| Real Life Strategies for Building Wealth
Getting Out of Debt and Staying Out of Debt

Getting Out of Debt and Staying Out of Debt

The comparison between debt and drug addiction has been made before. In both cases, actions and circumstances conspire to put an individual in a negative situation that’s, to a great extent, out of their control. In either case, it may take tons of effort, help from friends and professionals, and a significant change of mind and motivation to succeed. Also in both cases, the chance of relapse is great.

We’ll leave the drug metaphor behind and talk only about what we came here for: getting out of debt and staying out of debt. People find themselves ensconced by debt for a variety of reasons, not all of which are their fault. No matter what life factors resulted in your debt, however, you’ll have to find a way out on your own. In most cases, no one is going to do this for you.

Much debt help & advice is available in books, seminars, and online. Most of the steps are well known, even among those who are in debt. Practical techniques like the Snowball debt reduction method are tried and true. If you follow this method religiously, you’ll have no other result than a reduction (and eventual elimination) of your debt. But accomplishing this goal requires a deeper change in your mind and heart.

Getting out of debt requires a change of mind. It involves committing to future security at the expense of current pleasure and excitement. Spending money is fun, even and especially when it is not yours. Credit is borrowed money. Once it’s spent, the wealth doesn’t disappear. It must be returned to the lender, with interest, or there will be big problems for you, the borrower.

Some people have debt from legitimate sources (school loans, mortgage, a vehicle they need for a job, hospital bills). However, most of the debt in the United States is consumer debt: money borrowed from a credit card company or other lender to pay for wants, not needs.

If you are stuck in a cycle of buying things you don’t need with money that isn’t yours, you have to break this habit if you want to get out of debt and stay out of debt. Some people will be able to pay off their debt, but unless they have also changed their spending and borrowing habits, the debt will just reform over time.

So learn how to be frugal, to live beneath your means. Become a saver and budgeter. Get a vision for how you can one day build wealth, not just eliminate debt. If you are able to cobble together a new state of mind with regard to your spending, saving, and future security, you will find it much easier not just to pay off your debt but to stay out of debt for good once it is gone.

Being in debt is not always a moral failing, but regardless of how it happened, you’ve got to be serious and committed to make it go away. Learn the skills you need as you pay off your debt, then stick with the plan for the rest of your life.

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3 cash-saving advantages of outsourcing your payroll

3 cash-saving advantages of outsourcing your payroll

Payroll is a vital part of any well-functioning business.

But for many SMEs, managing your payroll can be an arduous task.

And it’s no wonder, since it involves the organisation of a bewildering array of information and data, as well as the administration of key outputs, including payslips and related HMRC documentation.

If payroll systems and services aren’t managed effectively, they can eat into precious resources and time, cause conflict between management and the workforce, and even lead to legislative and regulatory complications.

This isn’t an issue for all SMEs, but a significant number find themselves contending with all of the above on a regular basis.

But we can provide the perfect solution to all their problems – outsourcing payroll.

Advantage one: focus on core functions

The main function of a business is to generate revenue.

And the best way to do that is to maintain a laser-like focus on core or critical operations—in other words, selling services or products and managing them proficiently.

This is especially important for SMEs because, in general, they don’t really have the manpower to focus on anything else, which means that even the smallest hiccup can have serious consequences.

Payroll and HR service providers, on the other hand, do exactly what they say on the tin, and they have the technology, data integration systems, and professional expertise to do it on a bigger scale and with better outcomes.

Advantage two: reduce risks

There’s a famous quote by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty that you’ve probably heard before: “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.”

And it’s true.

By its very nature, payroll is a legal and regulatory minefield, and the exact lay of the land is always changing.

Whereas SMEs may struggle with compliance, reputable payroll and HR service providers have the right structures, processes, and personnel in place to reduce, if not eliminate, risk.

Advantage three: reduce costs

Administering payroll in-house is often an expense that SMEs can do without.

In addition to training and paying employees, in-house payroll involves investing in expensive software and hardware, and ongoing printing charges.

When considered in light of the fact that businesses often overpay their staff and incur fines for non-compliance, the end result can be a big bill and a lot of headaches.

For SMEs that outsource payroll, the outcome is likely to be the opposite, as payroll and HR service providers have the technologies and economies of scale that allow them to identify and remedy any issues as they arise.

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Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish – Budget Well

Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish – Budget Well

I’ve always been rather frugal when it comes to money matters. Back when I was a youngster, my parents instilled in me the notion of waste not want not, and I suppose that extended into all aspects of my adult life too. I was never the type of person who ordered the most expensive item on the menu at a restaurant even if other people were paying. I believe that humility, modesty, and frugality are the pillars of a fulfilling life. There is also another truism: you cannot save your way to a fortune in life – you need to invest money if you’re ever going to get anywhere. And that’s probably the reason I decided to ink this post: Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish – Budget Well.

Wages and Salaries Only Go So Far

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that jobs come and go. Wages and salaries may be good, or bad, but they are hardly ever permanent. There comes a point where you may find yourself out of work through no fault of your own. Whatever savings you have accumulated in the interim will serve you well during the in-between stage of losing one job and finding another. Unfortunately, our expenses hardly ever play ball when we are going through financial difficulty. They continue to grow even if we are being as miserly as possible. Fixed expenses such as rentals, mortgages, car repayments, life insurance, medical insurance, dental insurance, pet care, groceries, and the like are difficult to decrease.

