Financial Planning for Your Business

  • 02 Oct 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

5 C's of Credit

October is Financial Planning Month, and financial planning is as important for your business as it is for your personal finances.

Are you thinking about starting a business or are you already a business owner? You will probably need money for your business at some time. So, what do you need to do to prepare for a meeting with a lender to talk about a business loan?

A business plan that answers the important questions – what, why, who, how, when – is important to present to a lender. Showing your knowledge and ability to run the business, and being able to demonstrate how the business will make enough money to pay back the loan is key.

Thinking about the 5 C’s of Credit will also help you prepare for a conversation with a lender. These 5 C’s delineate the information a lender is looking for in a business to determine the creditworthiness.

For more information and resources for your business, visit our Small Business page.

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How to Boost Your Small Business Credit Score

  • 27 Jun 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

Are you a small-business owner who's not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores, most of which adhere to the FICO model, business credit scores don't follow an industry standard.

The three major bureaus — Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian — use different methods to compile and monitor business credit

scores. Each calculates its scores according to different criteria and uses different number ranges. Here's an overview:

  • Dun & Bradstreet uses a proprietary Paydex score that is based on payment data. You can develop a respectable score by establishing credit with suppliers you are likely to have an ongoing relationship with. That way, you can build and maintain credit, assuming you pay your suppliers on time — and the earlier the better, as the highest rating is reserved for businesses that pay 30 days earlier than terms demand.
  • Equifax uses three assessments to rate businesses: a payment index examines your payment history, a credit risk score evaluates the likelihood your business will become severely delinquent, and a business failure score measures the chance your business will close.
  • In addition to examining credit history, Experian calculates its score by checking public records for liens, judgments and bankruptcies. It also considers demographic information, including how long you've been in business, the kind of business you're in and the size of your business.

Unlike a personal credit report, which you can get for free, you have to pay between $35 and $100 to see your company's credit report. It's worth it, though, to see if you need to take steps to improve your score.

Manage your business credit score

Regardless of a particular bureau's approach, you can take steps to beef up your business's score.

  • Establish a business credit history. You probably had to start your business using personal funds and credit. As soon as you can, separate your business expenses from your personal finances. Open a commercial bank account and put your company's bills and account in the company's name.
  • Pay your bills on time. This is the most important thing you can do to boost your score. It's the best way to prove you are not a risk to lenders or vendors.
  • Understand all the factors in your score. Payment history is not all that matters. Much more is involved, including the age, size and type of the business and how close to your credit limit you are.
  • Make sure the information in the credit reports is accurate. Monitor your reports, checking for and addressing errors and updating information as your business develops, because changes in things such as your company's location, staff size and revenue can affect your score.
  • Examine the credit of your customers and vendors. The more creditworthy the people you do business with, the more smoothly your business will run and the less likely some problem with an account will ripple through and end up dinging your score.

Taking steps now to improve your business credit score is a smart idea. The better your company's credit, the more favorable terms you're likely to get from vendors and lenders. And should you face hard times, it can be tough to get small-business loans with bad credit.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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What's a Good Use for a HELOC?

  • 22 Jun 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

When you take out a second mortgage, a name for a home equity line of credit, you're offering your house as collateral to secure another loan. The upside: You can gain access to up to 85% of your home's value, minus your current mortgage balance and adjusted based on your creditworthiness.

The downside? If you can't make your payments, you could lose where you live. Because the stakes are high, you want to make sure you use a HELOC for the right reasons. Here are a

few.

Making home improvements

Most people who take out a HELOC do so to make home improvements. Experts say you should only do this if the improvements you're considering will increase your home's value. This way, the money you're borrowing will be returned when you sell your house at a higher price.

The National Association of Realtors' 2015 Remodeling Impact Report lists these six changes as the ones with the best return on investment:

  • Installing a new front door.
  • Installing new siding.
  • Upgrading your kitchen.
  • Adding on to your deck and patio.
  • Making an attic into a bedroom.
  • Installing a new garage door.

