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  • Financial Resolutions for 2014

    For many Americans the past few years have been financially difficult.  Many experts say the economy is improving, but that doesn’t mean much to the families that are still struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.  While many are making plans to lose weight, learn something new, or experience life in a new way; many others are searching for new ways to manage their finances in 2014.

    Everyone manages their finances a little differently and it ultimately comes down to finding the best method for you.  Regardless of how it’s done, the best financial resolution that you can make is to live within your means.  Don’t spend more than you bring in.  It may seem unobtainable but it’s the best way to avoid debt and get yourself back on solid financial ground.

    cut credit cardTo help you determine where you stand you have to set a budget and then stick to it.  Setting a budget will help you see where your money is going and areas that need to be cut back.  If your expenses are greater than your income you can begin cutting back non-essentials until your budget is in line.  If you go out to eat every day for lunch, consider cutting back to once a week and packing your lunch the remainder of the time.  Search online for free family activities in your area that will help you have fun, get out of the house, and save money.

    A frequent resolution for those people looking to improve their finances is to cut up their credit card.  While credit cards can get you into trouble if you don’t use them with discretion, cutting them up may not be the best option.  In cases where you are ordering things online or booking reservations, using a credit card can provide extra security against fraud and abuse.  Just be mindful that what you charge fits into your budget.  If you are worried about using too much leaving it at home in a safe, secure place is always an option.

    Finances are often a topic of stress, disagreement, and trouble but they don’t have to be that way.  Sitting down and discussing it with those who share the account and getting everyone on the same page can help make this year’s resolution the most successful yet.

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  • What do Auto Racers Earn?

    Americans are used to their sports heroes earning multi-million dollar salaries to lead their teams to championships.  While that may be true in baseball, football, basketball and even hockey, most auto racers make a fraction of the money for their sport.  Given that auto racing has a higher risk of not just injury, but actual death, this hardly seems fair.

    fernando alonsoThere are several reasons for the lower salaries in motorsports.  The first is that most sports teams earn revenues from television broadcast contracts with their leagues.  Auto racing is gaining in popularity, but races aren’t getting the huge broadcast contracts of other sports, so each team’s share is significantly less.  Secondly, drops in sponsorships have caused race salaries to fall.  This is due to the one-two punch of banning tobacco sponsors and the 2008 economic collapse.  Fewer available team sponsorships means less money for drivers.

    The sad fact is that auto racers in the 1980s and 1990s made more money than racers of today. Reportedly one top IndyCar racer makes $500,000 a year — the same sum that legendary driver Mario Andretti made back in 1972. Looked at another way $500,000 works out to $31,250 per race compared to the salary of LeBron James who was paid $213,963 per game last year.

    There is some improvement in salaries as new broadcast contracts and sponsorships have come along in the past few years, but only eight drivers are believed to earn more than $10 million a year in salary and winnings.

    Here are the top earning drivers, according to Forbes:
    Fernando Alonso — $28 million
    Lewis Hamilton — $26 million
    Jimmie Johnson — $17.3 million
    Sebastian Vettel — $17 million
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. — $13 million
    Jeff Gordon — $12.7 million
    Tony Stewart — $12.5 million
    Valentino Rossi — $12 million

    written by guest blogger Allen Marshall, an experienced motorsports journalist whose work includes interviewing top drivers like Valentino Rossi and Lucas Luhr as well as covering specific race series and championships.

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  • Unintended Consequences of Student Loans


    If there is one aspect of this economy that still needs improvement it’s jobs, and an article published today by the Wall Street Journal confirmed it. Many new college graduates are finished with school, unable to find decent jobs, and struggling to pay back their student loans. It can be hard enough at times to pay your bills and living expenses but the added stress of student loans is causing many young adults to rethink other areas of their lives. For some it means putting off a marriage or a family until they are more financially secure. Others are giving up their hopes of ever being able to step out on their own and achieve their dreams.

    There are a lot of variables to keep in mind when applying for student loans and, fortunately, colleges are beginning to provide the support that students need to wisely fund their educations . But for many already bearing the weight of student loans the new support does little to soften their load.

