5 Financial Recommendations for Recent Graduates With MA’s

After graduating from school, many graduates entering the workforce will find that managing their personal finances can be a challenge. While managing your personal finances can be difficult, there are five financial recommendations that all graduates can follow, which will help to ensure they are able to save money and ultimately achieve financial freedom.

Start Saving for Retirement Early
The first financial recommendation to follow is to start saving for retirement early. While retirement can be up to forty years away for graduates, the time it takes to accumulate a lot of assets takes a lot of time. To ensure that you eventually have enough money to comfortably retire, you should start saving as soon as possible. By taking advantage of tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as 401ks and IRAs, you can save even more money. You should attempt to save at least ten percent of your income and always take advantage of any employer-provided retirement contribution matches.

Build a Safety Net
When you first start working, it could be tempting to buy some personal items and pay off personal debts. However, before doing this you should ensure that you build a safety net. Your safety net should be equal to at least twelve months worth of living expenses. This will then be available to you in the event that you lose your job and have to support yourself without an income.

Pay Down High-Interest Debts
The third recommendation for graduates is to pay down any high-interest debts that they have. Many students end up graduating with a lot of credit card debt. While credit cards could have helped them to get through school, paying off these debts can be tough. Once you have saved up an appropriate safety net, you should next focus on paying off all of your credit card debt. Doing this earlier rather than later will help you to save a lot of money on interest charges over time.

Build a Budget
The fourth recommendation for graduates is to build a personal budget and stick to it. Graduates who are entering the workforce need to learn to stick to a financial plan, which will include setting up a budget for how much money can be spent each month on fixed expense, such as rent and car insurance, as well as discretionary expenses, such as dining out. When building a budget, it is important that it is realistic and includes reserves for saving money, paying down debt, and achieves both short-term and long-term goals.

Invest
The fifth recommendation for graduates is to look for ways to invest. While most graduates may feel that they are already financially strained, graduates should look for ways to invest their money when they can. Graduates should look to invest their money in well-managed and regarded mutual funds and blue-chip stocks. While it can be tempting to invest in more speculative stock investments, the amount of these investments should be limited to a small percentage of your portfolio.

In conclusion, managing personal finances can be a big challenge for recent college graduates. While it can be overwhelming, there are several tips that all graduates can follow, which will make it easier for them to save money and manage their finances.

10 Things You Can Do Today to Get Your Financial Life in Order

Your finances are an important part of your life. If you don’t learn to manage your money well, you are destined for financial struggles now and in the future. There is plenty of good advice available so all you have to do is follow it to become more financially secure.

1. Create a Budget

The best way to set up a budget is to tally up all your expenses for the last six months. Once you calculate how much you actually spend, you know what your average monthly expenditures are. With this information, you can create a monthly budget.

2. Reduce Your Debt

The best way to lower your overall debt is to stop buying things on credit, except for large purchases such as a car or home. If you have credit card debt, paying off more than the minimum each month is a good method for reducing your debt and the amount of interest you have to pay.

3. Increase Your Income

While you can ask for a raise at work, many people earn an additional income by moonlighting. If a part-time job is not for you, there are many at home businesses you can start for very little money such as content writing or affiliate marketing. Other possibilities are making and selling crafts or doing odd jobs in the neighborhood.

4. Open a Savings Account

It’s always good to have money in the bank for an emergency. You can set aside a certain percentage of your income each month. Although any amount will do, try for 10 percent or more every month.

5. Handle Credit Wisely

If you have any type of a loan such as mortgage or student loan, you need to pay each bill on time. It is also important to pay your credit card bills on time to establish good credit. If you will be late with a payment, contact the creditor and ask for more time to prevent your account from going to a collection agency.

6. Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit scores are important if you ever want to get a loan. The first step is getting copies of your credit report from the three credit bureaus and checking each file for errors. By disputing errors and getting them corrected, you can raise your credit scores.

7. Plan for Your Retirement

It is important to plan for your retirement. As most people know, they can’t depend on Social Security benefits. If your company doesn’t offer a pension plan, you can set up IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) or other retirement plans so that you have an income after you retire.

