Investing Money in 2014 and 2015 for Retirement – An Old Pro’s Viewpoint

In 2014 and maybe 2015 and beyond, investing money will be tougher and putting together the best investment portfolio might mean investing money for safety vs. higher investment returns. The best investment ideas are slim pickings. There is very little that is normal in today’s world of finance. My reasoning and background follows.In 1971 I had my Masters in Business (finance) and knew nothing about the investment world or investing money. Actually, I found it quite embarrassing, because adults that I would meet in the business world thought that I might have the best investment ideas in my pocket – due to my education. The years that followed were not the best investment environment, and I became a stock broker in Columbus, Ohio in 1972. I learned real quick what my job was really all about: selling investment ideas… SELL the sizzle NOT the steak… I was informed by my sales manager.Forty years later, investing money is a game that I find has changed little. It’s all but impossible to find the best investment, and the world of investing money is primarily a sales game aimed at uninformed investors (more than 90% of the investing public). I once read that NOW is always the hardest time to invest money. I’ve seen difficult times in the markets for over 40 years and I’ve NEVER repeated that phrase until now.At this time, I am afraid that it is really true. Allison and I have three children, who are all basically 30-something and trying to make it in a difficult world. Investing money for retirement is not an option for them. It is an absolute necessity if they don’t want to work for the rest of their life. Many folks my age are covered by pension funds plus other entitlements, but that’s not the norm for 2014 and beyond. Now, let’s get down to business and talk about investing money in 2014 and beyond; and the best investment ideas I can muster as an older (but still on top of my game) retired financial planner.If you have a 401k at work participate in it, and take maximum advantage of your employer’s matching contribution if your company offers this feature (it’s free money). Investing money here is automatic and almost painless. This is one of the best investment ideas available for accumulating a nest egg for retirement. Plus, the tax advantages will put a smile on your face each year at income-tax time.Open a Roth IRA with a major NO-LOAD mutual fund family and start investing money each month through their automatic investment plan. Enter “no-load funds” into a search engine and you’ll see some of the biggest and best fund companies at the top of the page, names like Vanguard, Fidelity and T Rowe Price. Give them a toll-free call if you have questions – like do you qualify, how much can you invest a year, and will they send you free literature. A Roth IRA (or Roth 401k if available) is one of the very best investment ideas for accumulating money for retirement. A Roth account (IRA or 401k) is TAX FREE investing, as long as you follow the rules. Tax free is as good as it gets and difficult to find.Mutual funds are the average investor’s best investment vehicle because they offer both professional management and instant diversification in the form of a managed portfolio of stocks, bonds, and money market securities. When you invest money in a fund, you own a very small part of (own shares in) a very large investment portfolio. There is always a cost for investing money in funds. All funds charge for yearly expenses. This can amount to less than 1% a year in NO-LOAD FUNDS, with no sales charges when you invest money and no extra ongoing management fees. Or, you can pay 5% in sales charges off the top when you invest money, 2% or more for yearly expenses and 1% to 2% in additional management fees if you work through a sales rep (financial planner, adviser, or whatever).One of the best investment ideas for 2014, 2015 and beyond: keep your cost of investing money as low as possible. This could make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars over the long term. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.Do all that you can to learn about investing money; and especially learn about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Once you understand stocks and bonds, getting a handle on mutual funds is a piece of cake. What are the investment options inside your employer’s 401k plan? The vast majority of them are likely mutual funds – mostly stock funds, bond funds, and/or balanced funds (that invest in both stocks and bonds). There will likely also be one or two safe investment options that pay interest: a money market funds and/or a stable account.Investing money successfully in 2014 and beyond could be very difficult due to today’s investment environment. First, record low interest rates mean that safe investments that pay interest are paying close to nothing. Second, bonds and bond funds pay more interest, but when interest rates go back up to normal levels they WILL LOSE money; that’s the way bonds and bond funds work. Third, stocks and stock funds are pricy, having gone up in value and price well over 100% since 2009. In other words, best investment ideas are few and far between.Here’s the best investment strategy in 2014 and beyond for beginners who want to start investing money for retirement and keep it simple. In a 401k and/or Roth IRA account invest (monthly or each payday) equal amounts into a stock fund, bond fund, and money market fund. If your 401k has a stable account option use this instead of the money market fund if it pays more interest.Mutual funds are always one of the best investment ideas for most investors – if you invest money in low-cost no-load funds. (Your 401k plan should have no loads, sales charges). When investing money for retirement in 2014 and 2015 keep three factors in mind. Two of these always apply: keep costs low and invest money across the board in all three fund types listed above. Your third factor is to give money market funds equal weight in 2014 and beyond for added safety. Normally, you would give them less weighting.

