All Articles Tagged "finances"

Goodbye, Sallie Mae: How To Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt Faster

April 14th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Student loans are a pain, but they don’t have to be for long. These tricks to paying off your student loans faster will put you at the top of the debt-repayment class.

Why Men Shouldn’t Fear Women Who Make More Money

April 10th, 2015 - By Madame Noire
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From MommyNoire

Moms, do you bring home a bigger salary than your man? If you do – is he bothered by that? Do you get the feeling like he’s hating on your hustle because you are the primary breadwinner within your house? Do know – for many men, a woman with a bigger paycheck can play with a man’s ego, and because of that, men often run away from women who appear to be strong, independent, educated, and financially set. Most men have been raised and taught that they should be the sole provider of their household.

But we all know with today’s economy that’s not happening in many cases. In fact, you have a lot of men being stay-at-home dads, but that’s another post. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why men get upset if their woman brings in most of the money. If you are moving as a team, for the greater good, then the only thing that should matter is the bottom line. I tell my fellas all the time that they shouldn’t be upset because their woman is stacking. Honestly, I feel like the more the merrier. Here is my advice on that scenario, if you and your partner are in a committed relationship and are living together, or in some cases separately, come up with a financial game plan so you both can win. No need to run from that – unless you don’t have a vision of how good things could be if you blend your funds.

If the woman got a good job, ask her about her come up and for communications sake, ask her to show you the road map to success. You know what I’ve learned after falling on hard times, and during some of those broke days – if you have a woman who is financially stable, if you ever fall on hard times again, she can and often will hold you down until you get your feet back on solid ground. For instance, I run a few businesses, so when dating, its important for me, at this stage, to find a woman who can bring something to the table, so we can build a stronger family unit. Running a business demands a lot of my money, so it doesn’t make sense for me to deal with a woman who isn’t thinking about the bigger picture, or be able to help us overall. If she makes more while I’m laying down the foundation – we can do more together.

Read more about financial issues in relationships at MommyNoire.com 

U.S. Dollar Becomes Stronger, Lowering Travel Expenses For Americans

April 6th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Just in time for travel season, the US dollar is coming on strong, lowering the cost for Americans to vacation abroad.

Over the past nine months, the U.S. currency has become stronger—leveling against other global currencies. Currently in Europe, it costs $1.09 to buy €1 rather than $1.37 (2014) or $1.50 (2011). So if you head to Paris right now you can purchase 25 percent more croissants, café au laits or mini Eiffel towers than years past.

The US dollar can also purchase 30 percent more Swedish kronor, 40 percent more Brazilian reais and 61 percent more Russian rubles, reports the Los Angeles Times. Not only has the dollar strengthened US spending habits, the overall U.S. economy is stronger than other global economies. The economy has also attracted investments and there is a rising international demand for the dollar. This new financial development has pushed the U.S. economy into its best position since 2003.

Although other economic markets are sinking, many countries use this as a tool to revive economic growth by decreasing prices of its exports, stocks and real estate. Richard Bernstein who serves as a financial advisor in New York believes, “Countries are fighting for market share. How do you get it? You make your currency cheaper.” Although this strategy seems like a good idea, it can create competition between countries who try to out-devalue one another, which can spur a global economic crisis .

On the flip side, foreign companies can create competitive sales by reducing their prices while not hurting the financial benefits they generate. Each dollar would then create more foreign currency for that particular company. Each dollar would then create more foreign currency. US exporters will have lower profits and less staff, which hurts U.S. sales and employment.

But back to the fun stuff: Will you be traveling abroad anytime soon?

Read also: As Black Travelers Venture Far & Wide, Social Media Documents Their Adventures

Justice Department Runs Into Problems As It Tries To Stop Bias In Auto Loan Practices

March 31st, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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People of color have struggled with trying to receive home mortgages from banks. Now, the auto industry is another source of financial bias with Blacks and Hispanics who seek car loans. The New York Times reports, there are many auto companies who are charging higher rates for car loans to minorities, what officials call reverse-redlining. But the problem is hard to root out because auto dealers aren’t regulated the way banks are.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department and officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have begun investigating which auto dealerships are giving these inflated loans to people of color. In addition, it’s hard to determine who is a minority that’s been harmed by the practice. It’s an issue the Justice Department has run into in the case of Ally Financial. Dealers nor lenders have to collect information about a customer’s race or ethnicity.

Add to this, the issue with pricing. Dealers can mark things up, and in some cases do on a discriminatory basis, which then impacts the loan. Passing a law to stop this, however, could prove to be nearly impossible given the powerful auto-selling lobby.

Although it may seem as though this is a hopeless civil rights case, the Justice Department did resolve a case in North Carolina where Blacks were targeted by several dealerships. The dealerships attached the highest interest rate that the North Carolina state allows and even repossessed cars from owners even if they paid their payments on time.