8. Have Insurance

Insurance protects you from financial loss due to illness or loss or damage of property. Health insurance is a necessity, but life insurance, renter’s insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and car insurance are also important for most people.

9. Make a Will

A will provides for your family after your death. It is a way to distribute your assets and personal property to your heirs.

10. Organize Your Financial Documents

You need to keep all your financial documents in one place for easy access. These documents include tax returns, pay stubs, a copy of your will, insurance policies, and bank and credit card statement. Putting them all in a fireproof storage box for safekeeping is a good idea.

The only way to truly get your financial life in order is to make a commitment to your future. With proper planning, you can weather any financial emergencies while increasing your assets and preventing problems such as a bankruptcy. By following these 10 steps you can stay on track to achieve your financial goals.

10 Ways to Spend Less and Save More!

You probably already know that remembering to flip the lights when you leave a room can save money in the long run, but what are some other not-so-common techniques that people are using these days to save money? These are 10 ways that people are spending less and saving more.

Get Permanent Makeup

It might sound a little ridiculous, but if you find yourself applying makeup every morning, wearing it throughout the day, wiping it off at night, and waking up the next day only to repeat the process all over again, it may make financial sense to just get permanent makeup. Tattooed eyeliner is rising in popularity as a makeup solution for those who tend to wear it on a regular basis.

Move Your Graduation Date Closer

If you happen to be in school, then you probably know that the longer you stay there, the more it’s going to cost over the long term. If you’re currently at part time status, try moving yourself to full time to reach your graduation date more quickly.

Garden Instead of Buy

Why buy vegetables and fruit when you could simply grow them for much cheaper. What’s even more cost effective is to become a vegetarian and live entirely off of your garden.

Flush Less Often

You may have heard of your grandparents doing this in the “old days,” but as it turns out, granny and gramps were onto something. Flushing only for bowel movements not only saves on electricity, but it dramatically lessens the water bill.

Double Your Recipes for Leftovers

Instead of cooking just enough to fill everyone’s stomachs with nothing left behind, cook in surplus so that you can have leftovers for the next few days. This will save you loads, and it will eliminate the need to have to dig into other groceries.

Detach from Bottled Water

Bottled water seems feasible when it’s marketed properly, but it is possibly one of the biggest wastes of money in grocery and convenience stores to date. Buy a water filter and bottle your own water at home if you can’t seem to shake the “bottled” habit.

Put Away 10 Dollars a Week

It probably wouldn’t hurt either to start putting $10/week away into a shoebox. $10 is an increment that most people can afford, and you probably won’t even notice that you’re saving due to the low commitment level.

Combine Cell Phone Plans with Relatives

If you’ve ever been a part of a family cell phone plan, you probably noticed that everyone saves more when there are more people on the plan. This is why it’s financially wise to bring close and distant relatives all onto the same plan so that everyone can save money.

Learn to Cut Your Family’s Hair

Haircuts are expensive, and this is especially true if you’ve got a large family that constantly needs trimming. Instead of shelling money out seemingly all the time, learn how to give basic haircuts and you could save as much as hundreds if your family is big enough!

Share Internet Subscriptions

Lastly, share internet subscriptions and split the cost between the users. Movie subscription services often allow unlimited users and devices to stream, so why wouldn’t you share this kind of service?

Overall, there are limitless ways to save all around you. Try incorporating a few of these tips into your daily routine to see how much you can save!

8 Important Considerations For Investing Money Short vs Long Term

There is a lot to think about when you create an investment strategy. While you want to be prepared for long-term goals such as retirement, you want to make sure that you have enough liquidity to weather any short-term dips in the market. What are some of the most important issues to consider when creating your investment strategy?

1) What Is Your Time Horizon?

It is important to understand your time horizon when investing your money. For those who are retiring shortly, you want your money in conservative investments that guarantee a steady income. Investors who are younger may want to invest in aggressive investments that offer larger returns over the long run.

2) What Is Your Risk Tolerance?

Your risk tolerance will help determine where you put your money. Anyone who hates risk may want to look toward bonds and CDs that offer low but guaranteed returns on your investment.

3) How Much Do You Have To Invest?

To invest in a mutual fund, you may need as much as $10,000 to use as an initial investment. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, you should look at individual stocks or index funds that have a lower investment threshold.