These improvements can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, but they don't change the footprint of your home and tend to be what future buyers look for.

Supplementing an emergency fund

Everyone should have an emergency fund to cover events such as unexpected car repairs and appliance breakdowns. Most people keep these in savings accounts, but you might consider a home equity line of credit as another source of cash. You only pay interest on the amount you borrow, and you could pay the loan off quickly to save money. Still, it makes more sense to have an emergency fund that's earning a little interest rather than one that charges you interest.

Paying off high-interest debt

Because the average interest rate on a HELOC is much lower than the average credit card interest rate, many people think about using a HELOC to pay off their credit cards. This is a great strategy if you're committed to never carrying a balance again. Otherwise, you're just adding another debt at a lower rate.

Regardless of how you use a HELOC, remember that the interest rate is variable and may change each time you tap it. And you'll have to repay the entire loan by the end of the payment period set by the lender. On the upside, the interest you pay on a HELOC is tax deductible, like your mortgage interest. If you use a HELOC for the right reason, that's just one more benefit.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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How to Be a Money-Smart Graduate Student

  • 13 Jun 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

Whether you’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in English literature or a Ph.D. in chemical engineering this fall, life as a graduate student likely will require a good deal of thriftiness. But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a steady diet of instant noodles and cereal for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a look at several sustainable ways that grad students can maximize their stipends or other income and cut costs in the process.

Find a roommate

Sharing a house or an apartment with others may have taken some getting used to as an undergraduate. By now, though,

you’re probably a seasoned veteran. And that’s a good thing, since finding a roommate is still one of the best ways to save money.

As well as being able to write a smaller rent check every month, you may also want to divvy up utilities and split groceries. Consider using an app like Roomi to find someone who has similar attitudes toward noise and cleanliness, which can reduce tension down the road.

Catch the bus

Unlike your first college stint, you probably won’t be running back and forth between the far corners of your school’s campus to get to class. In grad school, you’ll probably spend most of your time in one or two buildings. A car, therefore, may not be essential. Instead, use a bike or hop on public transportation. Many schools offer subsidized transit passes to lighten the load on students’ finances.

Use student discounts

It can be disheartening to create a budget only to find that there isn’t much money left over for meals out or nights at the neighborhood bar. But if you take advantage of student discounts — and memorize that bar’s happy hour schedule — having a good time doesn’t have to put a major dent in your wallet.

From movie theaters to museums, many places offer student discounts. Although saving a couple of bucks may not seem like much, it’ll make a difference over time. This extra cash can then be put toward your future, either by eliminating debt or saving for retirement.

Tackle debt, save what you can

Only about 1 in 10 millennial's say they feel “very confident” that they’ll have enough cash for retirement, according to a recent survey. If you’re worried about running out of money during your later years, consider starting to set aside some of your income now. A good amount to shoot for is about 10% of your monthly earnings.

You’ll also be doing your future self a huge favor by slashing as much credit card or student loan debt as possible. Also, do your best not to rack up any new consumer debt. Use your plastic only in emergencies.

The bottom line

Pursuing an advanced degree can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but not financially, at least not right away. It’s therefore essential to take advantage of all the breaks you can get, such as subsidized transportation passes and other student discounts. That way, the only thing you’ll graduate with is more knowledge, and not mountains of credit card debt.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

 

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Bank Accounts to Open for Your Small Business

  • 15 May 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting a business is choosing the right bank accounts. As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to make sure you don’t mix your personal finances with your business money: If your cash isn’t kept separate, it could be hard to meet IRS record keeping requirements, and that could lead to tax penalties. Opening new accounts in your company’s name is typically a better practice.

Having separate bank accounts could also help limit your personal liability. Say someone were to sue your company; your business assets might be at risk, but your personal assets would likely be protected from legal action.

Here’s a look at three common types of accounts to consider for your company.

