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May 31, 2012

Which Plan Should You Choose For Your Retirement?

Are you reaching that point in your life when you have to plan for your retirement? You must not rely on your social security money alone for covering all the expenses after your retirement. Not having a proper retirement plan will lead to a bad situation after your retirement and that is something that you must avoid. Here are 4 retirement plans that you can consider and choose from.

1. The 401(K) Plan

This is one of the most popular plans that employers use to secure their employee’s retirement. According to this plan, you must match your employer’s contribution to the plan (which oscillates between 1% and 6% of the payment) to take full advantage of the plan. Plan your investment properly so that you can take full advantage of it after retirement. Failing to match your employer’s contribution will make the investment in this retirement plan redundant. There are many other flexible investment plans for helping you with your contribution to the retirement plan. Choose one that you can afford.

2. Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA

Many small time employers secure their employee’s retirement using this plan instead of the 401(K) plan. The only difference between these two plans is the fact that this plan has no maintenance fee as such from the employer’s side and thus is a popular choice with most small time employers. The contribution that the employee is supposed to make to this plan is deducted automatically from the pay check.

3. Traditional IRA (Individual Plan)

It is always advised that you should maintain an individual retirement plan along with the employer’s retirement plan that is already in place. The contribution that you can make to this plan is limitless and depends on your personal financial abilities completely. The contribution eligibility is set at $5,000, plus $1,000 catch up for those over 50 years old, but not per account.

4. Roth IRA (Individual Plan)

This plan is similar to the Traditional IRA plan with the same limit and eligibility criterions. The only difference is the fact that the contributions you will make to this plan is not income tax deductible.

In case you find out that you are ineligible for the IRA individual plans, you can always set up an annuity fund. The tax benefits are lower than the tax benefits one gets with the IRA funds and also the contribution fees are higher than usual. These shouldn’t deter you from having a solid retirement plan in the first place.

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May 26, 2012

Pro Tips For Those Seeking Car Finance

Buying a car is a big financial investment. Most people are not able to pay cash for their new vehicle and must rely instead on car loans to make their purchase. In order to be able to make lower monthly payments, many people are now taking out loans that can take up to five years to pay off. The interest charges on these loans are quite high. By the time the car is finally paid off it will have cost many thousands more than if cash had been used to make the purchase.

In order to avoid the large outlay of money involved in buying a new vehicle, many individuals instead choose to buy a used car. This is certainly an option for some, but people who wish to own a new car can save money by following a few rules that make car financing less costly.

1. The first thing to remember is that cars are depreciating assets. As soon as a car leaves the lot it has lost several thousand dollars in value. Every year the car is worth less and those financing their car for five years are left with an asset that does not have much value. The best policy is to save as much cash as possible to pay for the car. Not only will this save a lot of money in interest over the years, it also puts the buyer in a position of power when negotiating car prices.

2. Decide on your budget before going to look at cars. Avoiding emotional buying is easier when you know how much you can realistically afford. Determine how much of a cash down payment you can afford without having to make sacrifices. There are websites that have loans calculators that allow you to check how much loan payments will be for various car prices.

3. Do comparison shopping of loans online. There are many websites that offer car loans at affordable rates. Getting a car loan at the dealership is not always the best option since every warranty or add-on that is purchased with the car will be added onto the loan and result in extra interest charges. Obtaining a loan before going to the dealership allows you to negotiate for a better deal. Do not immediately offer to pay the full price of the car. Car dealers expect to negotiate and the given price is never set in stone.

4. Car dealers love to up-sell their customers. Typical up-sells include extended warranties, rustproofing and fabric protection. Warranties can be purchased directly from the warranty provider. Car dealerships are only the ‘middlemen’ and stand to make a profit by selling them. Rustproofing is only necessary if you live in a place where a lot of salt is used on icy roads in the winter. Fabric protection is a personal choice but not generally necessary given the depreciating nature of vehicles.

5. Avoid negotiating ‘packed payments’. If the dealer tries to sell you a car based on the monthly payment you have to make, rather than the whole purchase price, be aware that this can add up to much more than the amount needed to cover the cost of the car.

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May 25, 2012

Income Protection Insurance: Should you Get It?

The first quarter of 2012 brought grim news from the Office of National Statistics, which reported an unemployment figure of 2.6 million. A third of this figure is made up of people who have been out of work for a year or more and are therefore classed as long-term unemployed.

With such high levels of unemployment, many workers are considering more seriously the consequences of job loss. In addition to familiarising themselves with their employer’s redundancy terms and looking for areas where they can tighten their belts, many people are investigating income-protection cover as a way of providing some additional security.

What is Income-Protection Cover?

Income-protection cover pays a regular tax-free sum when you experience a loss of income due to illness or injury, with some policies also covering unemployment and redundancy. There are a number of policies available, all offering varying periods and levels of cover.

Points to Consider

It’s important to make sure you understand the full terms and conditions of a policy you are considering taking out to ensure that it is the right fit for your own circumstances. For example, some policies may only pay out for a set period of time, while others may defer payment for a few months after a claim is made.

This delay may be fine if your employer has a generous compensation plan or you have savings, but if your employment contract only covers you for the statutory minimum you may wish to seek out a policy that either pays out right away or backdates payments to the date of a claim.

Similarly, different providers will have different exclusion criteria and rules around how long a policy has to be in effect before a claim could be made. Check if there are any special rules covering self-employment or certain medical conditions in the policy you are considering.