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  • Improve Your Credit Fast

    moneyThings were a lot easier a few years ago for someone who had no credit , because the credit system was starting to no longer matter. If you didn’t have credit, there was an alternative method to get almost anything you wanted. After the housing crash it became a lot harder. Luckily for you, there is still time to repair your credit, and although it will take some time, it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort.

    The first thing you will need to do is make a decision here and now that you are going to pay off all of your debt, starting today. You need to make a plan and write out a budget that will make sure you not only make the minimum payments on your debts, but also make some extra so that they will get paid off. You should not take out any other loans until you have paid everything off, even if they are small, short term loans like Money Mutual . Until you can get your debt under control, these will only be a bandaid, they will not be a fix.

    Next you will need to get a copy of your credit history, you are allowed one free one per year without damaging your credit. Be careful of people who tell you to check it more often, because the more you check your credit report, the more likely you are to damage it . Circle all mistakes on your credit report in one color, these can be taken care of by contacting the credit agency, finding out who reported this to them, and working it out with your creditor, or credit card company. You will want to circle all the dings in your credit report that are your fault in another color. These are things you will need to keep yourself from doing again. Look for a pattern. If you regularly pay a bill late, or all your bills late, see if your bank allows you to pay bills online automatically. This can keep you from having late payments. If there is a different problem, see if you can find a creative solution to it.

    When you have your debt under control, and an emergency happens causing you undue monetary distress, Montel Williams has it right, it is ok to take out a cash advance loan at that point. It can actually even help your credit score as long as you pay it back in full on time.

    If you follow these things, you are sure to repair your credit in no time.  Check out financial social sites for more information

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  • Ways to Invest in the Real Estate Market

    Over the past decades, owning a real estate property has become a more common type of investment.

    Although many investors are still not confident about investing in the housing market since it crashed in 2007, there are strong signs that a recovery is underway. If you’re looking to jump into real estate investment, there are many ways to gain financial returns from your property.

    apartment buildingThe most common way to invest in real estate is to have a rental property. You can invest in a property and then rent it out, using the rent to pay for the mortgage and other expenses associated with property management. By the time the mortgage has been completely paid, you’ll have an asset that has appreciated in value but your total investment would probably be just the amount you put in for the down payment. If you continue to rent out the property, you then start earning rental profits.

    Another strategy to earn from your real estate investment is known as flipping or real estate trading wherein an investor buys a run-down or distressed property and then renovates it for the purpose of putting it up for sale later. You will earn from flipping houses by buying properties below the market price and then selling at a higher price. Unfortunately, flipped properties do have a negative reputation for poor quality and utilizing cheap materials.

    Ensuring quality while sticking to a renovation budget should be one of your goals if you are considering becoming a flipper. You may also want to become the other type of flipper who doesn’t shell out any money at all into a property for improvements but invests only in properties with intrinsic value that can be sold for a profit even without any modifications.

    You can also join an investment group that invests particularly in real estate properties. The group will buy or build an apartment block, office building or retail complex and then seek investors to buy units through the group. You can own one or more units and rent them out. The entire property is collectively managed by the real estate investment group, including finding tenants, in exchange for a portion of the monthly rent.

    Even if your only real estate investment is your own residence, it can still be a truly valuable asset for you and your family. As the value of residential real estate rapidly increases, your residence becomes an important part of your net worth. With careful estate planning, you can transfer your residential property to your heirs with the least amount of taxes against it so you can preserve your residence for your family’s future generations.

    Raul Cordova is a frequent contributor to real estate sites and financial blogs. He is a retired mortgage broker who has also written for companies like starlightinvest.com and other Canadian firms.

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  • Want to Finance a Race Team?

    Financing a professional racing team is no small feat, but one that can potentially provide a lot of reward.  Even if it isn’t monetary, the pleasure of owning and operating a team can be almost like having a child—after all, it does have various needs and wants, with the potential to grow up and reward you greatly.  Plus, what better way to get deeper into the sport than to actively participate in it?