Business checking

For entrepreneurs, opening a business checking account means you don’t have to ask customers to write checks to you personally. Some customers could view checks written out to individuals as unprofessional, and that could hurt sales. With a business account, checks are made out to the company name.

Many banks offer business checking accounts for a minimal fee. Some even offer free business checking, though your company may need to agree to limit deposits and withdrawals to a set number — say, 300 transactions a month — or agree to keep a certain minimum balance.

When you sign up for business checking, many financial institutions will also offer online banking and payroll processing services.

Business savings

You don’t have to put all your company’s cash in a checking account. It may make sense to place money you don’t need to spend right away into a business savings account, where it may earn a better rate of return.

A business savings account could also serve as an emergency fund to help pay for business operations if your company goes through a sales slump. And, as with personal accounts, your money would be protected with federal insurance up to $250,000 per depositor.

Business credit card

Opening a credit card in your company’s name gives your business a chance to establish credit. When you first sign up, you may need to personally guarantee the debt because your company won’t have an established financial history. But your company will soon show a track record of payment as you put the card to use. Eventually, business loan and credit requests could be guaranteed by your company, and not your personal finances.

Opening bank accounts for your business can be an important step in establishing your company’s financials. By opening a separate checking account, savings account and credit card for your business, you’ll avoid the headaches that mingling personal and business money can create and you’ll make your company’s record-keeping easier and more robust for the future.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

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How to Boost Your Small Business Credit Score

  • 01 May 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

Are you a small-business owner who’s not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores,

most of which adhere to the FICO model, business credit scores don’t follow an industry standard.

The three major bureaus — Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian — use different methods to compile and monitor business credit scores. Each calculates its scores according to different criteria and uses different number ranges. Here’s an overview:

  • Dun & Bradstreet uses a proprietary Paydex score that is based on payment data. You can develop a respectable score by establishing credit with suppliers you are likely to have an ongoing relationship with. That way, you can build and maintain credit, assuming you pay your suppliers on time — and the earlier the better, as the highest rating is reserved for businesses that pay 30 days earlier than terms demand.
  • Equifax uses three assessments to rate businesses: a payment index examines your payment history, a credit risk score evaluates the likelihood your business will become severely delinquent, and a business failure score measures the chance your business will close.
  • In addition to examining credit history, Experian calculates its score by checking public records for liens, judgments and bankruptcies. It also considers demographic information, including how long you’ve been in business, the kind of business you’re in and the size of your business.

Unlike a personal credit report, which you can get for free, you have to pay between $35 and $100 to see your company’s credit report. It’s worth it, though, to see if you need to take steps to improve your score.

Manage your business credit score

Regardless of a particular bureau’s approach, you can take steps to beef up your business’s score.

  • Establish a business credit history. You probably had to start your business using personal funds and credit. As soon as you can, separate your business expenses from your personal finances. Open a commercial bank account and put your company’s bills and account in the company’s name.
  • Pay your bills on time. This is the most important thing you can do to boost your score. It’s the best way to prove you are not a risk to lenders or vendors.
  • Understand all the factors in your score. Payment history is not all that matters. Much more is involved, including the age, size and type of the business and how close to your credit limit you are.
  • Make sure the information in the credit reports is accurate. Monitor your reports, checking for and addressing errors and updating information as your business develops, because changes in things such as your company’s location, staff size and revenue can affect your score.
  • Examine the credit of your customers and vendors. The more creditworthy the people you do business with, the more smoothly your business will run and the less likely some problem with an account will ripple through and end up dinging your score.

Taking steps now to improve your business credit score is a smart idea. The better your company’s credit, the more favorable terms you’re likely to get from vendors and lenders. And should you face hard times, it can be tough to get small-business loans with bad credit.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Do You Know How Your FICO Credit Score Is Calculated?

