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6 Financial Rules of Thumb

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I wonder how many of you are big-time readers. You know the kind, the ones who can read a book a week or sift through endless reams of data and advice to help them develop a financial plan that will lead them down the path to prosperity.

However, if you’re like most people and don’t have the time to read through a mountain of books, magazines and web-sites (or have the inclination to do so), then this article is for you. It will list out the main “rules of thumb” for financial planning.

1. The Savings/Investing Rule of Thumb:

Pay Yourself First: Aim to set aside at least 10% of your take-home pay

I’m sure you’ve seen this rule of thumb before. I first read it in The Richest Man in Babylon. As you will learn, paying yourself first is the most important bill you will pay each month.

The best way to implement this rule is to make it automatic. Have 10% of your take-home pay pulled from your paycheck and deposited into a separate bank account. If your employer doesn’t allow you to do this, simply set up a transfer between your main account and your “ten percent” account equal to ten percent of your paycheck.

If you already have a well-funded emergency fund and your short-term goals have been funded, you might funnel all of the ten percent into a retirement plan. Of course if you set aside 10% in your retirement plan, you’ll be contributing pre-tax which works out to be more than 10% after-tax.

2. The Short-Term Debt Rule of Thumb:

So-called “Bad” Debt should not equal more than 20% of your income

Short-term debt includes your car and student loans, as well as your credit cards and other forms of debt. Essentially everything except for your mortgage. You need to list all your outstanding liabilities and their respective minimum/monthly payments. Now add up the minimum/monthly payment amounts and you come up with a figure.

Take this number and divide it into your monthly take-home pay.

If the result is more than 20%, you’re carrying too much revolving debt. New entrants to the workforce or recent graduates often have a higher debt-to-income ratio because of their student loans and entry-level jobs that pay low salaries.

Compulsive spenders also have a problem because they spend every dollar they make.

You should aim to put at least 20% of your net pay toward paying down your outstanding debts. If you cease to add to your short-term debts today, you will find that you can pay off most of your short-term debt anywhere from 3-7 years.

3. The Housing Cost Rule of Thumb:

You should spend less than 36% of your monthly pay on housing

This rule of thumb is mainly for homeowners, but if you’re renting and spending more than 36% of your monthly pay in rent, you’re either living in NYC or San Francisco and it’s time to find a new place. Either that or find another roommate.

Why 36%?

Well, banks like to see that the cost of your monthly mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, and utilities will not place an undue burden on your finances.

In short, they calculate the cost of living in your home and know that if you’re exceeding 36% for your housing costs, you’ve probably bitten off more than you can chew.

Regardless of what your current percentages are, aim to reduce these percentages over time. Just because a bank is willing to lend you up to 28 percent of your gross monthly income, it doesn’t mean that you should borrow that much money to buy a house.

The less money you borrow, the faster you can pay it back and the higher your monthly cash flow will be (because you’re spending less on your mortgage). The less you spend monthly, the more you’ll have to invest for your future.

4. The Retirement Rule of Thumb:

You need to save about 20 Times your annual gross income to retire

There are a whole bunch of calculators and spreadsheets on the Internet (I have one as well) that you can use to figure out how much you’ll need to retire. I’ve never come across anyone who has the patience to fill one of these out and they only take two minutes to complete! The solution is what author Robert Sheard calls the Twenty Factor Model.

Essentially the formula is:

Financial Independence = annual income requirement X 20

The formula is based on two centuries worth of returns in the stock market and the real rate of return (5% annually) you can expect to earn after taxes, expenses and inflation.

If you have 20 times your annual income requirement, it means that with the prescribed withdrawal rate of 5% yearly from your nest egg and the annual expected net return on your investments of 5%, you’ll never run out of money.

Now isn’t it much easier to multiply your gross income by 20 than to fill out one of those online calculators? I thought so. Let’s move on.

5. The Insurance Rule of Thumb:

You should have a policy equal to at least five to eight times your annual income as a minimum.

Some planners suggest even more than five to eight times your annual income as the level of coverage you should carry. My suggestion is that you get your financial house in order, which means getting your net worth and cash flow statement together, and go talk to a good insurance agent about your needs.

He or she will be able to walk you through the various options. As with a financial planner, ask them how they’re compensated to keep them honest with the advice they’re giving you.

Please note that this factor or rule of thumb could be much higher, depending on the number of years of income you will have to replace. The highest “factor” I’ve seen is to multiply your annual after-tax income by 20.

