocolate chip cookies and popcorn at night.

In ten years as owners of a rental home this is the first time we have been experienced a significant financial loss. It’s also the first time anyone has broken into our locked closets and taken items that were clearly ours.

I like to believe that most people are inherently good. A few years ago a guest broke a small stereo of ours. A week after their stay I received a large box in the mail from Target. Wouldn’t you know they replaced the unit and sent a note apologizing for breaking it?

Another year a guest broke a glass measuring cup. She replaced the item and left behind a letter of apology.

Last year a family left behind a t-shirt from their local fire department. They enjoyed our home so much they wanted to provide something special for my son who donates gift cards, (along with us), to the fire department each winter. They also left behind a thank you note and a large bottle of wine.

I reiterate: Most People are Good. There will be a few sour folks who steal stuff that doesn’t belong to them. There will be guests who break items and throw them out in the garbage hoping no one notices, but for every one of those guests there are probably ten or fifteen upstanding citizens who treat our items with the care and respect they deserve.

It is for those guests that we make our house feel like a home.

August 18, 2015 at 4:59 PM Leave a comment

Comparing Loan Options

My husband and I refinanced our two homes nine times in twelve years! Does that seem absolutely crazy! Looking over the data it is absolutely mind boggling to me.

First House:

Date Loan Amount Term Rate Note
2001 $247,000 30 Years 6.875% Original Loan (included crappy PMI)
2002 $243,000 30 Years 6.000% Removed PMI
2003 $237,700 15 Years 4.875% Lower Rate & Term
2009 $400,000 15 Years 4.500% Cash Out to Buy Additional Property
2012 $335,000 10 Years 3.125% Lower Rate & Term

 Second House:

Date Loan Amount Term Rate Note
2005 $496,000 30 Years 6.000% Original Loan
2008 $243,000 30 Years 5.000% Lower Rate
2009 $376,000 15 Years 4.500% Lower Rate & Term
2012 $325,000 10 Years 3.500% Lower Rate & Term

We are certainly not strangers to the world of loans, mortgages and financing. In fact, when mortgage rates dropped I considered attaining a 5/1 ARM on our second home. We planned to pay off the house in roughly seven years and the 5/1 option provided a much lower interest rate and the incentive to pay off the house even sooner. Once our primary house is paid off we’ll have more money to throw at our second home.

I use a whole host of websites to help me compare loans and loan options. I think it’s important to understand the short and long term costs as well as any closing costs, fees, etc. Make sure you know all of the facts before signing on the dotted line.

This is true of all loans. If you are considering any type of loan, be it personal loans, auto loans or mortgages you should expect to perform a fair amount of homework. Don’t take the first offer that comes your way and don’t place your John Hancock on any papers until you are absolutely certain you understand what you are signing.

If you are in need of financing and contemplating your options there are many websites out there to help you. One of my favorite financial calculator sites is dinkytown.net. Norwegian customers can compare different kinds of loans norskelån.com.

Applying for a loan can be scary, but arming yourself with valuable information with help ease the process.

August 18, 2015 at 10:29 AM Leave a comment

Stolen!!!

locked
This year was not a stellar rental season for us. We received five bookings rather than the ten to twelve we’ve come to expect each summer. The rental company provided a bunch of excuses for the lack of bookings. Among which were “school let out late due to snow” and the “fourth of July fell on a Saturday so fewer people wanted to travel.” Any way you look at it the overall rental income was less than half of what we typically earn in a season.

To add insult to injury we experienced outright theft for the first time in ten years. When we arrived at the house a number of items were missing from our owners closet and kitchen. A member of the cleaning crew, realty company or one of the guests broke into our locked closet and stole personal items including family heirlooms and electronics.

They also stole three large Pyrex casserole pans with lids, three mixing bowls, three decorative bowls with lids, a Keurig coffee maker, HDMI cables, Blu-ray movies, a photo keepsake box, a video baby monitor, Apple charging cables and a bathroom scale.

They also took brand new band-aids, razors, hair clips, nail polish, first aid related items, thermometers and paper towels.

