Category: Financial Planning

Best Ways to Fund Spring Home Repairs

May 17th, 2017 by

Now that spring has blossomed into full-on allergy mode, the time we spend outside is even more appreciated — especially with the help of a good antihistamine. The next time you venture out, take a moment to do a walk-around inspection of the old homestead. See some room for improvements? Maintaining, repairing and upgrading a home can range in cost from a minor trickle to a major cash drain.

Paying for minor repairs

If you see the need for only modest repairs, you might be able to tackle them within the bounds of your cash flow. But remember, your emergency fund is best left intact for unexpected cash needs, not for replacing a gutter or downspout.

If you have a bit of a cash cushion in your checking account or in a contingency savings account, small home projects can be covered with your close-at-hand liquidity, even if it means a temporary trim to discretionary spending, such as a couple of “family nights out” spent at home.

(more…)

Do You Know How Your FICO Credit Score Is Calculated?

April 21st, 2017 by

 

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, (more…)

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

April 13th, 2017 by

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.

Celebrate Financial Literacy Month With Five Empowering Services

April 6th, 2017 by

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.

Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About SBA Loans

February 16th, 2017 by

SBA-backed loans provide affordable financing options for small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining financing via traditional channels. Howard Bank is a preferred lender for loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Here are seven things you probably don’t know about SBA loans:

  1. The SBA doesn’t actually lend directly to businesses.
    The bank makes the loan, and then works with the SBA to get them to guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan.
  1. Personal credit is important in the SBA loan process.
    Especially with true startups, there is usually no credit history for the business and little collateral, so the credit history of the business owner(s) is significant. The owners’ credit history is an indication of how they handle credit.
  1. The SBA won’t deny a loan because of collateral (lack of), but all collateral must be taken into account
    The SBA requires the bank to consider all available collateral for the loan request. This could include the business owner’s equity in their home, vacation home, etc.
  1. Quality is more important than quantity when you are deciding whether to apply.
    Business Plans should be concise and cover the important details. The What, Why, Who, How and When of your business.
  1. Banks are interested in small business loans.
    Banks in general, and Howard Bank specifically, are very interested in helping small businesses grow and become really good bank customers. The SBA is a great tool that helps Howard Bank add value to the businesses in the communities we serve.
  1. The SBA process doesn’t take as long as most people think.
    Especially with an experienced SBA-preferred lender like Howard Bank, it is easy to navigate this process smoothly and avoid any potential obstacles. The experience Howard adds cannot change the SBA rules, but it does make it a lot less painful!
  1. Borrowers must be a small for profit business in order to be eligible for an SBA loan.
    A business must meet size standards to qualify for an SBA loan. Generally this means $7.5 million or less in revenue and 500 employees or less (depending on the industry).

With more than 20 years of SBA-backed lending experience, Rosa Scharf is the SBA Champion at Howard Bank, who works to provide SBA loan solutions to small businesses in various industries.

Build Your Balance Sheet, And Other Advice From A Commercial Banker

September 21st, 2016 by

At Howard Bank, we pride ourselves on supporting our community. Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of any community, and supporting them is a key goal of ours.

James Witty, executive vice president and chief lending officer for Howard Bank, works every day to help businesses grow and thrive.  In his almost 30 years in the industry, he’s helped businesses work through nearly any situation imaginable: “It’s amazing the different ways people can make money. I’ve financed a wide range of things, from art to laundromats to heavy construction equipment to office buildings. I can tell you there’s probably not many things that I haven’t been a part of.” witty-jim-new

Build Your Balance Sheet

So what advice does Witty offer for businesses? “Build your balance sheet,” he says. “A lot of people focus just on their income statement – how much they’re earning – and that’s their scorecard for the year. But your balance sheet is going to stand the test of time.”

“There are always going to be ups and downs, so if you focus on strengthening your balance sheet it will ultimately lead to improved earnings. It’s also going to give you a sleeping pill when there are tough times; you know you have something to fall back on.”

“Remember the old adage that cash is king.  In a downturn you can never (more…)

Take control of your financial destiny with one word: Budgeting

May 2nd, 2016 by

I’ve never quite understood the vast majority of the public’s aversion to the word “budget.” If you are one of the millions of “budget-phobes” who equate the word with such unappealing terms as “restrictive,” “limiting” and even “scary,” let me share with you some of the terms I associate with the word: “freedom,” “dreams” and “control.”

Why the drastic difference in perception? I believe the answer lies in many individuals’ lack of awareness of the budget’s potential to help them achieve their goals. Some of the soundest advice I give my clients is to examine their (more…)

5 Core Values of the Happy, Wealthy, & Wise

April 7th, 2016 by

There are hundreds, if not thousands of personal finance tactics that can be executed that will leave you better off financially than before you started.

coreDown sizing your home, bike commuting, cooking your own meals, cutting the cord, using an MVNO vs a smartphone, etc. – all positive tactics.

There are just as many tactics to get you in trouble as there are to help you – payday loans, credit card debt, massive student loans, buying a house that is (more…)

The ABCs of Retirement Planning

April 5th, 2016 by

by Kathy Armstrong

Are you saving enough for retirement? You know, “the golden years”, the time when you kick back, relax and enjoy a life of leisure?  It’s possible that a very large percentage of people who answer that question with a nod may be mistaken.

 Ouch! While whether or not you are saving enough depends partly upon the lifestyle you expect to have at retirement age, there are some general rules you should be following to help ensure you can focus on your newfound hobbies – and not whether or not you can afford to replace your aging Buick.

The general rule of thumb has been to save 10 percent of your income for retirement, but for women, that percentage needs to be bumped up to (more…)

10 Things Millennials Should Do to Reach the Next Financial Level

March 29th, 2016 by

Millennials have come a long way, but they’re still behind on many key measures.

ObstaclesMillennials have had a rough road when it comes to money.

Not only did they come of age during the Great Recession, which made jobs scarce and benefits even scarcer, but many saw their parents lose big time in the stock or real estate markets, which scared them off of making their own investments. Still, there’s no more time for excuses, because millennials are all grown up and taking on increasing amounts of responsibility. From mortgages and parenthood to (more…)

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