4) Is The Money Going Into A Retirement Account?

If your investment income is going into an IRA or 401k, you can avoid paying any short or long-term capital gains taxes. Investors investing through a private account should consider selling bonds or other securities before they hit their distribution date if you wish to avoid paying taxes on securities that you haven’t yet cashed.

5) Are You Financially Literate?

Financial literacy goes a long way toward determining where your money goes. Those who understand the market can bypass brokers who will levy steep fees to help you manage your money.

6) How Liquid Do You Want To Be?

Those who are looking to get their money back shortly should look to stocks and bonds that can be redeemed on demand. Investments such as CDs and savings bonds are considered to be not liquid because they take years to mature.

7) What Types Of Investments Are You Considering?

Where do you see yourself putting your money? Based on your time horizon you could be better off investing in growth funds that are heavily weighted toward smaller companies with more potential to increase your return. Investors looking to get out of the market quickly may want to consider larger companies that will return a more predictable return on your investment.

8) Who Will Manage Your Money?

Fees paid to a stock broker or fund manager should be considered whenever you make an investment decision. While a 2 percent fee to have someone manage your money may not seem like a lot, it can add up to thousands of dollars in lost money over the life of your investment portfolio.

Investing is never an easy proposition. You need to know your time horizon, your comfort level when it comes to reading the market and your tolerance for risk. Once you figure that out, you can start investing for the long-term without hurting yourself in the short-term.

Four Ways to Calculate ROI from Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great way to gain visibility for your product or service, but you must determine your return on investment (ROI) to determine its worth. Many companies are trying to recycle old trade show booths or update their graphics to increase the revenue gained from trade shows. They could benefit from knowing what is effective to determine how to calculate the ROI. From a participant’s perspective, they need to know which trade shows offer the most “bang for their buck.” When people know how to calculate return on investment (ROI), they will know the best results.

1. Revenue

One way to determine ROI is to determine “net profit divided by sales multiplied by sales divided by sales.” This will help you determine the revenue earned and the ROI from the trade show. The problem with trade shows is that the sales do not roll in immediately from the show. The sales will trickle in months or even a year after the relationships are made. DoubleDutch.me is a company determined to show the metrics behind an event ROI. They developed an application that is capable of measuring event metrics and ROI by giving a deep level of visibility into leads to exhibitors, attendee engagement, sponsor branding in-app and more.

Business owners must be diligent about tracking numbers to get an exact return on investment after the trade show is over. Just be certain to keep up with the leads gathered and any products and services sold at your trade show displays. Keeping up with how many people stopped by can help also.

2. Cost Savings

Determine how much it will cost to gain this number of leads before calculating ROI from the trade show. If pursuing leads at the trade shows is less expensive than pursuing leads through regular means, then you will realize your ROI from the trade shows. Most people appreciate the ability to meet a number of contacts in one location without having to cold call or travel to multiple locations. The cost savings can be tremendous.

3. Customer Relationships

Set goals and determine how many people you want to meet with and reconnect with at your trade show. If you meet or exceed your goals, you will have received your ROI from the event. Always determine what you want to gain in terms of customer relationships from an experience and save time by going directly to their customer display. Call the vendors you want to connect with ahead of time and create awareness of your presence at the trade show so a connection can be made. Then, go directly to the trade show displays until you meet the people you want to meet.

4. Promotions

Offering promotional items can give companies the exposure they need to entice customers to buy from them in the future. The most memorable companies with the best products will always win the prize. Calculate the amount of money spent on the promotional items. Then, compare it to the amount of profit or customer relationships gained from the event when the promotional items were used. If the profit or customer relationships are greater with the use of promotional items than without, then the promotional event was fruitful.

Calculate Your Return on Investment

Your return on investment is the key to the success of your company. Calculate the ROI and determine if a trade show is worth the investment required to host a booth or attend. You will be amazed at the results.

Five Up And Coming Companies In The Video Game Industry Attracting Investors

Video games are no longer something that you just do with your buddies after school in your parent’s basement. Instead, the industry has turned into a full-blown sector that includes online gaming, tournaments, professional leagues and more. And as interest continues to grow, so do the companies that look to break into the video game industry to make their own impact. Here are five up and coming companies in the video game industry that are attracting investors.