We’ve never experienced theft like this before. The total for all goods was over $600. The rental company offered us $250 to cover part of our losses, but we’ll need to foot the rest of the bill.

I’m angry that someone took items that didn’t belong to them, but I’m particularly sad that some of those items were gifts from deceased family members that simply cannot be replaced.

My husband and I strive to make this house nice for our guests. We know that many families can only take off a few days each year and provide our guests with all the amenities that make a beach house a home. That includes a kitchen stocked with pots, pans and every other item required to make delicious home cooked meals. It also includes nice bowls to present the food and Pyrex dishes to store the tasty leftovers.

Similarly we keep beach chairs in the car port and swim floats in the pool house. These are available to all of our guests. We hope that renters will use these items and treat them with care. We hope that these items will be available for the first renter of the season and last all the way until the last. If one bad renter breaks things or steals them the rest of our guests will have a less enjoyable stay here. I am disappointed that someone ruined the experience for everyone that followed.

On top of taking the items that were available to everyone, these people took it upon themselves to open a locked closet and take out items that were clearly not intended for guests. We keep special items locked in the owners closet; items that are clearly meant for our use and our use alone.

At first I was angry, but as I reflect on the issue I’m quite sad. Our house rents for $2500 a week in the peak of the season so it seems strange that someone could afford to spend that amount on a rental and then feel the need to steal.

I’m not sure who decided to swipe our stuff, but I hope whoever took it really needed it. The whole thing just makes me sad. Especially for my husband who lost a family memento, which can never be replaced.

August 16, 2015 at 5:43 PM 4 comments

Are Those Family Heirlooms Worth Anything at All?

waterford

At my previous job I was offered a gift after five years of employment. What was five years worth? $200 seemed the going rate as each gift in the selected catalog was roughly equivalent to that amount.

At the time I waffled between two options: a very girly, pink bike and an ornate Waterford vase. At the time our garage was filled to the brim with shelves full of stuff. I already owned a bike, (though not a pale pink one), and had no room to store another, so I settled on the vase. If I could go back in time I would probably pick anything other than that vase, but at the time I was recently married and it seemed like the perfect choice to fill my new china cabinet.

Fast forward another ten years and the china cabinet is no longer in residence here. The plates, cups and saucers have all moved out so art supplies and children’s toys can occupy that space. The china was transported to the attic, though I doubt we’ll ever remove it from there. But what about that Waterford vase? What on earth could I do with it? It was heavy and unfortunately not designed for a large bouquet. When we brought flowers home they stood too stiffly inside it’s confided area and looked quite stifled and tight in there.

I wondered if I could sell that vase? I searched eBay for similar items, but even at low prices it seemed no one wanted the piece I owned. I found a few companies offering to buy Waterford, but none of them wanted it either.

I was told the number of crystal collectors is rapidly declining. “Who wants crystal,” one representative asked. “These days people want big screen televisions and trips to Tahiti.”

He went on to tell me that as the older generation passes away many children, (now in their 50s and 60s), have no desire to keep these family heirlooms. After all, even those who regularly entertain rarely do so with crystal goblets and sterling silver flatware.

We are a perfect example of this. We rarely host events, but our last party involved a backyard barbeque. We served food on paper plates with plastic cups and filled a wheelbarrow full of beer.

If we are representative of our generation it’s not difficult to see why the value of Waterford and other fine crystal is falling. There simply isn’t a market out there. Very few people want the stuff and even fewer are willing to pay good money to acquire it.

My family owns quite a bit of cut glass but I’ve never eaten off those plates or poured wine into those delicate glasses. This wasn’t the case for my grandmother who used them daily as a child. Even my mom remembers being served lemonade from crystal pitchers. This hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I’ve only seen them behind glass doors, inside a china cabinet covered with a thin layer of dust.

I understand collecting beauty for beauty’s sake, but I doubt our generation or the one that follows will have much need or desire for china or crystal.

As for me, I no longer wish to own something I have no intention of using. If it is going to sit in a cabinet and take up space I’d prefer to pass it on to someone who might covet it.

As for my Waterford, I donated it. I hope it finds a new home where it can be treasured.

August 11, 2015 at 1:33 PM Leave a comment

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