    The first thing to think about when putting together a racing team is the league you want to participate in.  Entry fees alone price many competitors out of Formula 1, but there are a lot of other, smaller events that even everyday people can participate in.  Take 24 Hours of LeMons, for example.  It’s a 24 hour endurance race in which teams are not allowed to spend more than $500 on their car, including modifications (except for safety equipment).  The entry fee is a scant $100 per driver.  Entry fees go up from there, as much as $500,000 for Formula 1.

    But the entry fees are only a small portion of the cost.  Remember, there is no “I” in “team;” a team needs at least one mechanic, one driver, and a manager.  One person can’t be all three.  Pay for them can be per race or on salary, but top drivers pull down more than many teams care to admit.

    race track 2003Factor in the cost of parts as well.  A set of four halfway decent tires can run upwards of $2,000, depending on size, and a typical race can chew up at least one set.  Then there is racing fuel, which most race-tuned cars burn like there’s no tomorrow, and it costs $7 per hour.  Engines need to be rebuilt every race or two, which is at least $1,000, body panels may need to be replaced, and parts may need to be custom made, which can get expensive fast.  This is all not to mention moving the car, parts, and people around to different events, which chews up even more gasoline and maintenance money.

    From the business end there is a need for insurance, not only for the cars, but for the people that might be injured, lawyers and accountants for all the legal mumbo-jumbo, and marketing/advertising, which has the double duty of securing sponsorships and getting the team name out there for people to see.

    In any case, running a professional racing team is expensive.  Most can forget about Formula 1 without a family fortune, as the total cost is in the millions.  For more affordable races, check out LeMons, which has an average cost of around $4,000, which is about as cheap as it gets while still involving cars.  If you want to start a little higher on the ladder, there are usually a ton of smaller racing series that you can research.  See what is near you and start saving!  Who knows, maybe you can be the next Carol Shelby!

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  • Choosing an Affordable Car

    Besides your home, your car will be one of the largest expenses that you undertake in your life. It is important to remember that buying a car is not something as simple as looking at the price on the tag and thinking that you are going to pay that much. A car is an ongoing investment that will require many expenses over the course of your ownership of the vehicle. Fortunately, it is possible to purchase an affordable car if you know what to expect.

    Shopping for a car on a budget starts with figuring out your budget and making the commitment to yourself to stick to this budget regardless of the pressure that you will inevitably get from the salesman. Remember that there is more to the purchase than just the base cost of the vehicle. Consider these expenses when considering the cost of your new vehicle:

    Sticker Price: this is the base price of the vehicle. It is the amount that you will see on the price tag.

    Accessories: the vehicle that you choose will have a “standard” version, which will be priced with the sticker price. The salesman, however, will have various options and accessories to offer which will “enhance” the vehicle and increase the price. These accessories are things such as upholstery upgrades, decorative lights or amplified sound systems. Be prepared to reject these upgrades in order to stick to your budget.

    car for saleTitle Fees: the title of your vehicle is a document officially recognized by the DMV that states that you own your vehicle. This document is required in order to get your tags and stickers, all of which are required to be street legal. The title fee is what you will pay to get this documentation. You will also need to pay registration fees in order for your vehicle to be legally registered in your name.

    Taxes: very few states do not have taxes associated with purchasing a vehicle. These taxes can add several thousands of dollars to the cost of your vehicle, so it is critical that you know your state’s tax rate so that you can work these taxes into your budget.

    Expenses associated with buying your vehicle are not the only costs that you must prepare for when it comes to finding an affordable vehicle. Ongoing costs will also add up throughout the life of your vehicle. These include:

    Insurance: you will be required to have car insurance whenever you are driving. Insurance rates vary dramatically depending on the type of vehicle that you drive. Carefully review insurance quotes when determining what type of vehicle you should purchase.

    Maintenance: just like with any other piece of machinery, your vehicle will need regular maintenance in order to continue functioning at the peak of condition. While it may seem expensive to maintain your vehicle on a regular basis, making sure that you keep up with routine care for your vehicle will prevent extremely expensive urgent care later.