Take Two
One of the most popular game franchises of all time is the Grand Theft Auto series. And while Rockstar Games is the label that creates GTA, they are under the brand that is known as Take Two. While GTA may be the most popular of Take Two’s portfolio, it certainly isn’t the only game they have seen success with. Other Take Two games include Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock, Mafia, LA Noire and the NBA and WWE 2K series’. Investors looking to get involved with Take Two can find them with their stock abbreviation TTWO.

Naughty Dog
In 2013, Naughty Dog released one of the most popular games of the year with The Last Of Us. The post-apocalyptic game earned a multitude of awards and accolades around the world, but it’s not the only game that Naughty Dog offers. Another big series for them is Uncharted, which features Nathan Drake on his worldwide adventures. Naughty Dog looks to have more releases in the future that will be continuations of both The Last of Us and the Uncharted series’.

MadCatz
The video game industry isn’t just about the games themselves, but also accessories that gamers rush out to purchase. One of the top companies that you can keep an eye on for accessories is MadCatz.com. They make a complete line of controllers and console-inspired accessories for a variety of gamers. You haven’t truly experienced gaming until you’ve done so with MadCatz equipment, and this drives gamers to buy their products.

Microsoft
Microsoft may not be what one would consider as an up and coming company, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t continually come out with new gaming products that revolutionize the industry. And with that in mind, that makes them always a good idea to consider investing in. Microsoft, whose stock symbol is MSFT, is one of the highest valued companies on the market in the gaming industry. Not only does Microsoft create Xbox, but they also have a variety of games and other products that cover a variety of different entities.

Netease.com
Don’t count out the importance of gaming around the world. If you haven’t heard about Netease.com, then you likely haven’t been to Asia anytime lately. This site is one of the busiest in all of China in terms of traffic on a daily basis. From Netease.com, gamers can play games and interact with one another. As for their stock, which is listed at NTES, it consists of making revenue on advertising and traffic. Online gaming is already a huge industry in Asia and it only appears to have the potential to keep growing. Netease is a viable option for an international investment opportunity.

There are plenty of companies to consider for getting into investing in the gaming industry. But the five here are certainly worth keeping an eye on and putting your money towards.

How Your Finances Can Be Benefited By Marriage

Often when people think of getting married, they think of being in love and spending the rest of their lives together. The thought of starting a family is on the minds of those who are getting married while they are young. At times, it seems as if the entire future will change and will change for the better. Others have already been married and have gone through a divorce. They may see marriage much different from a younger couple contemplating marriage for the first time. Regardless of whether you are thinking about marriage for the first time or a second marriage, the financial benefits for marriage need to be considered. The benefits of marriage are numerous, and a complete listing is outside the scope of this article. However, the following are a few that stand out among the financial benefits of marriage.

Medical insurance
If one person does not have medical insurance but the other does, it is possible to add a spouse to the insurance policy. Healthcare costs can be tremendously expensive and is one of the leading reasons for bankruptcy. Health insurance through your spouse can mean the difference between losing all of your assets or remaining solvent. If both people already have insurance, the person with the policy having less coverage can switch to their partner’s policy. If both people are working and have medical coverage, then they are both protected if one of them were to lose their job. The unemployed person can simply be added to the other person’s policy

Pooling money to invest in the future
Married couples can combine their incomes to save for a major purchase such as a house. Married couples are more likely to buy a house than two people who simply cohabitate. Marriage is a legal commitment, and a couple is more likely to have confidence in each other because of the marriage.

Lower taxes
If you listen to most people, you would think that taxes go up when you get married. In fact, it even has a name. It is called the marriage penalty, and it is true that certain couples when they marry will experience higher taxes when both incomes are combined. However, this is only true when both people have high incomes. The truth is, if one person has a high income and the other a low income, there is a likelihood that the lower income will result in a lower tax bracket for the couple. If only one person is working and the other has no income at all, the non-working spouse becomes a tax shelter, and the financial benefits are great.

Advantages in saving for retirement
Even though it may not be possible for a person to contribute to an individual retirement account because of a low income, once this person gets married the incomes of both spouses are combined. A contribution may now be possible. In fact, the contribution limits are raised; therefore, the tax break is greater.