  • 21 Apr 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

 

credit scoreGuidewell Financial’s’ “Incredible Edible Credit Score” Has the Answer

Credit scores and reports aren't just used to determine if consumers qualify for loans and credit cards. They also help determine what interest rate and terms borrowers receive and are increasingly used in decisions by landlords, cell phone companies, utility companies, insurance companies, and employers. Most Americans know that it's important to have a good credit score, but fewer are fully aware of the factors that affect the score they receive.  To help remedy this situation, nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions has created the "Incredible Edible Credit Score," a one-minute video that's informative, tasty and FUN. It shows how your FICO score is calculated. This is the credit score most lenders will use to evaluate your financial standing.

Why not join their virtual pizza party and share the video with your co-workers, family, and friends? In return here are three credit score facts everyone needs to know:

  1.   Credit reports and credit scores are not the same. 

Studies show that many of us don't know the difference between credit reports and credits scores. To keep them straight, just remember when you were in school: Your credit report and credit score are a lot like the school report card and grades you used to receive.

Like report cards, credit reports provide an overview of your performance, showing how well you manage your finances and credit. Compiled by the three major credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, they each contain a detailed history of your current and past credit accounts and debt,

third-party collections, certain public records and requests by lenders for the credit reports. They also list the dates accounts were opened, loan amounts, current balances and payment history, including late payments or defaults.

Consumers are legally entitled to request and receive a free credit report copy from each of the major credit reporting companies every 12 months. To access yours, visit

annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

Credits scores are like the individual grades you received in school.  Each one offers a numerical snapshot measuring how much of a credit risk you are. There are many types of credit scores, each with its own scoring model.  FICO scores are the most common, but even these focus on slightly different information relevant to the industry for which they're geared. Scores are generally based on information from your credit report. There's also a rising movement to help consumers who don't have credit scores build and qualify for credit using other means.

  1. Your credit score regularly changes. 

It's true.  Your credit score may change any time new information is added to any of your credit reports.  For example, if you miss a payment, close an account, or apply for a new loan, this may change your score. One thing that doesn't change your credit score: How often you check it.  That's right, you can do so at any time and it doesn't affect your credit rating in any way.


If you want to check out your current credit score, MyFico.com charges a small fee.  Sites like CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com also provide consumer versions of a person's score. If you choose to go this route, make sure the site you use is reputable and be aware that the score it shows may not be the same as the one FICO provides.

  1.   Building a good credit score is more important than ever.

Why?  Because credit scores are used in more ways than ever.  They may help determine the rate you pay for insurance or what terms you receive on your next mobile phone plan. In the coming months, if interest rates go up and you have a low credit score, you'll pay even more for interest when you apply for credit cards, mortgages, and other loans than you did before. Understanding how your credit score is calculated provides you with an important key to building better credit.
That brings us back to the "Incredible Edible Credit Score."  Check out the video to see the factors that affect your FICO score and receive tips on how to improve your credit. You may go away hungry but also better informed!

 

About Guidewell Financial Solutions   

Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling. Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01

Copyright © 2017 by Guidewell Financial Solutions.

 

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How to Save $1,000 a Year -- Without Breaking a Sweat

  • 13 Apr 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

Nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions offers 10 tips for saving big on a limited budget.

GuidewellConsumers who have never saved before sometimes worry they won’t be able to make it a habit, especially if they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.  However, small changes in financial choices and lifestyle can lead to tangible savings rewards. To celebrate Financial Literacy Month, nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions (aka Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) shares these tips on how to save a thousand dollars in a single year:

Use direct deposit. This is an effective way to start saving. Here’s how it works - Have paychecks electronically deposited into a checking account.  Before the money goes into checking, have $10 automatically deducted and directly placed in a personal savings account.

Savings = $240/yr or more 

Brown bag it!  Bring lunch from home ($1-3 per meal) instead of dining out at work ($8-15 per meal).

Savings = $1,300/yr or more

Less is more.  Downsizing the family cell phone, cable, or satellite television package is a simple way to put more money in the bank.