    Fuel: this is the biggest ongoing expense you will have as a vehicle owner. Considering the fuel efficiency of a vehicle should be an important part of selecting the type of vehicle that you will purchase.

    contributed by Luis Chaney who has written several ebooks about auto repair. He frequently contributes to automotive blogs on topics like DIY repair, reviews of Lincoln repair manuals, and restoration of antique cars.  His writing also appears on numerous car and auto websites.

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  • The Top Tech Stocks of 2012

    The past year was a good one for the economy as it slowly bounced back from the recession, and began to grow again under the strength of a growing and burgeoning stock market. That stock market, in fact, has produced some up and down tech stocks this year, many of which are on the horizon to either blow up in 2013, or do extremely well and continue to rise.

    Let’s review three major tech stocks and their impacts in 2012, as well as what you might be able to look for in 2013 if you are considering investing in tech stocks in any way.

    Apple

    Apple, it seems, can do no wrong. The guys at Apple lost a visionary in Steve Jobs, and then didn’t skip a beat when the introduced the next generation of the iPhone, as well as the mini iPad, both products which people immediately fawned all over themselves to grab at the store. Beacuse of that, Apple’s stock continues to rise and rise, making it one of the top tech stocks of 2012.

    Don’t look for anything to change too soon with Apple, either; while there are concerns over whether they can adequately develop as a corporation even after Jobs’ death, they still seem to be poised to move strongly and continue to be a top-flight tech company in 2013 and beyond.

    stock tickerFacebook

    Facebook started slow when it came to their stock prices and performance upon going public in 2012, but all is not lost for the social media giant and their head man, Mark Zuckerberg. They may have taken quite an unexpected fall in the past few months from their initial stock price, but they should rebound, if only because of the number of users they have online at any one given moment, and how much they know about their users and what they like, purchase, and consume.

    Watch for Facebook to bounce back at some point, but understand that it might be a slow stock investment, and not a short-term gain; don’t go in thinking you can make millions of Facebook in a few months, after all, but its time will come.

    Groupon

    The death knell has sounded for Groupon, a once promising stock that, as it turned out, provided very little value to its core customers (businesses) and operates quite like some type of bizarre coupon-driven Ponzi scheme. Groupon may not be dead yet, but it’s not far off; this is one company to avoid when it comes to picking stocks in 2013, and one to look at in derision upon 2012 tech stock analysis.

    With a bizarre founder in Andrew Mason, and a simply unsustainable business model in the long run with a bizarre set of terms on each of their daily deals, Groupon won’t be going anywhere in 2013 and may have to fold as a corporation soon, unless they can raise some cash – and fast.

    Blu Sanders is a web journalist who covers technology and software for a variety of blogs and websites. He also follows tech and software companies like the one found here.

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  • Health Food Sales Morph into Big Business

    Health food stores have moved into the mainstream. The business of health food today is as much about profit as providing healthy food.

    Then…

    In the “hippy” au natural health food stores of the 1970’s, the attributes of ‘wholesome’ and ‘natural’ were seen as part of an alternative life style. Counter cultural values and rebellion against the establishment were at the heart of this era. Health food stores began in the ‘70s, frequented by hippies wearing socks and sandals, searching for mung beans and tofu.

    …and Now

    Some people thought these stores were faddish. But they weren’t; they simply morphed into big business.  Today health food stores have moved into the mainstream. They are as much about profit as proffering healthy foods and products. Commercialization is seen in production, processing and distribution of organic and natural products.

    Supermarkets Overtake Health Food Marketshare

    Many of the nation’s large supermarkets are racing to add pure foods and ingredients to their store shelves. Wheat germ, bran and honey were among the most popular items in the 1970’s era health food store. Today there is a much wider selection of products with soy milk being stocked next to whole milk. Buying trends have shifted. The profile of shoppers now spreads across age groups and class.

    Supermarkets have developed their own brands of health food products. This is supported by heavy marketing campaigns advertising ‘natural’ as the new model. They are rewarded by consumers, as sales in this segment of their offerings have grown, even outpacing more traditional items.

    The Nutrition Business Journal noted that organic and natural food sales, in terms of national growth rate, had risen eight percent in 2010. This compares favorably to the less than one percent overall growth of the food market itself, which tops out at $630 billion.

