Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a CPA

The accounting certifications process can be tedious and long. This graphic shows the process from start to finish. If you work hard you can do it within 8 years.

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 17, 2013 at 9:00 am

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Save Big Bucks with these Car Insurance Saving Tips

Yes, you read correctly – you can save a significant amount of money on your monthly vehicle insurance premiums starting from this very month! Most individuals shop around with a few difference car insurance companies seeking the best possible value-for-money, but very few people know the exact questions to ask to ensure that savings are made. Below is your “key to insurance savings”. Go ahead, step on through the door to cheaper insurance!

 

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 16, 2013 at 5:17 pm

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What Is The Best Way to Consolidate Your Debt?

Consolidation Loans can sometimes be the best way to consolidated debt and helpful tool for handling and settling it. Nevertheless, they’ll only be useful in the long term if you can be monetarily disciplined enough to alter your spending habits. Below are some suggestions to help you reach that point.

You need to additionally do your part before proceeding to combine your credit card debt. Confirm the legitimacy and credibility of the institution you are going to use. Ensure that there are no unseen costs. Some business supply services with a really minimal cost, yet while doing so, behind the scenes they ask for a certain amount aside from what was originally concurred. A good source of info can be found at Finance Loan Direct

If you understand all the specifics of your cards and standing, it’s easier for you to get started. Meanwhile, in speaking with the specialists, be straight forward in informing them that you’re searching for the most effective bargain. In this way, you have higher possibilities of being provided the best bundles in combining your financial obligations.

Combining your debt into a house equity loan or line of credit– while a reasonable approach in some instances– puts your house in danger.

If you use a residence equity loan, line of credit or cash-out re-finance to combine your debts, acknowledge you are will be giving the financing the pink slip to your residence. It could seem like an excellent suggestion– specifically with today’s astonishingly low rate of interest, yet you’re going from unsecured debt to debt that’s secured by a crucial possession: your home.

If you’re taking into consideration leveraging your residence’s equity as the best way to consolidate credit card debt at a reduced rate of interest, make certain you can make this extra payment. Remember, make sure you still have at least twenty percent equity in your house by the time you take out your credit line or second home loan. If you default on the financing, you’re at danger of foreclosure—similar to if you defaulted on your initial home mortgage.

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

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Your 2013 Guide to Investing in Gold

All the recent interest in gold may be in large part attributed to the graph below. The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not they should invest in gold if they haven’t already and what the future of gold prices has in store for us.

The reason why the price for gold increased dramatically recently is because when economies around the world slow down everyone looks towards gold as a safe haven. Many countries and financial institutions store gold in the form of bullion coins or bars as a hedge against inflation or economic downturns.

That explains why during the market recession that started in 2008 and up until end of 2011 the price for gold increased by 158% as many people viewed gold as a much more stable investment than any currency and any stock option. During the recession period whether or not someone should invest in gold was a no brainer and many people that had the most basic knowledge of finance and economics made a lot of money during the recession. However, now that the economy stabilized, more or less, people are wondering what will happen to the price of gold. Since September 2011 the price has decreased 13% and people are now wondering how much gold is really worth. Was the substantial increase in price unwarranted or was should we expect these prices for gold for years to come?

Many experts on Wall Street have different theories on the future of gold. Many are painting a grim picture and predict that it will continue to go down in value over the next several months while others are painting a very bullish picture with gold prices increasing over 20% and reaching even the price of $2,000 an ounce.

 

Insights on Investing in Gold

As economies around the world are continuing to struggle as we have recently seen was the case with Greece, Iceland, or Cyprus and as the U.S. economy is also continuing to struggle we are going to see physical bullion remain a safe haven to investors. Physical metals are seen as a vehicle for profit as it serves an excellent hedge against inflation and many other problems.

In addition to physical bullion presenting a great investment gold miners are also worth looking at from an investment perspective. The stocks of some of the gold mining companies are very affordable at the moment compared with historical valuations. There are some gold mining companies that are doing a tremendous job in adding reserves despite the incremental number of regulations and efforts necessary to add new reserves to their portfolio. One such company in Canada that is worth mentioning is Yamana Gold Inc (TSX: YRI or NYSE: AUY), with Peter Marrone being their CEO and Chairman. Yamana Gold is a hidden gem that I’ve been keeping my eyes on for a while. Their stock price, currently standing at $13.27, is under-valued in my opinion as this mining company is aggressively adding more reserves to their portfolio and they are continuing to grow aggressively.