Interesting that it’s the same as the above rule of thumb. No coincidence here. If you were to die and wanted to make sure your dependents would continue to receive exactly what you brought home each month, they would need to completely replace your income forever. According to the Twenty Factor Model, having an insurance policy with at least 20 times your annual income will do.

6. The Charity Rule of Thumb:

Give away at least 10% of your net pay every month.

Most of us think that there isn’t enough money to go around. We live in a state of scarcity instead of a state of abundance. We think that if we give away ten percent of our income each year, we can’t possibly make ends meet or be able to afford a decent retirement.

I understand the fears, but if you put the previous five rules of thumb in place, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about making ends meet. Let me explain.

Journalist Scott Burns, in his article titled, “Take a Look at Returns” did an analysis of the amount of money you would need to save in order to not run out of money by the time we die, assuming we retired at age 65. The conclusion was that we would have to save 34 percent of our income if we planned on living another 20 years after we retired. The analysis assumed that we would earn no return on our investments.

But you’ll earn something on your investments, right? Of course you will. Burns goes on to show that the higher the return on investment, the less you have to save.

The 34 percent of income that young people need to save today if they earn no return falls to 25 percent if they earn the historical 2 percent real return of bonds.

It falls to 15 percent if they earn the 5 percent real return that a 60/40 stock/bond portfolio is likely to earn.

It plummets to 9 percent of income if they earn the 7 percent real return of common stocks.

You’re already putting aside 10% of your money (Pay Yourself First Rule of Thumb) and once you pay down your short-term debts, you’ll have an extra 20% of your pay freed up to invest wisely. Actually, if you’re setting money aside tax-deferred, you’re putting more than 10% of your net pay aside each pay period, but why split hairs.

In short, you have more than you think.

Give a little away and see how little an impact it will have on your standard of living. Of course you’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll be helping others in the process. No wonder it’s my favorite rule of thumb.

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Source by Fabio Marciano

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Where to Find Those Efficient and Hardworking Affiliates?

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Everyone wants a hardworking affiliate, employee, associate, partner, or even spouse, and why not? It’s the next best thing to doing the work yourself. However with the massive outbreak of work and income opportunities available online, how can you beat everyone else and find that one (or more) ideal person who will make your online business explode with success? Here are some of the most ingenious and uncommon ways to snag the idea affiliates for your affiliate program

Direct Sales Agents

Direct sales people are really one of the most enterprising, hard-working individuals in business. They mostly work on commissions or rebates and are willing to literally go door-to-door offering their products to anyone and everyone they bump into. Imagine how much easier their job would be if they could be an affiliate and simply work via the Internet and a mobile device or desktop.

Also, most direct sales people tend to carry more than one brand in their product arsenal so signing up as an affiliate would be almost the same type of work but using a different approach.

Colleges and Universities

Many college kids would be interested in a part-time income opportunity if it would mean funds to help pay for their education, loan, or partying. All you have to do is make sure to offer them products they can endorse as a student.

Freelancers

Did you know that the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest annual report show that 75% of U.S. businesses used freelancers in 2011? Freelancers earned a whopping US$990 billion in 2011 which is a 4.1% increase from the previous year. The only industries where the number of freelancers decreased were in insurance, finance, and construction. Most probably your affiliate program isn’t a part of these 3 industries.

Furthermore, online business and finance experts are predicting the growth to increase incrementally every year even with an economy that is improving. People just want income security and more control over their earnings. With the spate of lay-offs, it’s understandable why many would prefer to work as an affiliate than as an employee.

Scout For Them At Affiliate Conventions

There are annual affiliate conventions held in different cities around the country. You should try to catch one when it is held somewhere near your location. The average turn-out for these types of conventions has increased regularly over the years. Last year, many of them were sold out weeks before the event.

Advertise!

The US Census Bureau has said that as of 2012, 15% of Americans are poor, 43% of young adults depend on their parents to some extent for money. Even more surprising is that the median income of young adults in 1982 was $31,583 and last year it was $30,604 for the same age group! Income is dropping and people are looking for ways to earn additional income outside of their 9 to 5 jobs. That’s where you can come in playing the hero and helping others realize their dream income.

Finally, go online and talk about your product. Make the affiliate marketers come to you and have the luxury of picking the best candidates. You will need some help in marketing your affiliate program so target a marketer who’s experienced in affiliate program and SEO.