    The phenomenon has become mainstream. Supermarket sales of health food have surpassed even niche markets. Specialty stores offering natural foods in 2010 accounted for 39 percent in total sales of organic foods, according to the Organic Trade Association. More conventional retailers grew to 54 percent of such sales.

    Corporate Philosophies

    Numerous online companies have built their reputation on selling “natural” and “whole” foods and products.  Vitamin and supplement companies offer natural support for diet, nutrition and things like muscle health. These companies usually offer a corporate philosophy that mixes a dedication to health with established business models and profit goals.

    Whole Foods is big business too, but its philosophy rests on a market stakeholder model. It sees its business as “a system of interdependent stakeholders.”

    Regardless of the philosophy behind this industry, health food sales today are about much more than a simple purchase of mung beans.

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  • Economic Damages

    The term ‘economic damages’ as it relates to civil cases refers to the loss of wages and/or benefits pursuant to personal injury, wrongful death or discrimination, to name a few.  In business issues, economic damages can take the form of lost profits, increased costs, mitigation, lost opportunity, etc.  This post discusses the impact of both professional and personal economic damages.

    Economic Damages Can Hurt a Business

    The impact of economic damages to a business can be devastating.  As an example, take a look at Hurricane Katrina.  When Katrina hit Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi in 2005, literally thousands of homes and businesses were annihilated.  The devastation was immense.  Homes were lost.  Businesses were lost.  Paychecks could no longer be earned.  Debts could no longer be paid.  Economic damages in the form of business interruption spread like wildfire.  Get the picture?

    Now that you have a broad view of economic damage and the impact, let’s take a closer look.

    Shareholder Disputes Can Cause Economic Damage

    In the business world, shareholder disputes can result in economic damages.  How so?  How do shareholder disputes arise?  Disputes between shareholders can arise in a myriad of ways.  Let’s narrow it down to privately owned business where the officers are also shareholders; it’s not uncommon.  Say one of the shareholders chooses to move from the area and wants to sell his share in the business.  He or she holds thirty percent of the business and wants to cash it in.  Who determines the value of that thirty percent?  This is where disputes can arise.  It may go to litigation if all involved parties cannot agree on the value.  Enter court costs.  Enter hiring a forensic accountant.  Enter business interruption.  These added costs and time away from the business result in a halt in determining the profit margin until the case has been heard and restitution determined.

    Economic Damages May be Awarded

    In personal cases, economic damages may be awarded as the result of personal injury, wrongful termination or punitive damages.  Let it be known, punitive damages are not awarded easily or readily.  Punitive damages, by definition, are remuneration awarded to a plaintiff in excess of compensation for loss as an additional punishment to the accused in a serious offense.  We reiterate:  punitive damages are not readily awarded.  However, when they are awarded, additional economic damages and stress occur to the offending person or entity.

    In the case of personal injury or wrongful termination, economic damages may be awarded to the victim.  Certain factors come into play when determining economic damages in a personal injury claim.  Age of the victim, gender and even personal attributes are determining factors in the amount of remuneration awarded.  For instance, if the injured is young and has suffered loss of a limb or mental capacity, the amount of income he or she has lost over his or her expected lifespan will be a determining factor.  If the claimant is a woman and has suffered visible scarring or damage to the reproductive organs, economic damages may be combined with punitive damages.

    Wrongful Termination Can Cause Economic Damage

    Wrongful termination can also lead to economic damages being awarded in litigation. However many states protect themselves against such allegations in being ‘right to work’ states.  This means unions cannot dictate the rules of employment.  Conversely, right to work states can terminate your employment for any means other than prohibited by Federal law.  Race, age, creed discrimination is prohibited, as is whether or not you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.  Losing consideration for a job or being fired for any of these issues gives cause for taking action in a court of law for the purpose of suing for economic damages, however, they are hard to prove.  Taking this action in court requires documented proof of discrimination.

    As you can see by the information provided, economic damages affect all parties involved.  Whether you are an individual who has suffered loss of income or a business facing loss of revenue, economic damage has few, if any, bounds.

    Additional information on economic damages, esp. as they apply to businesses and corporations can be found here.

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