So despite the weak global economy why are gold prices suffering as of late? The reason is that the U.S. dollar has gained strength as many struggling European countries are seeing the U.S. dollar to be a “safe-haven” investment. Gold and the dollar are negatively correlated because gold is priced in dollars.

So the rise we’ve seen in the dollar has been accompanied by a sell-off in gold.

Now that you understand more about Gold from an investment standpoint what should you do? In my opinion gold still has room to grow as some economies in Europe such as Spain, Italy or Portugal are continuing to struggle and the debt problem that U.S. is facing is not going to go away any time soon. The decrease in gold prices is only temporary, but it will eventually increase again.

Posted by Alex Trevor - April 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

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The Startup DJ: Performance Gear For The Modern DJ

DJ Performance GearToday’s DJs have more choice for DJ performance gear than ever before. In the early day’s a DJ needed simply a set of turntables, more often than not a set of Technics 1210′s or 1200′s – a decent mixer (probably a Vestax) and some sturdy headphones. But today’s DJ’s don’t just play music on decks, DJ’ing now is a whole other art form incorporating many more aspects such as showmanship and skills that would have taken practice and dedication only a few years ago. Now, using digital software and a laptop or Pioneer’s CDJ’s your average bedroom DJ can have the skills to completely blow the party away with limited practice.

OK, so you still need to be technically adept, have a good taste in music and have a good ear for beatmatching – but even so it is still easier for your average Joe to become a decent DJ in a relatively small amount of time.

Setting up with DJ performance gear now means a pre-requisite is a decent laptop on which to install Serato, Traktor Scratch Pro or Virtual DJ Pro, but to have proper hands on decks is still the best option. Let’s be honest, you never see anyone scratching or beat juggling using a mouse! In fact if you see DJ’s using turntables at all, it tends to be either CDJ’s, the industry standard being the Pioneer CDJ 800 or 1000 – or a high quality DJ midi controller. Modern revamps of the Pioneer CDJ’s and other popular CDJ’s often include USB inputs making carting stacks of vinyl around a thing of the past. However the midi controller tends to be the weapon of choice for most modern DJ’s.

Over the past few years the midi controller has come a long way and while the early models such as Numark’s Mixtrack Pro or NS7 are still excellent choices the market is now saturated with choice. For example the start up DJ can now get hold of a Vestax Spin or Typhoon, various models by Hercules or the Traktor Kontrol S4 – a premium quality beast of a midi controller. The only limit when starting out is your budget.

Many controllers come with a mixer built in to the design, which takes the hassle out of choosing a standalone mixer. But if you choose to use CDJ’s you are going to need a decent mixer – possibly a scratch mixer if you’re going to go down the skills route, or just a decent quality mixer if you’re mainly a dance/beat matching DJ. Pioneer’s DJM is the club standard mixer that you find globally – a solid 4 track mixer with effects which isn’t really built for scratching. A good Vestax or Allen & Heath 2 track mixer will be all you need if starting out.

One other essential in a DJ’s arsenal is a good solid set of headphones. Proper over ear covering cans with a good build quality and long cable are a must. Sennheiser have been the traditional makers of the DJ’s favored HD25 model headphones, but there are many options including Monster Beats or a set of Pioneer HDJ 1500. As a bedroom DJ you can get away with a cheaper set until you feel you are ready to make the step into the professional realm, but then you’ll need a set that can take a bit of heavy use.

As for the software – it comes down to a personal choice. There are forums all over the internet discussing the merits of Traktor Scratch versus Serato. As a generalization, Serato is perhaps more stable but with less additional features of Traktor Scratch. Virtual DJ Pro, another popular option is also excellent and quite forgiving with a lot of additional options too. Ask some DJ friends, look on forums, whichever you choose you are sure to be happy with as they are all exceptional tools in their own right.

Above all, DJ’ing is an excellent sociable hobby that makes you listen to music differently. No matter how you start, it’s sure to change your life…

Posted by Alex Trevor - April 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

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When to take the benefits from Social Security

When to take the benefits from Social SecurityAn early age of retirement and a longer life to enjoy its benefits—this is perhaps the dream of most people. But you don’t have to wait till your 65th birthday to retire. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the cut-off age of 65 may not be applied. In fact, men and women have fallen 6 years short than the cut-off age. But the question is—will you still enjoy the full benefits of your retirement?

Unfortunately, Social Security will not pay out fully for this age rate. As a matter of fact, they have increased the age limit for a full-benefit retirement. This article will discuss how you can make most of your working years so your Social Security benefits will work to your advantage.