Financing A Home: Improving Your Credit Score

Today there are many homes for sale with low prices and low interest rates. Housing is more affordable now than it has been in many years. Considering the current market, why isn’t everyone snapping up homes? The truth is, many first time home buyers are jumping into the market and getting in on this affordable housing opportunity. Real estate investors are also very active as they see this unique opportunity to build their wealth. The unfortunate reality for everyone right now is that even though homes are more affordable now than in many years, lenders are very picky about who gets a loan and who does not. And your credit score is one of the primary indicators of whether or not you will get approved for a loan and what your interest rate will be.Just a few years ago a borrower with a credit score as low as 500 could buy a home. Today that score needs to be a minimum of 620 to 640. And to qualify for the best interest rates you better have a credit score in the 700′s. No matter what your credit score is, you should know it. If it is not close to 750 you should resolve to get there and here are some easy tips to help improve your credit score.Let’s take a look at what information on our credit report determines your score, then we will give suggestions on how to improve in each of those areas35% or your credit score is attributed to your payment history which not only includes actual payments to your creditors, but it includes things such as collections, judgments and tax liens. With this in mind you always want to make sure you make your car, credit card and loan payments on time. Many lenders also require verification of rental payment history, so you will want to make sure you pay your rent on time as well. By the way, a payment is considered on time if it is paid within 30 days of the due date. If you have collections, judgments or tax liens on your credit, you will have to provide proof that these were paid. If there are unpaid collections you can in many cases negotiate a settlement for less than what is owed. From a credit scoring standpoint this is almost as good as paying in full as long as it is reported as satisfied in full on the credit report.In addition, you can make a payment arrangement for tax liens and after 12 months get those rated for your credit report which will help. Judgments are required to be paid in full at the close of a loan, and you will need to get it paid and the credit report updated in order to improve your credit score. In many cases with a history of late payments we have to say, time heals all wounds. In other words, it may just take a year or so of making your payments on time to get the credit score you need. If you have items on your credit report that are incorrect, then you can dispute those items to get them corrected with the credit bureau.30% of your credit score is attributed to how much you owe on your credit card as a percentage of total credit limit. Let me give you an example: If you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit and you owe $750 on this card, your percentage of credit usage is 75% and your available credit is 25%. The lower the usage percentage the higher your credit score will be (all other factors being equal). There are 3 ways to improve this number. You can accomplish this by paying your credit card down as soon as possible. You can request an increase in the credit card limit. And you can also open up new cards. For the last two, you will need to exercise some caution however.When you request an increase in your credit card, you should ask your credit card company if they can do this based on the merits of your payment history with them. If not they will create a credit inquiry which can lower your score just a little bit. In my opinion it would probably still be worth the credit inquiry deduction from your credit to get your credit limit increased. I believe that in most cases you would have a net gain in credit score, but there have been times when I’ve seen it drop at least in the short term. By the way, do not increase the balance on your credit card when your limit goes up or you will have just undone the improvement, but now you owe more money and still have a low credit score. Similarly, when you open up a new credit card, you end up having a couple of strikes against you which is the credit inquiry and the new credit account. More about both of these in a moment.15% of your credit score is attributed to your length of credit history. So Let’s have another example: Let’s say you have 2 credit cards. You have had one of the credit cards for 5 years and the other card for 3 years. So on average your credit cards are 4 years old, and so your credit score will reflect this 4 year average length. Now if you open a new card, you reduce your average down to about 2.7 years from 4 years. So initially at least this can have the effect of lowering your average length of credit and reduce your credit score accordingly. That is one of the reasons that opening new credit is not a quick fix for bumping your credit score up. However lets take a look at it a year from now. In one year from opening the new credit card your average length would be at 3.6 so if this is part of a longer term strategy then it would probably be a good strategy to follow.10% of your credit score is attributed to new credit, so once again you can see that opening a new credit account not only lowers your average length of credit, but it also counts against you on a stand alone basis as well. This is also why an inquiry affects your credit score as well. When there are inquiries, it is “assumed” by the system that you are acquiring new credit whether you are or not. For example, if you had your car at the dealership to be fixed and while you were waiting you were taking a look at a new car and ended up making an offer which the dealership knows you will be financing, they will make sure to run your credit (with your permission of course). So even though you end up not buying the new car, the credit inquiry is on your credit report and will slightly lower your credit score. By the way, all inquiries reported in a 30 day period from similar companies will be treated as one credit inquiry. So if you are going to be buying a car or shopping for a mortgage, try to get all of the inquiries put in within 30 days to lessen the effect of multiple inquiries.The last 10% of your credit score is attributed to the types of credit used, or what we call credit mix. It is good to have both credit cards, car loans, mortgages and installment loans on your credit report. For most people it will take time to accomplish all of these, but beware that someone who always uses high interest rate, high risk lenders will have lower credit scores as well. I cannot mention them by name of course, but it is the lenders who would be considered a finance company, and makes high interest rate and unsecured loans for household goods that will decrease your credit score. Now it is not bad to have an account with this type of company. Many of them work with stores to offer no interest, no payments for 90 days or longer. As long as you are not using them with regularity. Once established you should be able to qualify for reasonable rate credit cards or even an installment loan at a bank or credit union with a competitive rate as well. So bear in mind as you build your credit and credit score that these factors all contribute to your overall score.A couple of other thoughts for you. Many folks ask me what this or that will do to your credit score and unfortunately no one can tell you exactly as credit scoring is somewhat like Kentucky Fried Chickens secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. It is a closely guarded, highly sophisticated set of algorithms that combines all the above stated factors and reduces them down to a simple 3 digit number that is supposed to represent your likelihood of paying back the loan or credit card you are applying for. You may want to connect with a lender who can assist with guiding you through the process of improving your credit score. There are also a large number of companies who will, for a price, work on your credit score for you. There are no guarantees with these services and in addition, they are usually fairly expensive and many of them are just plain rip offs, so you would need to approach this avenue with a great deal of caution.Finally, as a consumer of credit services and possibly as someone who want so purchase a home, you should make it a priority to take control of your finances and your credit score and find out what your credit score is and work hard to bring it up or maintain it.