Conclusion
Whatever your motivations for marriage are, it is the financial benefits than are critical. There is nothing wrong with being in love, but the practical aspects of marriage are financial, and for many people, it is the financial benefits that are felt by a couple everyday they are married.

Money Saving Ideals for B2B CFOs

A B2B CFO who wants to save money and reduce expenses faces an uphill battle. Budgets are difficult to cut; people from all over the company will object to the ideas of an established CFO. While true, if a CFO wants to keep his or her job and ensure the firm stays in order, he or she must take action. Here are four money-saving ideas for a B2B CFO.

Employee pay: Let’s face it; a company spends plenty of money on payroll. While a CFO doesn’t need to drop employees, it is wise for him or her to look at this further. Often, when trying to save money, a business will bring in contractors to complete certain tasks. Think about it, a CFO can save his or her company thousands of dollars a year just by bringing in a part-time contractor. Whether looking for someone to program a website or balance the books, a corporation can cut its expenses when hiring an independent contractor. While often an unpopular way to cut expenses, it is a quick way for a business to save money and still enjoy quality work from its staff.

Re-negotiation contracts with local service providers: If you run a mid-sized business, your CFO probably has plenty of contracts with local companies. For example, if you pay a cleaning company, shredding firm, or even a storage facility you may be overpaying. To figure this out, a CFO must contact other providers in the area and ask for a quote. With a short 20-minute phone call, a CFO can find a lower price for vital services. Often, after talking to another service provider, a CFO can coax the current provider to lower their fees slightly. If price negations are unmet to the CFO’s budget needs, then re-evaluating the need for the service at hand in general may be the next step. If the service is still generally a necessity for the vitality of the company, then often times there are situations where the service can be done in-house. For example, instead of outsourcing storage space or services, a business can find resources in bulk to purchase such as metal bins, pods, crates, etc. and keep in-house to manage at their own discretion. Since it only takes a few minutes to follow these steps, a smart CFO should do this every year or so and in the end it will come down to the company’s demands and resources available.

Outsource: A CFO should consider outsourcing. With some tasks, it is not pertinent to use employees from the United States. Whether you want to outsource your call center or tech support, you can do so with ease. Then, the company will save thousands of dollars a month as employees working in areas with lower costs of living will not demand higher pay. If not practical, a CFO should consider a moving some operations to a lower cost-of-living state. For example, credit card companies often host their tech support office in places like Iowa where expenses are lower. Either way, a CFO in a high cost-of-living city should consider outsourcing some non-essential operations to another area with lower expenses.

Online marketing: With SEO, social media and other tricks, a company can attract plenty of followers. In the past, a CFO would need to dole out plenty of cash to the marketing department. However, with a well-managed online presence, an organization will save thousands of dollars. At the same time, if a business runs a formidable campaign, it will bring in plenty of excited customers from all over the place. In the end, if practical, a CFO should divert funds and resources to an online marketing campaign.

With these four simple ideas, a CFO can help his or her company saves plenty of cash. While not always easy, when done in a tactful manner, the business will save cash and increase its profits without creating havoc or causing problems for current employees.

Why You Should Use a Tax Preparer Even For Your One-Person Company

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As a self-employed business professional, you may regularly try to keep your expenses to a minimum, and this may mean that you try to do as much of the work as possible on your own. There is cost associated with outsourcing certain tasks to other professionals or contractors, and you may think you can save money by doing the work on your own.

This is true in many cases, but there are some instances when there is a true benefit to you to outsource the work to an expert. When it comes to preparing the tax return for your one-person company, there are numerous benefits and advantages for doing so. With a closer look, you may see that it is far more cost-effective to pay for tax preparation services than to attempt to do the work on your own.

Save Time

Tax code changes from year to year and from city to city, and it can be time-consuming and frustrating to attempt to keep up with all of the changes that take place even over the course of a few months. However, you must be aware of these changes if you want avoid paying more than necessary in taxes to the IRS. A professional accountant, CPA or local tax preparers in Orlando and other regional cities can all facilitate this process and can save you a considerable amount of time. This is a professional who is always updated on changes to the tax code, so you can always expect knowledgeable assistance from this professional.