Due to studies that have shown employees’ longer lifespan, the Social Security Act of 1935 has undergone some changes. It amended the age for which one may collect full Social Security retirement benefits from 65 years old to 67. It also reduced the percentage of benefits for those who will retire at age 62.

So what are your choices?

You may start taking the reduced Social Security retirement benefits at 62. You may also wait for the full retirement age in which you are entitled to more money every month. But if you postpone the payments until you’re 70, your checks will sure be fatter. To check your benefits estimates, you may go to the Social Security Quick Calculator found in their website.

For instance, you’re in dilemma of taking benefits at age 62 or 66. The Social Security Administration says if you expect to live at least age 78, you’re better to take the benefits at its full time. You will soon come out ahead with the maximum benefits if you do so. This is good as telling you to first calculate how long you will be able to live.

Still, most people opt to take early benefits because a.) this is the only way they can afford to retire b.) short life expectancy c.) investing the money received in other things d.) they want to get the benefits from the system before it becomes bankrupt.

But if you do not have any of these reasons, then you might as well delay your benefits for a higher income. Aside from this, you will be enjoying other benefits such as:

Survivor Needs.

Social Security gives survivor benefits. This is based on the benefit of the recipient or your beneficiary. If your spouse lives a longer time, his or her income shall not be reduced because of your death.

Income Taxes.

An important segment of retirement planning includes tax planning. But most people have not realized that the income from Social Security is also taxable.

To determine how much of your income is taxable, take half of your expected Social Security plus all your income and other sources. Also include tax- exempt interest. If you’re married, file for a joint return and combine both of your income and your Social Security.

If you still can’t decide, consider these other factors along with your health and tax status: Current income needs, Future income needs, and Tax status.

 

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

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Retiring Abroad

Retiring AbroadThe freedom retirement brings give people the chance to freely explore and roam around other countries. This doesn’t mean United States is not a best place to live. But if you have strived hard for the past decades in this country, living elsewhere will certainly be a breath of fresh air.

Life is about obtaining enriching experiences. And this involves enjoying a decade in Portugal or in an Asian country. With about 194 other countries in this planet, you sure would have the best match for your adventure trip as a retiree. Many retirees can attest to these. And these are just few of the many reasons they retire in other countries:
Purchasing Power Parity

Most of the emigrant retirees move to another country for the purchasing power parity. Many parts of the world can make your US dollar reach five times of its value. In Ukraine or Papua New Guinea, you’ll experience a profound difference.

But there are also countries that purchasing power parity can become your disadvantage. Some nations like Japan and Scandinavia have goods that considerably cost more than that in the US. Other countries also have a chance of forfeiting the forced savings scheme you have paid for the last 40 or 50 years of your life. This is an important consideration to take.

Healthcare 

Do your research and find a detailed data on how an American retiree can enjoy the benefits of healthcare in a foreign country. It is a big world and is certainly not a homogenous one. Suppose your healthcare benefits are accredited in a certain area, you still have to check whether they have enough resources that can accommodate your needs. Do they have qualified doctors? Do they have pristine facilities? Are their staffs enough to attend to your needs? Your savings need not be compromised by your healthcare needs in an overseas country.

But if you’re not certain of other countries’ healthcare service, you can always get a private insurance, and fly back to the U.S. if you want to take advantage of a Medicare treatment.
Banking

Perhaps, this is the most critical consideration you have to take. First, you have to figure out where you are going to bank your savings before deciding to take a leap to another country. Many countries take advantage of most Americans and their financial capabilities.

One of the provisions included in the HIRE Act of 2010 signed by President Obama is FATCA- the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. The act is created to catch tax cheats. This provision orders all foreign banks to track down US account holders and share those holders’ balances and receipts with the IRS. Anticipating that many independent nations will comply in an arrogant and time-consuming manner, the Congress included a provision that demand 30% withholding tax from disobedient banks.

The whole point is when you decide to retire abroad, you have to think that you are now governed with another law, the rules of your new home country. This includes obeying American banking regulations as well.