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Source by Lina Stakauskaite

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Recession Is Here… Six Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make During Recessions And How To Avoid Them

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The U.S. is officially in a recession. What is a recession? A recession is a business cycle contraction or general economic decline due to significant drop in spending and other commercial activities. Most pundits and politicians will blame Covid-19 crisis for the recession, but even pre-Covid-19 the proverbial writing was on the wall.

The U.S. had over 120 months of economic growth, which was the longest expansion in the modern history. Other indicators, such as negative yield spread on treasuries (long term bonds having lower interest rates than short term T-notes), were pointing to an imminent change of the economic cycle and an impending recession. The only real question was: when and how bad?

Then Covid-19 came… If the cycle was going to change anyway, Covid-19 acted as a huge and unexpected accelerant to make the recession much more immediate and severe.

Inevitably during recessions all classes of real estate, including residential homes and condominiums, will be negatively impacted as lower consumer spending and higher unemployment rates affect real estate prices and marketing times.

Here are the six costly mistakes home and other real property sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: This will pass and real estate market will be hot again soon

First thing to remember is that real estate cycles are much longer than general economic cycles. Even if the general economy recovers, which eventually it always does, a typical real estate cycle takes as long as 10 to 15 years. The cycle has four key stages: Top, Decline, Bottom and Rise.

Let us consider the last real estate cycle, which lasted approximately 14 years:

  • 2006 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2006 to 2012 – Prices Decline
  • 2012 – Prices hit the Bottom (Trough)
  • 2012 to 2019 – Prices Rise*
  • 2020 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2020 to? – Prices Decline

*NOTE: In 2016 the national residential real estate price index reached its pre-recession 2006 peak levels. It took 10 years for the real estate market to recover.

The way to avoid this mistake is to recognize that real estate cycles take years to run and plan accordingly. Additionally, nobody knows for sure when the prices will hit the top or bottom until after the fact.

Mistake #2: Low interest rates will make the economy and real estate market rebound

Between 2006 and 2011 the interest rates (Fed Funds) were continuously cut by the Federal Reserve Board and went from low 5% to almost 0%. However, that did not stop the real estate recession and depreciation of property values.

Undoubtedly, low interest rates made the economic decline and real estate recession less severe and saved some properties from foreclosures, but it still took six painful years for the real estate market to hit the bottom and then four more years for the prices to go back to their pre-recession levels.

Some markets had never fully recovered. For example, residential home prices in some parts of California, Arizona and Nevada are still below their 2006 highs.

To avoid this mistake, one needs to realize that although low interest rates help stimulate the economy and the real estate market, they do not cure them.

Mistake #3: I don’t need to sell now, so I don’t care

If you do not need to sell until the cycle plays out, which typically is over ten years, then you will not be as affected, especially if you have a strong equity position, limited mortgage debt, and solid liquid assets.

However, it is good to keep in mind that “life happens” and either professional or personal circumstances can change and we may need to sell property before the downturn runs its course.

Furthermore, if a property has a mortgages and its value declines to the point being “upside down,” meaning the mortgage loan balance exceeds the value of the property, then the options of selling, refinancing or even obtaining an equity line of credit, will be significantly limited.

This does not mean that everybody should be rushing into selling their real estate if there is no need to do so, just keep in mind that circumstances may and often do change and property options will be affected, so plan in advance. As one wise proverb says: “Dig your well before your thirst.”

Mistake #4: I’m selling, but I won’t sell below my “bottom line” price

This is a common and potentially very costly mistake. Generally speaking, every seller wants to sell for the highest price and every buyer wants to pay the lowest price. That’s nothing new. When selling real estate, most sellers want to achieve a certain price point and/or have a “bottom line.”

However, it is important to understand that the market does not care what the Seller, or his/her Agent, think the property value should be at. The market value is a price a willing and able buyer will pay, when a property is offered on an open market for a reasonable amount of time.

Overpricing property based on Seller’s subjective value or what is sometimes called an “aspirational price,” especially in a declining market, is a sure first step to losing money. When a property lingers on the market for an extended period of time, carrying costs will continue to accumulate and property value will depreciate in line with the market conditions.

Additionally, properties with prolonged marketing times tend to get “stale” and attract fewer buyers. The solution is to honestly assess your selling objectives, including the desired time-frame, evaluate your property’s attributes and physical condition, analyze comparable sales and market conditions, and then decide on market-based pricing and marketing strategies.