Although the dealerships settled with the Justice Department, they claimed they were not in the wrong. Moving forward, they have agreed to cap their maximum interest rates for all borrowers and not target minorities. This case sounds so outrageous that it would be impossible for justice to exist without making these horrible dealerships pay. The problem is most of the cases outlined by the Times aren’t as cut and dried. It’s in these details that the government is running into problems.

Should Lottery Winners Remain Anonymous?

March 27th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Most people dream of winning the lottery in order to travel, pay off debt or buy property. No matter the desire, many people don’t relish the invasion of privacy that comes with winning the financial prize. In states like North Carolina, The New York Times reports, the identities of winners become public record. But most recently, politicians believe this shouldn’t be.

Lottery officials believe anonymity would lower lottery revenue because other citizens wouldn’t know if the gambling games are legitimate. Alice Garland who serves as an executive director of North Carolina’s lottery believes, “It’s the best way we have of assuring our players that we offer honest and fair games, that anyone has a chance to win. If you don’t provide the winners’ names, then I think it becomes suspicious as to whether there really are winners or not.”

By using the identities of winners as a marketing tool, lottery executives put winners’ safety at risk. Attorney Andrew Stoltmann from Chicago said of the issue: “Lottery officials are just more than willing to sell these people out and throw them to the wolves by the publicizing of their faces and their names so they can sell more lottery tickets the next time around. I think it’s unconscionable that they do it, but there’s a real financial incentive.”

In another Southern state, Georgia proposes that winners should remain anonymous but only if they agree to donate 25 percent of their winnings back to the lottery for college scholarships. States like Arizona will only offer privacy for 90 days and New York’s legislation currently has a pending bill that would ban winners from being mandated by lottery executives to make public appearances.

Where do you stand in the debate? If you won the lotto, would you want community members to know?

Breaking The Code: Fighting In Public And What It Means If You’re Not Exclusive After A Year

March 6th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Normally, when you’re dating someone, two big issues have to be dealt with at some point: when you should make things official, and how you should handle conflict as a couple. In this week’s episode of “Breaking The Code,” MadameNoire editors and the fellas of “Guy Code” share their rules on these topics and you’ll be surprised by their answers! Watch and weigh in!

Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t: Survey Reveals Men Commit Financial Infidelity More Than Women

January 22nd, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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CreditCards.com surveyed 843 adults who are in relationships about how they manage money with their partners. The results were quite interesting: six percent of the participants have a secret bank account or credit card their partner does not know about. In comparison to the entire American population, NBC reports 7.2 million American commit this type of financial infidelity.

Although the terminology sounds over the top, Jezebel notes when one partner hides their extra financial assessments it makes them appear shady. The survey also concluded that one in five persons spent $500 or more on purchases their partners did not know about. Although an image of a woman sneaking into her house with bags of shoes or clothes may emerge in your mind, it is actually men who spend twice as much and fail to inform their partners of their purchases.

Paula Levy, a marriage and family therapist who is also a public accountant says that financial infidelity is common in most relationships. The reason this occurs is because both partners want to avoid conflict in their relationship and get the material things they desire. Levy also notes, although the phrase “financial infidelity” is intense, partners do not need to share every detail of their financial spending, which helps them feel independent from their partner.

The survey also noted two-thirds of married couples maintain joint accounts whereas others maintain the separate accounts they had prior to marriage. Whatever the financial setup, Levy does claim if a person lies to their partner about their financial habits, there will be a lack of trust in the relationship. The survey went onto highlight the most interesting financial claims made by couples in the survey:

“Younger people are more likely than older people to say they’ve had hidden accounts or large, secret purchases. A full one-quarter (25 percent) of respondents aged 18-29 say they have made purchases of $500 or more without telling their partners, compared with just 15 percent of those aged 65 and up. Seven percent of those aged 18-49 said they had secret accounts, compared with 4 percent aged 65-plus.

Is big spending acceptable? Many survey participants say they’re tolerant of their partner spending money without telling them. Thirty-one percent of men and 18 percent of women say they would have no problem with their partner spending $500 or more without letting them know.

At the other end of the spectrum, 31 percent of respondents said they think their partners should be able to spend only $100 or less without telling them.”

In order to avoid distrusting your partner’s financial spending habits, lawyer Dane Scalise and his wife created a list to avoid the drama:

1. Consider financial infidelity as serious as any other type, as data show the consequences can be equally grave.
2. Be aware of and honest about your financial health. Address problems early and seek help so they do not escalate.
3. Regularly discuss the household finances. Make financial decisions as a team and agree on an amount that each can spend “no questions asked” (as long as it fits into the monthly spending plan).
4. Create checks and balances by taking joint responsibility or taking turns paying the household bills.
5. Agree that all account access will be shared, even if the account is individual (bank, credit, investment and so on).