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 28, 2012 at 1:53 am

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Women Should Take Charge of their Own Retirement Fund

Women Should Take Charge of their Own Retirement FundAccording to a study, men and especially women have dropped their confidence on the economy to improve their financial situations. This is brought about by the recession. The results show hoe women are expecting to work longer, retire at an older age, save less for retirement. Despite this, there are still a few who believe that they can fully recover and retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

So, how do women differ from men in their success to retire with a sustainable living? Theoretically, women live longer than men but most of them do not save enough, so they should start saving sooner to create a more substantial retirement nest. The long-term financial needs also vary significantly with that of men because they earn 25% less than men. They also have less 401(k) because they spend 11.5 years out of workforce compared to 16 months for men.

Don’t think that marrying your knight in shining armor will help you get out of your financial needs. Half of the marriages end up in divorce. And even if they do end up together, 3 out of 4 married women become widows by age 75.  So how can young women start fostering a strong retirement fund on their own?

Be Financially Aware

It is important to become financially literate first. Women must read books, go to seminars, watch Financial TV, and ask questions pertaining to your present savings and expenses. Also, start depositing a fraction of your paycheck into a savings account to be soon used for investing.

Start Your Contributions

Of course, the best way to get ahead of your retirement is contributing to it. Go ahead and open a retirement account. If you may, Max out your contributions to an employer-sponsored plan in 401(k).  

An expert suggests to open a single-employee SEP or Solo 401(k) or a Keogh plan for self-employed. Whether you are an employee or self-employed, stretch out your contributions up to $5,000 annually to an individual retirement account or IRA. For those who have already opened a Roth IRA, you may start contributing up to $5,000 in after tax dollars. For those 50 years of age or older, you can contribute up to $6,000 as “catch up” contributions.
Find More Ways to Invest

Expand your investments to different areas. The best choice would be investing in a sensible mix of stocks, cash, and bonds. But be sure to consult with a trusted fee-only financial advisor for a more detailed advice regarding your stocks. You won’t need a person who will try to force you in putting your financial products for sale and is against your best interest.   

The Whole Point

Don’t be someone who makes an investment and forget about its importance. Always check and make sure to rebalance your portfolio every year. If you decided to invest in real estate, continue to make improvements. If you have invested in a franchise, now may be the time to cash it out and divert it to something else.  While you keep an eye on your savings and investments, also be vigilant on the fees that creep up. If you won’t account the fees, these may eat away all your account gains.

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 28, 2012 at 1:52 am

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Generate income from your hobbies

Generate income from your hobbiesWhile most people imagine a life of enjoyment and relaxation after retirement, many others still want to earn income to ease their living. The best way to do both at the same time is to find a way to generate income from your hobbies. But this entails a little more effort and a spirit of entrepreneurship to turn your hobby into profit. Along with passion, you must also have  the time and willingness to market your service or product.

Here are some of your options:
Sell items online

With the help of online selling sites and even networking sites, you may market any items you have such as a vast collection of record albums, antique toys, and clothing. You may try eBay where you can give to the highest bidder the items you’re selling. You may also buy and sell some items in this site.

Your old books and CDs may also be sold on Amazon. If you have a collection that you are now willing to let go of, you can find a buyer who is also into collecting such. Also try checking out thrift stores and flea markets for books and CDs in a bargained price and resell them to any person in the country.

If you’re a person fond of sewing, making jewelry, and other fancy crafts, Etsy.com can be your niche. The website is specially designed to market crafts and even vintage clothing. In this way, you can earn profit while you also help clean out your closet.

But if you’re not into the virtual world, try setting up at a flea market or garage sales. Just check out the stuff in your house you won’t need anymore, and dispose it through yard sales every weekend.

Teach

As a retiree, you already have gained efficient knowledge in your expertise. This time is the time to share such knowledge. Whether you excel in English or Math, you may offer tutoring services through your website or in local schools. Maybe you’re good in foreign language. You may want to help others in learning a foreign language.  You may also impart your skills by teaching art, voice lessons, and playing musical instruments. This can be personally arranged with your students.

eduFire.com is a website that helps students and tutors come in a one-on-one session or group sessions via online. You will need basic computer skills to make this possible.

Gardening and Baking

Many retirees enjoy their retirement through gardening and baking. The best thing about this is Farmers’ markets have become popular over the years. Today, there are greater opportunities for selling baked goods, vegetables, and plants.

Write

If you have an innate passion to write, check the possibility of freelance writing for a local newspaper or for websites. You may do fiction writing, poetry, or other prose writing and submit your work to newspapers. You may also do feature writing to websites as a content writer.

Search for Gold

Invest in a metal detector and search for gold and silver. This is best if you live near a lake, beach, or love being outdoors.

Posted by Alex Trevor - July 28, 2012 at 1:46 am

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