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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 (more…)

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 (more…)

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, (more…)

As technology advances, you can be sure that identity thieves are not far behind. Here are some common methods cyberthieves use to steal your personal information and how you can increase your security while shopping or banking.

Phishing/vishing

Your email messages may not be quite what they appear to be if you’re targeted by a phishing scam. Phishing is the act of sending fraudulent emails that seem to come from familiar businesses. These messages contain links to phony websites designed to steal personal information either directly or through malware and keyloggers. Often you’ll see a problem referenced with a request to click on the link provided to correct it. Once you’ve entered your information, ID thieves can access your accounts.

Vishing is the telephone version of phishing. Callers are sometimes bold enough to suggest the victim call back to verify authenticity. But the vishers don’t actually hang up; instead they play a recorded dial tone to make the victim believe he’s making a call.

(more…)

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.

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Howard Bank Rising Sun Bank BuildingChartered in 1880, the historic Rising Sun Bank was one of a few Maryland banks that survived the Depression. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bank anchors the past of Rising Sun to the present and the future. No one is more in tuned to the history and meaning of the bank than Charles “Chip” Slaybaugh.

The bank became part of the Howard Bank family in 2014. As a special assets collection officer for Howard Bank, Chip is continuing the connection of the Slaybaugh family to this historic institution. Chip’s great grandfather was president of the National Bank of Rising Sun - Check PresentationRising Sun, one of the previous identities of this institution, from 1912 until 1950.

Because of the high standards of the bank’s procedures, not only did the bank survive the Depression, it was the first in Maryland to reopen after the historic 3-day closing called for by President Roosevelt.

Images of all of the past presidents adorn the walls of the board room, and other historical items are on display. The celebration honors the history and preservation of the beautiful historic building that sits in the center of this little town with a strong sense of community.Rising Sun CelebrationMary Ann - Rising Sun ReceptionRising Sun - historical artifacts

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. (more…)

The financial benefits of buying a home compared with renting have yoyoed over the years, especially of late. If you’re sitting on the fence, here are four circumstances in which it may be a better bet to buy.

If interest rates remain low

From a financing perspective, if this isn’t the best time to buy a house, it’s pretty darn close.

The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage, the most common variety, has hovered below or near 4% for several months now. For comparison’s sake, if you bought 10 years ago, the average interest rate was 6.41%. In 1996, it was 7.81%, and in 1981 it was a whopping 16.63%.

Although the Federal Reserve has begun to inch rates upward, it is likely that it will do so slowly and that it will be a while before the cost of borrowing to buy a home stops being historically low.

(more…)

The number of women-owned businesses has risen dramatically in recent years, a healthy sign for those who value greater diversity in the nation’s economy.

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2½ times the national average (52% vs. 20%) and employment at women-owned firms grew at a rate 4½ times that of all firms (18% vs. 4%). In 2015, for the first time, the government met its goal of awarding 5% of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses.

But such gains must be put in perspective. For example:

  • Women-owned firms make up about one-third of all businesses in the U.S., but they receive less than 5% of all available loan dollars, according to a 2014 report by members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
  • Women-owned businesses are smaller than average, employing only 7% of the private-sector workforce. More than 9 out of 10 women-owned firms have no employees other than the owner.

(more…)

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, (more…)

 

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…)

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.

The Small Business Administration is a great resource for those who are starting or growing a small business. SBA loans offer an alternative to traditional lending, which can be difficult for small businesses. As an SBA-preferred lender, Howard Bank’s expertise can make the process much more streamlined. Here are some things you might not know about an SBA loan.

 

SBA Loans

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.

SBA Loans: Why Howard?

March 1st, 2017 | Posted by April Marasco in SBA | Small Business

If you have a small business, and you need a loan, or maybe you have had some trouble getting a conventional loan, an SBA-backed loan may be the best choice. Small Business Administration loans offer affordable financing options, with small businesses more easily meeting the lending qualifications than for traditional loans. small business

SBA loan is a bit of a misnomer. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money directly to businesses. A bank makes the loan, and then in turn works with the SBA to get a guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan. If the bank has experience with SBA and they are a Preferred Lender it is even easier to work with the SBA. So, choosing the right lender is important.

With SBA-preferred lender status and SBA Champion, Rosa Scharf, Howard Bank is a good choice as a lending partner. “The delegated authority from the SBA (that’s what the SBA-preferred status signifies) means that we have a 99.9% chance of getting the loan through the SBA process and approved. Howard’s size and position [in the region] means that we are much more nimble and flexible than larger SBA lenders, and usually the first one at the table.”

This competitive edge also provides the business more focused and local attention and knowledge. “You need a partner, and you’re getting the same level of expertise as the other banks, but I just have to walk down the hall to talk to the credit decision makers,” notes Ms. Scharf. There is no call to Raleigh or Buffalo. There is no need to sell the market to the person making the loan decision. He or she is local and understands the value of the local market.

Howard Bank offers the same level of service for a half a million-dollar company as for a ten-million-dollar company. The products change and needs change a little, but in general you need the same advice.

I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful.

The Howard Advantage

Howard Bank’s experience means we understand the SBA and how it works, and what can get done.  We are the perfect partner to shepherd you through the process.

“That’s where my 20 years of doing it comes into play,” says Rosa. “And that’s what I tell prospects. I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful. Because of my experience, early on when I’m talking to someone, I can say, ‘These are going to be our hurdles from an eligibility standpoint.’ So, you don’t have to go through a loan process for three months, and then say, ‘Oh, we can’t do it.’  I can tell you up front what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify.”

 

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