Find Deductions and Credits

Each year, your own tax situation can change. In addition to changes to the tax code that can impact the deductions and credits you qualify for, changes in your business can also impact the deductions and credits that you can qualify for. For example, you may have purchased equipment that qualifies for a depreciation deduction, or you may have made energy efficiency improvements that qualify for credits. You do not want to pay more money in taxes than necessary by overlooking these deductions and credits, and your accounting professional can help you to determine which tax-saving credits and deductions you qualify for.

Avoid Penalties

There are several reasons why you may have to pay a penalty fee to the IRS. For example, if you do not file your small business tax return on time or if you do not file an accurate return, you may be required to pay the taxes due plus penalties, and interest charges. This can be costly and burdensome for your small business to deal with, and these penalties and fees can be avoided altogether when you have a professional prepare your small business tax return.

The bottom line is that you may be able to avoid paying the professional service fee to an accountant or tax preparer when you prepare your own small business tax return. However, this is a nominal fee in comparison to the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you can save by using these professional services. From avoiding costly penalties to finding more deductions and credits that you may qualify for, the fact is there are many financial benefits associated with using professional tax services to prepare your tax return. You can easily learn more about the services of a tax preparer and set up a time to meet with a preparer personally about your current year’s tax return.

From the Cradle to College: What Does it Actually Cost to Raise A Child in Today’s Economy?

Since 1960, the United States Department of Agriculture has generated baseline expenditures for the costs of raising a child from birth through their 18th birthday – it doesn’t include the costs of sending the child on to college, or expenses incurred if a child returns to the home in their 20s.

Those reports showcase just how stark the current economy is. From 2003 to 2013 – the most recent year that the abstract has been published, the cost of raising a child in constant dollars has gone up by 40%, while household income has risen by 5%.

Raising a child has several co-factors that alter the cost: Living in cities tends to make the cost of raising a child rise, though less so than the typical increase in income; in terms of family financial stress, it’s slightly less economically disadvantageous to raise a child in the city even though the total expense is higher.

The second cheapest place to raise your child is in rural America, where the costs of the most expensive factors, notably housing (roughly 31% of the total) is less. Children are also cheaper to raise in batches – hand-me-down clothes help a lot, and having multiple children reduces the per-cost surcharge for housing costs.

Categorical Comparisons

Compared to the 1960s, housing as a percentage of the total expenditure has remained roughly constant. The cost of food has dropped by 50% – it was 24% of the total tally in 1960, and is 16% now; likewise clothing has gotten much less expensive — which will come as a surprise to anyone who’s tried to buy clothes for a teenager. The difference is 11% in 1960 and 6% now. Both of these are signs of increasing agricultural efficiency and industrial automation.

Where costs have gone up are health care — we aggressively treat more diseases and conditions in children now — and in the cost of child care and education, which has exploded with the rise of the two-income family compared to 1960. Once inflation-adjusted dollars are used, the overall cost of raising a child has risen from $192,000 in 1960 to a median value of $234,000 in 2014.

Cost-Cutting Measures

While nobody is advocating massive cost reducing strategies when it comes to raising a child, there are some places where things can be trimmed. If you’re about to move, look for a balance between a good school district and home prices; higher priced homes, past a certain point, don’t correlate to a substantially better educational experience.

Look at having your children work outside the home for pocket-money. Mowing lawns for the neighbors isn’t demeaning; it’s a way for your children to appreciate the value of hard work and doing a job to the satisfaction of someone else, while they earn their own pocket money.

While food as a percentage of total expenses has shrunk, eating habits have gotten noticeably worse. Pack lunches for your children – take the time on Sundays to pack a week’s worth of lunches and freeze them; they’ll be less expensive than eating out and will generally be healthier.

Conclusions

A large part of childcare costs stem from out-of-home daycare, which is nearly unavoidable in two-income or single-parent families – and the added features that come from raising a child in the 21st century, like cell phones, data plans, and laptops for schoolwork. Medical costs have also gone through the roof, largely as school districts try to protect themselves from lawsuits stemming from injuries and treat everything involving a child as an ER visit.