Renting a Space For Business

If you are a new entrepreneur, you need to take note that location is important if you want to be successful. There are different factors to consider in choosing the right spot. There are some experts who believe that location is just as important in finding an affordable space to lease. You need to consider the type of business that you have. For service business that work on their customer’s place or if your business doesn’t deal with customers, the location is irrelevant. A business owner should be wise enough to go for low cost space. It could impact the prices of their products and profit margin.Profitable location for your business is determining how you will increase the volume of your customers. Consider factors like parking space, other nearby competition and the reputation of the community where your business will be situated. Remember that different businesses have different approach in luring customers. If you will be opening a coffee shop, situated it in a place where there is pedestrian traffic. Auto repair shops should be near the road so that drivers will see it easily. Think if your business would profit more if it is near other businesses. If you will be selling clothes, it should be near other shops because customers will tend to spend hours in one area. The bottom line is to know the habits of your customers so you can have an idea which location is the right one.Renting is a wise move rather than buying a space. Start up business might not have the funds to do so. When looking for a space to lease for your business, go for the one that you can afford. Do some financial projection and think how you can pay this every month considering other expenses. Seek the help of real estate brokers so you can get an idea on how much the rent will be in a particular neighborhood.When selecting a space for your business rental, consider your business itself. The facilities of the location should be appropriate for the kind of business that you have. If the building lacks a major thing that can affect your business operation, then scout for another one. Ask the landlord for information about communication wiring like internet and telephone. Aside from communication look into the electrical power source and see to that it is enough for your business requirements.