Mistake #5: I will list my property for sale only with Agent who promises the highest price

Real estate is a competitive business and real estate agents compete to list properties for sale which generate their sales commission incomes. It is not unusual that Seller will interview several agents before signing an exclusive listing agreement and go with the agent who agrees to list the property at the highest price, often regardless if such price is market-based.

Similarly to Mistake #4, this mistake can be very damaging to Sellers, as overpriced properties stay on the market for extended periods of time costing Sellers carrying expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance.

Furthermore, there is the “opportunity cost” since the equity is “frozen,” and it cannot be deployed elsewhere till the property is sold. However, the most expensive cost is the loss of property value while the real estate market deteriorates.

During the last recession, we have seen multiple cases where overpriced properties stayed on the market for years and ended up selling for 25% to 40% below their initial fair market values.

The solution is to make sure that your pricing strategy is based on the market, not empty promises or wishful thinking.

Mistake #6: I will list my property only with Agent who charges the lowest commission

Real estate commission rates are negotiable and not set by law. A commission usually represents the highest transactional expense in selling real properties and is typically split between Brokers and Agents who work on the transaction

Some real estate agents offer discounted commissions, in order to induce Sellers to list their properties with them. But does paying a discounted commission ensure savings for the Seller? Not necessarily.

For example, if the final sales price is 5% to 10% below property’s highest market value, which is not that unusual, due to inadequate marketing, bad pricing strategy, and/or poor negotiation skills, it will easily wipe out any commission savings and actually cost the Seller tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.

The solution is to engage an agent who is a “Trusted Advisor,” not just a “Salesperson.” A Trusted Advisor will take his/her time and effort to do the following: 1) Perform Needs Analysis: listen and understand your property needs and concerns; 2) Prepare Property Analysis: thoroughly evaluate your property and market conditions; 3) Execute Sales and Marketing Plan: prepare and implement custom sales and marketing plan for your property; and 4) Obtain Optimal Results: be your trusted advocate throughout the process and achieve the best possible outcome.

Finding such a real estate professional may not be always easy, but it certainly is worth the effort and will pay off at the end.

In conclusion, this article has outlined six costly mistakes real estate Sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them. The first mistake is not understanding that real estate cycles are long and take years. The second mistake is a misconception that low interest rates alone will create a recovery. Another mistake is not realizing that circumstances may change and not planning in advance. Mistakes number four, five and six pertain to understanding the market value, proper pricing and selecting the right real estate professional.

By understanding and avoiding these mistakes, real estate Sellers have significantly better chances of minimizing the negative impact of a recession while selling their properties.

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Source by Robert W. Dudek

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Useful Tips To Build The Best Gaming Computer

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Every gamer will want their computer to be the best gaming computer among their peers. Sometimes, with a little knowledge and tips and tricks, it is possible to build the best gaming computer and show it off to your peers. This article will show you how:

1) You can’t get the best gaming computer from computer retailers

If you want to get the best gaming computer, you have to build your own. Different gamers have different requirement for their gaming machine. Unless you are willing to pay a high price, you will not be able to buy a commercial computer that fulfills all your gaming needs. The only option you have is to build your own gaming computer.

2) You don’t have to be rich to build the best gaming computer

It is not necessary to burn a hole in your pocket to build the best gaming computer. With some due diligence, do some market research and compare prices around the marketplace. Merchant such as TigerDirect and NewEgg give regular discount to their products and you could save a lot of money if you catch them during their promotional period.

3) Most expensive parts do not have to be the best part

Sometime, the latest model or the most expensive model does not have to be the best part for your computer. It requires various components to work together to form the best computer system. When choosing a computer part, what matters is how well it can integrate with the rest of the components. Compatibility is more important than individual performance. What use is there if you spend lot of money on the latest quad-core processor and find that your motherboard doesn’t support it?

4) You don’t need to change the whole PC to own the best gaming computer

It is a misconception that you have to change the whole gaming machine to build the best gaming computer. If you already have a good barebone system, what you need to do is to upgrade the necessary parts and your gaming computer can roar back to life instantly.

5) Brand is important

Unless you want to see your computer system malfunction every few days, it is important that you purchase the parts from branded manufacturers with strict quality control. Motherboard brand such as Gigabyte, ABIT, ASUS are some quality brands that you can consider

If you follow diligently to the tips stated above. You will be on your way to build the best gaming computer. While price can be an issue, it is better not to scrimp on important computer parts such as motherboard, CPU, RAM and graphics card as it will cost you more to upgrade in the future.

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Source by Damien Oh

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