Savings = $600/yr or more

Avoid putting the pedal to the metal.  Even in this era of low gas prices, the cost of fuel, oil, tires, and vehicle depreciation averages about 52 cents a mile for consumers who regularly drive to work. To reduce transportation costs, consider carpooling, walking, or biking just two days a month.

Savings =  $288/yr or more

Compare banking options. Paying for checking account services? Shop around and find an account that doesn’t charge monthly fees.

Savings = $120/yr or more

Say “no” to the one armed bandit.  Putting change into the office vending machine is convenient, but it comes at a cost.  Bring snacks and sodas from home instead.

Savings = $100/yr or more 

Stick to in-network ATMS. It’s handy to get cash from on-the-spot ATMs, but the fees really add up. Plan withdrawals so they only take place a ATMs that belong to your bank.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Go local. Rent free books and DVDs from the public library instead of renting or buying them online or at a store.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Do some homework. Comparison shop before purchasing or renewing auto, renters, or homeowners insurance. Also think about increasing the plan deductible.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Practice paycheck power. Employees who get paid bi-weekly receive three paychecks for the month twice a year.  Each time this happens, place the extra paycheck into savings.

Do the math!

Consumers who have never saved before can begin by tracking where their money goes. Before setting up a savings plan, it may also help to get outside budgeting advice and support from a reputable nonprofit agency. Guidewell Financial provides financial counseling and financial coaching in person or by phone. For an appointment or resources, call 1-800-642-2227 or visit the agency website. Small changes made now and carried throughout the year will lead to less stress and greater financial security in 2016.

About Guidewell Financial Solutions

 Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling.  Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01  

Copyright © 2017 Guidewell Financial Solutions.

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Celebrate Financial Literacy Month With Five Empowering Services

  • 06 Apr 2017
  • Posted by Amarasco

According to recent studies, less than half of American families live on a budget or keep track of their expenses, and one in three carries a credit card balance from month-to-month. Nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.) is working to reverse these trends. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, it offers five financial services to help local residents to take control of their finances. Guidewell

President and CEO Helene Raynaud says, “Sound financial decisions don’t just happen. They are learned and perpetuated through practice. Here at Guidewell Financial, we have a 50-year track record of helping clients gain these skills. We provide them with advice and resources to make better choices and ultimately get ahead.”

The five services that help clients become financially confident and secure are:

  1. Budget counseling. All financial counseling appointments begin with a holistic financial assessment to help clients figure out where they stand and where they want to go. Counselors also help them set up a budget and look for ways to reduce expenses and increase income.
  2. Credit counseling. Credit counselors help clients review their credit and loan accounts and evaluate possible repayment strategies. Based on this information, they then come up with a workable plan.
  3. Debt management. Once clients have a budget in hand, they may be able to repay what they owe on their own. If not, they may be eligible to participate in the agency’s structured debt management program or in worst cases situations to receive bankruptcy counseling and education.
  4. Student loan counseling. Student loan debt counselors help borrowers review their loan agreements and consider possible repayment options. They also serve as client advocates during phone contact with loan providers and servicers. Counseling is available no matter if student loan payments are coming due, delinquent, or defaulted.
  5. Credit building. Guidewell Financial’s Save2Build loans help clients with no credit or poor credit build healthy credit. This type of loan is held in a locked savings account for 12 months. Program clients make payments of about $26 per month until their loan is satisfied. Their payments are reported to major credit reporting companies to help them build better credit. At the completion of the loan, they receive the $300 they saved.

All of Guidewell Financial’s counselors are certified.  Counseling and screening sessions take place by phone are at its offices in Catonsville, MD or Wilmington, DE. Call 1-800-642-2227 to schedule an appointment.  Visit the agency’s website to learn about its other services.

Raynaud says, “Guidewell Financial is delighted to offer these services to help Maryland residents increase their financial skills and wellbeing. The more we all learn now, the better off we’ll be!”

About Guidewell Financial Solutions   

Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling. Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01

Copyright © 2017 by Guidewell Financial Solutions.

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