5 Ways to Stick to Your Financial New Year’s Resolutions

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Am I the only one who can’t believe how fast 2013 has gone? It’s all a blur. But while we take the time to look back over the past year, I say the new one is just as good as time as any to set some amazing goals for yourself — ones that will benefit YOU not only in 2014, but also for years to come. Whether you pledge to pay off your student loans or stop living paycheck to paycheck and finally create a nest egg for yourself — whatever it is, here are five ways to set your financial New Year’s Resolutions and stick to them.

1. Set realistic goals

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting realistic goals. That’s not to say your goals can’t be ambitious, just make sure you give yourself enough time to realize them. You can absolutely aim to do something like pay off $10,000 worth of old credit card debt…just make sure you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete it. Because if you don’t give yourself adequate time to hit your desired mark, it leaves room to fall into the discouragement trap, get disappointed in yourself, and quit all together.

2. Get an accountability partner

I have plenty of friends who love swapping stories about their latest shopping scores (I do it, too), but what if you had someone to actually help you celebrate something really worthwhile — like you investing in yourself? Wouldn’t that be great? So pick a friend and get started — one who will not only be happy for you when you start checking things off your list, but one who will also give you a little tough love if you start to lose your way.

3. Revisit the goal often

You can’t expect to stay excited about something that you don’t keep in the forefront of your thoughts — after all…out of site, out of mind. Right? So, I suggest revisiting your goals at LEAST once a week (if not more) to make sure you are staying on financial track.

4. Celebrate the small victories along the way

If getting your financial life in order is something that’s relatively new for you, it may not come easily and will take effort and discipline. So, once you start hitting your milestones take time to appreciate how hard you’ve worked and be sure to treat yourself to something small along the way to celebrate and reward yourself for your dedication.

5. Earmark certain funds

Work a few extra hours, sell some stuff on eBay that you haven’t been using — just do something drastic to jump start your financial goals. Whatever you do, once you set the plan in place to get some extra cash, be sure to earmark it to put toward your goal and don’t deviate from that plan.

By Brandhyze Stanley via http://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-ways-stick-financial-resolutions-140006863.html

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Credit Repair Scams

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Credit Repair Scams

You’ve probably seen ads from companies promising a “new credit identity” — that is, a fresh start for your credit history. It may seem like just the thing you need to get your credit back on track, but it’s actually a scam. These companies often sell Social Security numbers illegally. If you use a number other than your own to apply for credit, not only won’t you get credit, but you also could face fines or prison.

If your credit is less than golden, there are steps you can take to repair it on your own, at no cost. Only time and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit.

Signs of a Credit Repair Scam

You’ll know you’re encountering credit repair fraud if a company:

  • insists you pay them before they do any work on your behalf
  • tells you not to contact the credit reporting companies directly
  • tells you to dispute information in your credit report — even if you know it’s accurate
  • tells you to give false information on your applications for credit or a loan
  • doesn’t explain your legal rights when they tell you what they can do for you

Ads That Promise a “New Credit Identity”

Companies promising a “new credit identity” say they can help you hide bad credit history or bankruptcy for a fee. If you pay them, these companies will provide you with a nine-digit number that looks like a Social Security number. They may call it a CPN — a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Or, they may direct you to apply for an EIN — an Employer Identification Number — from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). EIN’s are legitimate numbers, typically used by businesses to report financial information to the IRS and Social Security Administration — but an EIN is not a substitute for your Social Security number.

The credit repair companies may tell you to apply for credit using the CPN or EIN, rather than your own Social Security number. And they may lie and tell you that this process is legal. But it’s a scam. These companies may be selling stolen Social Security numbers, often those taken from children. By using a stolen number as your own, the con artists will have involved you in identity theft.

If you follow a credit repair company’s advice and commit fraud, you might find yourself in legal trouble. It’s a federal crime to:

  • lie on a credit or loan application
  • misrepresent your Social Security number
  • obtain an EIN from the IRS under false pretenses

The bottom line is that if you use the number they sell you, you could face fines or time in prison.

Your Credit Rights

The Credit Repair Organization Act (CROA) makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do for you, and to charge you before they’ve performed their services. This law, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires credit repair companies to explain:

  • your legal rights in a written contract that also details the services they’ll perform
  • your three day right to cancel without any charge
  • how long it will take to get results
  • the total cost you will pay
  • any guarantees

What if a credit repair company you hired doesn’t live up to its promises? You have some options.

  • You can sue them in federal court for your actual losses or for what you paid them, whichever is more
  • You can seek punitive damages — money to punish the company for violating the law
  • You can join other people in a class action lawsuit against the company, and if you win, the company has to pay your attorney’s fees

Report Credit Repair Fraud

State Attorneys General

Many states also have laws regulating credit repair companies. If you have a problem with a credit repair company, report it to your local consumer affairs office or to your state Attorney General (AG).

Federal Trade Commission

You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC can’t resolve individual credit disputes, it can take action against a company if there’s a pattern of possible law violations. File your complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

 

Federal Trade Commission via http://www.consumer.ftc.gov

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0225-credit-repair-scams

Disputing Errors on Credit Reports

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Our credit reports each contain personal information such as where we live, how we pay our bills, whether we’ve been sued or arrested, as well as if we’ve filed for bankruptcy in the past. These very important records determine whether we get credit, what interest rates we pay and sometimes whether we get a job. Some financial advisors and consumer advocates suggest that you review your credit report periodically to make sure it is accurate and to help guard against identity theft.

Should you find discrepancies while inspecting your credit report the Federal Trade Commission sets out how you may attempt to rectify them:

Correcting Errors

Under the FCRA, both the credit reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider.

Step One

Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

Step Two

Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

About Your File

Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to credit reporting companies: some local retailers, credit unions, travel, entertainment, and gasoline card companies are among the creditors that don’t.

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting: information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.

Federal Trade Commission via http://www.consumer.ftc.gov

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports

For bankruptcy information call Kasen & Kasen to schedule a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION (856) 424-4144.  The attorneys at Kasen & Kasen have over 40 years experience representing consumer and business debtors in bankruptcy.  David Kasen is board certified as a specialist in BOTH consumer AND business bankruptcy law.  Find out more about our firm by visiting www.kasenlaw.com.

Detroit Judge’s Decision Impacts the City and Possibly the Nation

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On Tuesday, December 3, 2013, a bankruptcy judge from Detroit, Michigan held that the city could formally enter bankruptcy. This judge, Steven W. Rhodes, went even further by ruling that pension benefits could be reduced in a bankruptcy proceeding. This decision has caused uproar across the city as public employees realize the possible implications of this decision.

 

Previous to this decision it was a widely held belief that state laws preserve public pensions. Michigan’s Constitution even explicitly states that pensions were unassailable and that benefits would always be paid, either through higher taxes or budget cutbacks elsewhere. In his ruling, Judge Rhodes reasoned that public employee pensions are not protected in a federal Chapter 9 bankruptcy. He was quoted stating, “Pension benefits are a contractual right and are not entitled to any heightened protection in a municipal bankruptcy.”

 

Shortly after the decision was handed down the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (Afscme) asked for permission to appeal directly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Officials of Detroit’s pension system plan to appeal as well. Many union members are especially upset because they bargained away potential salary increases in favor of pensions. Union officials argue that “the state Constitution represents the people’s will . . . That will cannot be ignored or subverted because it is financially convenient to do so.”

 

In the coming months we will see how this landmark decision will impact Detroit as well as the rest of the nation.