Income protection will pay a regular sum based on a percentage of your total monthly income. This is different to other forms of insurance, such as payment-protection insurance, which only covers the repayment costs of one particular debt or purchase.

If you are made redundant and have payment-protection insurance for your mortgage you would still need to cover the rest of your living expenses either with personal savings or an income-protection policy.

A critical-illness policy will provide you with a tax-free sum if you are diagnosed with a listed illness. However, it does not pay out for every illness in the way that an income protection policy does. Consequently, if illness or health issues are of particular concern to you and your family it may be worth spending some time researching the various income-protection policies available.

Do I Need Income-Protection Cover?

When deciding whether income protection cover is the right choice for you and your family, it may be useful to look into the terms of your employer’s redundancy cover and whether your employer will pay a percentage of your salary if you are off sick indefinitely.

Look at any other insurance policies you may have and make a note of what you would be covered for and how long you would be covered if you lost your job unexpectedly. Are there any gaps and how would you fill these gaps?

Most importantly, take time to consider the various policies available, ensure your chosen policy is right for you and your family and make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions before purchasing any insurance plan.

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May 24, 2012

4 Important Things to Consider Before You Consolidate Your Debts

Many people think that consolidating debts is a quick and easy way to solve their debt problems. It is easy and quick to get the loan and set it up, but there are still many dangers involved if they haven’t fully thought it through.

It happens all too often: John borrows $10,000 to consolidate his multiple credit card debts only to use his credit cards again when he feels the pinch. Before he knows it, John now has the $10k loan and a balance of $5k on his credit cards. He’s in more debt now than when he started.

To avoid this nasty debt cycle, you need to consider some important points before you make a decision. Here are the top 4 things you need assess:

  • Do you spend more than you earn? A common reason for using a consolidation loan is to help with cash flow. But just like a vitamin supplement that will only help if you have a good diet to begin with, a consolidation loan will only help if your budget is cash flow positive. The worst thing you can do is take out a loan and they use your credit cards again when you feel the pinch.
  • Can you afford the repayments? This comes after you consider your budget and based on that analysis, can you afford to repay the loan comfortably? The whole point of debt consolidation is to make the payment slighter lower and more affordable. If this isn’t the case, or you may struggle to meet the payments each month then you might need to look for another solution – like a debt management plan, for example.
  • How long will the loan last? Sometimes, consolidating your debts to a lower monthly amount means you will pay for longer. This might be a positive if it means you aren’t struggling every month, but you need to be aware that you will be in debt for longer whereas most people are trying to get out of debt as soon as possible.
  • How much will you repay in total? Another effect of paying the loan for longer is that the total repayment might be more than it would have been if you continued paying the previous amount. This might not be the case if you had high interest credit cards, and it gives you the more affordable repayment you might need, but you need to be aware that you might pay back more with a consolidation loan because it is taken over a longer period.

Hopefully these points will give you more information about whether a consolidation loan is right for your situation and you will know exactly what you’re signing up for.

They can be an excellent debt relief tool when used appropriately but many people think they are a magic bullet and get a nasty shock when they don’t change their spending habits or thinking and end up further in debt.

If you’ve taken out a consolidation loan in the past, share your experience with us in the comments below.

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Personal Injury Claims: How to Avoid The ‘Claims Cowboys’

Frequenting our television screens on a daily basis, we are all familiar with the scenes of the reconstructed fall followed by an presenter telling us about the sizeable cheque that the injured party received on a ‘no win no fee basis’. Said informant then encourages us to ring the number that appears on screen if we have been affected by a similar accident.

The advertisements make the process seem so simple and risk-free that it is no surprise that many people are left wondering what the catch is. It’s important to realise that if you have been injured as a result of an accident which was not your fault then you could be eligible for compensation.

However it is fundamental to appreciate that the process is unlikely to be as simple as ringing a phone number and consequently receiving a cheque in the post. With rising claims of ‘ambulance chasing’ salesmen approaching injured parties in hospitals making proposals of accident compensation claims, it is increasingly important that you make the right choices regarding your personal injury claim.

How do I know if my injury firm at legitimate?

In order to ensure that you receive the best support possible, it is important to ensure that the legal firm you choose to deal with are professional and experienced in dealing with personal injury claims.

Choosing the right solicitor can be a difficult task however it is an important one. A good solicitor should not be looking for quick sales instead they should be focussed on fully understanding your situation and working to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve, both financially and medically.

Ensure that you are dealing with a qualified solicitor from a reputable legal firm who have a strong background in successful personal injury claims. Good personal injury firms tend to offer initial advice free on a no obligation basis to ascertain whether you have a potential claim. This could prove a good opportunity for you to raise any queries which you have.

Be wary if you are approached directly by salesmen after your injury. Do not feel obliged to discuss your situation with them. They may quote large sums that you could be rewarded however with personal injury claims, there is no way of telling exactly how much compensation that you could receive until a full investigation has been completed and liability has been accepted.

Who should I turn to for personal injury advice?

The few ‘claims cowboys’ out there should not be associated with the legitimate personal injury firms who have years of experience in offering claimants an honest and dedicated end-to-end service to help them get all the compensation that they deserve.

You should not feel pressured or rushed into anything that you do not want to do. Your personal injury solicitor should help ensure that you are informed and consulted every step of the process.

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