“I Don’t Talk Like I’m From The Ghetto”: How Does Class Affect Relationships?

January 13th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Class System Affect Relationships

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Growing up and dating in New York City means I don’t usually have to explain my Judeo-Christian Caribbean heritage, which makes things easier to be with a compatible partner. Despite this, one can still find differences with a partner even if they are of the same nationality. On the issue, The Guardian reports:

“If anything, people are more likely than ever to marry into their own class, as a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research showed this year. Of people born in 1958, just over a third of women had a partner from the same class as themselves: 38% married up, while 23% married down. For those born in 1970, 45% married into the same class; of those born between 1976 and 1981, 56% married into the same class, with a far smaller proportion (16%) marrying up. Even the phrases “marrying up” and “marrying down” are sullying to use. You can’t really escape the connotation that the rich are better than the poor.”

In a recent study by The Cut, a focus group of 11 couples shared how they managed through the American class system. Whether their parents are immigrants or country club regulars, The Cut explores how race, wealth, religion and education affect these relationships. Here are a couple of highlights from their study:

She could afford all of this without me.
“When you’re black, it’s an inescapable truth, a full-body experience that’s happening all the time,” says Jack, 35. He says Jill, 35, his wife, who is white, talks about race by “trying to weave it into a higher morality.” He laughs: “I’m just trying to survive! She champions equality!”

Jill comes from a low-income family while Jack’s is middle class. Jill, like her mother, is the breadwinner. “It wasn’t weird to me that he didn’t have much money, and I was used to roles outside gender norms,” she says. “And neither of us grew up taking vacations.”

She paid the down payment on their house, which is in her name. “The house was my first choice, not his, and I’m sure some part of me was like, ‘It’s my money,’” Jill says. Jack adds, “There’s a 10 percent ping in my heart that she could afford all of this without me and I couldn’t afford any of it without her, but I pay half the mortgage.” She makes more money working via satellite from home than he makes working overnight in a warehouse. He gets frustrated when he returns to dishes in the sink. “She’s been home all day! I hate to say this, but I think she thinks earning more alleviates her of chores.”

He sees brown skin and thinks I’m a traitor.
“Some people are rough around the edges — he’s just rough,” Eva, 37, says of her boyfriend, Marcus, 36, who emigrated from Africa as a toddler and grew up in the projects and in foster care. She grew up in a middle-class family in a British colony, attending good schools and sneaking off to go swimming. When he went outside as a kid “he risked being shot,” and he doesn’t have any family. Eva and Marcus graduated from the same American college but at different times and met in a club in New York.

“I’m half-black, half-Portuguese,” Eva says. “I have a British accent. I don’t understand the way Americans view race. Some black people say I’m bougie and I’m acting white, but to me skin color doesn’t matter — I come from a beautiful island with British manners! This is just how I act. One day, Marcus said, ‘You get along so well with white people.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I get along well with all people.’ … He feels insecure sometimes. I’m not from the ghetto, so I don’t talk like I’m from the ghetto — that doesn’t mean I think I’m better than someone else. He sees brown skin and thinks I’m a traitor.”

Talking with him about his childhood helps her understand his anger. She says, “It took breaking down the barriers. I’ve learned from him not to prejudge.” Both Marcus and Eva are in New York to launch businesses. “We share a common goal. He loves talking about the future,” she says. “His big aspiration is to raise kids the way I was raised.”

To read more on how class affects modern day love, click here.

‘Black’ Vs. ‘African-American': Which Term Has The Financial Advantage?

January 12th, 2015 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Should we be called “Black” or “African-American”? It’s quite a contentious subject, isn’t it? “African-American” is the preferred nomenclature in the US, but some critics say this term discounts non-American people of African descent — y’know, like Black Africans or West Indians. But the truth is that one of these — Black or African-American — yield better financial consequences than the other.

Can you guess which one?

According to The Atlantic, a new study found that “Black” people are seen as more incompetent and “cold.” The report, authored by Emory University’s Erika Hall, found that there is a perceived distinction in socioeconomic status between the two terms.

Research participants were given a brief description of a Chicago man with the surname “Williams.” In one group, Williams was described as “Black”; in another, he was “African-American.” With this information, subjects were asked to estimate his income, educational background, and professional standing.

When Williams was labeled “African-American,” participants assumed he made $37,000 a year and had a two-year college degree. Almost 75 percent believed Williams worked at a managerial level. But when Williams was “Black,” he only pocketed $29,000 annually and had “some” college experience. Only 38.5 percent perceived “Black” Williams as a manager.

The study points out that the perceived differences between “Black” and “African-American” can effect job applicants of color who add seemingly harmless affiliations to their resume, such as “Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers” or “The National Black Employees Association.” In this case, you’d want your employer to perceive you as the hypothetical “African-American Williams” — not “Black Williams.”

Though Hall made a conscious decision to not discuss the controversial “Black vs. African-American” debate in the research paper, she told On the Media, a podcast, that she prefers “Americans of African Descent.”

“…It’s kind of a mouthful—but I’m hopeful that a new phrase, purged of the old weight, will arrive someday,” Hall said. “I think a lot of the stigma is embodied in the time in which the term was created.”

Which term do you prefer?

This study is poised to be published in the  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology next month.

Ready To Try The Market? How To Invest From $100 To $10,000

January 1st, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Even if you have never invested before or have a small amount of money, investing might just be worth the risk to grow your nest egg.

According to Stephanie Genkin, New York-based independent fee-only financial planner and adjunct instructor at NYU School of Professional Studies, investing, when done right, can really add to your bottom line.

“One should invest so that savings will outpace inflation. Your dollars left in a savings account for a long-term goal like retirement is guaranteed to lose purchasing power. For most people, investing in stocks and bonds is the best way to ensure that you don’t outlive your money,” she tells MadameNoire. “Most of us will not earn enough at our jobs to produce the kind of savings we need.”

PJ Wallin, CPA and founder of Atlas Financial, points out people can invest with a specific target in mind.  “A person should invest to save money for a longer term future goal (i.e. retirement, children’s education, etc.). Dollars invested in a safe place like a low-interest bearing CD account unfortunately will be outpaced by long-term inflation (3 to 4 percent),” Wallin tells us. “As a result, investing in a certain mix of stocks and bonds will provide a better return (historically 6 to 11 percent) over the long term.”

Investing can have many financial perks. “Investing is like becoming an owner in many different companies as well as a lender to corporations and governments. In exchange you have the potential to enjoy capital appreciation and dividends as an owner of stocks and earn interest (and sometimes enjoy growth) from bonds,” Genkin points out.

And while women tend to shy away from investing, they really should consider the option over the typical savings route. “Women in particular should invest money long term. We still earn less than men, we take time out of the workforce to care for children and aging parents and we live longer than men. All of this means that we need to find a way to grow our money,” explains Genkin.

But remember investing is never a sure thing, “even with a low-cost, diversified portfolio, sometimes you’ll lose money. Sometimes a lot of money,” reports Business Insider.

If you need to start small, try going with just $100. “It can be worth investing small to test the waters and see how you react as an investor. Investors are happy when stocks prices go up. What about when the value of your investments decline. Investing small could help you understand what it feels like and how you will react without inflicting a lot of damage. But you still have to do your homework,” says Genkin.

You may find many individual stocks, but skip those for now if you are investing small. “I don’t recommend investing in individual stocks. It’s like gambling. You want to buy shares in a low-cost fund. Buying a few shares of a financial sector index fund, for instance, could let you stick a toe in the water and for $100, you’d own four shares of a fund that invests in top U.S. banks and is up more than 14 percent this year,” explains Genkin.

Look for investments that match your dollar amount. “As many mutual fund providers have minimums starting at $1,000, I would suggest using a service like Acorns if one was just getting started or had $100 to invest. This service is similar to Bank of America’s ‘Keep the Change’ program except instead of moving the balance of a transaction to a savings account it instead goes into an investment account (i.e. if I buy a coffee for 1.50, .50 goes into an investment account and invests in a low cost, diversified ETF strategy based on my risk preference),” Wallin explains.

For a $1,000 investment Genkin advises, “Consider opening an IRA –either traditional to get a tax break or a Roth to enjoy tax-free growth on your investments. Then pick a low-cost well-diversified fund. If you have 10-plus years until you need the money consider a Vanguard Fund like Vanguard 500 Index Exchange Traded Fund which has no minimums and owns 500 stocks that make up the S&P 500. So when you hear that the S&P 500 is up 12 percent this year, you know your investment is doing the same.”

Got $10,000 to invest? “You want to make sure you hold stocks and bonds. So if stocks rise, your investments are likely to rise too and if bonds have a good year, you’ll be earning more interest. Consider owning three low-cost funds–one total U.S. stock fund, one total U.S. bond fund and one total International stock fund. Each is made up of thousands of stocks and bonds so you don’t take on too much risk but your money should grow if you leave it in long term. Again 10-plus years,” says Genkin.

Researching and learning as much as you can about the market will make you a smart investor. But never forget the risk of investing. And prepare and organize your finances before you start investing.

“You can be a smart investor by investing long term and diversifying your investments in a wide array of funds: large cap, small cap, international, bonds, emerging markets. This way you capture return no matter which corners of the market are doing well. Prudent investors choose low fee well diversified funds and hold them long term,” says Genkin.