So, how is it possible to get ahead if we are constantly faced with the threat of company closures, economic downturns, loss of work, redundancy and so forth? Sage advice from the financial gurus appears to be uniform in this regard: Plan ahead. Okay so what does that mean in practical terms? First of all, it’s important to begin saving as early as possible in your lifetime. I started saving when I was a kid, and this habit stayed with me throughout my adulthood. Along with that comes your demeanour – never ever give in to emotionally-based purchases on big-ticket items. A rush of blood to the head could see you purchasing a BMW when that’s close to everything you have available in your savings account. That’s simply foolhardy and not an investment at all. A viable investment, and one that makes smart financial sense is property. But here’s the thing: Most people don’t even have the down payment that is required on the purchase of a property. Fortunately, we’re talking about people who have been squirreling money away for many years, so if you are like me, you have some form of padding in your bank account.

What forms of investment are best in today’s economy?

That’s the £1 million question. I can tell you this: Britain is currently engaged in an economic struggle of epic proportions. While the GBP appears to be holding steady at this juncture, the long-term prognosis for the sterling is bearish. UK economic indicators may currently be masquerading as positive, what with consumer and business sentiment, but the Brexit saga has yet to rear its ugly head. In March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. That initiated the formal extrication process of Britain from the European Union. Why am I telling you this? Because it has far-reaching implications for your financial portfolio on every level. If you have funds invested in foreign stock markets, foreign properties, or are simply thinking of retiring to a foreign country, the Brexit issue is going to affect you directly. Whenever the GBP weakens, any GBP that is exchanged for USD, JPY or EUR will be worth less. This means you’ll be working to play catch-up with your future objectives.

As an investor myself, I have been heartened by what I’m seeing on the FTSE 100 index. Every time the GBP weakens – and it will continue to do so over the next few years – the FTSE 100 index rises. Why is this happening, and why is it important? During times of economic uncertainty, we have to make our money stretch as far as possible. Don’t go importing  expensive vehicles when the GBP is flailing. You’ll simply be paying more out of your available cash resources for the item which cost a lot less a year ago. Instead, smart financial advice would be to invest your money in UK operations based overseas which will then repatriate their profits back to the United Kingdom for more GBP. This is why we are seeing the FTSE 100 index at record high levels. Short-term price fluctuations are inescapable. This will affect your nest egg on a day-to-day basis, but if we look at the long-term trends, you’re likely to see a sharp appreciation on your retirement portfolio on the FTSE 100 index.

Start with stocks and transition to immovable assets

Property is always a good one, if you can afford it. The city of London is going to be seeing a mass exodus of financial services companies in the next two years. How will this affect your investments in the city? Should you divest from the city of London? These are all questions that are as obtuse and uncertain as any other Brexit-related concern. It has been said that cash is king, and this certainly bodes well for unexpected emergencies. But in terms of being able to retire one day, you want to invest your money for maximum gain. Property is a good way to get there, and multiple properties managed effectively will certainly assure you of a comfortable retirement. But until that becomes a viable proposition, investments in stocks and bonds are more affordable, with returns in the region of 10% to 25% commonplace nowadays.

 

Drowning in Debt: How Financial Stress Adversely Affects Your Health

Drowning in Debt: How Financial Stress Adversely Affects Your Health

If you are feeling up to your neck in debt, then you know just how stressful trying to keep up with bills and payments can be. That stress, however, is not simply in your head. If it gets bad enough, it could start affecting your overall health in some very serious ways. In fact, debt has a big impact on health and overall well-being. While stress and anxiety are obvious risks of debt, you may be surprised to learn that debt can lead to other health problems, from weight gain to heart problems. In other words, taking care of your health means that you should be taking care of your finances. Below we will look at a few ways debt can negatively impact your health.

Debt and Stress

Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common health problems associated with debt. In fact, a person who is in debt is three times more likely to have a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, than somebody who is not in debt. That’s a startling figure and if you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression because of your debt then you should talk to a counselor or mental health professional immediately. Even worse, debt can lead to a vicious cycle whereby the more debt you have, the more stressed you become and, in turn, the more stressed you become the harder it is for you to develop a strategy to get out of debt, which further leads to more stress. What is even more disturbing is that one survey found that a quarter of all Americans are suffering from symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of financial stress.

Stress is Physical

Many people don’t take their mental health seriously enough because they view it as something that is just “in their head.” Some others refrain from getting help because they think they should “toughen up.” For many, unfortunately, mental health problems do not get treated and are left to fester. This is unfortunate, especially since mental health issues do have physical side effects. Depression, for example, often leads to changes in appetite and trouble sleeping. This can further affect your health, causing sudden weight changes, fatigue, and it may even lead to problems maintaining relationships. Being stressed constantly can leave you feeling tired and may impel you to make poor or risky decisions. If you are suffering from stress or depression you need to get help as soon as possible.

What Are the Physical Symptoms?

Financial stress, if left unchecked, will eventually lead to some very serious physical problems. Stress causes chemical changes in your body and behavioral changes as well, both of which can eventually result in a number of physical problems. Heart disease and cardiac arrest are serious risks for anybody who is frequently depressed or anxious and is also one of the leading killers in America today. You may also end up experiencing gastrointestinal problems, eating disorders, and rapid weight gain or loss. In turn, those problems could lead to you developing diabetes. Sleeping problems are also common among those suffering from financial stress. Other risks include cancer, high blood pressure, and psoriasis. Many people who suffer from stress and depression resort to narcotics and alcohol, which can lead to substance abuse problems and even more health issues.

Getting better

If your mental and physical well-being is suffering because of financial hardship then you need to talk to a health professional immediately. Getting back to sound financial ground will also be the key to reducing your anxiety and getting better. If you are having problems with keeping up with loan payments, contact King of Kash to see if we can perhaps help in some way. Taking on more loans is not usually the answer to your problems. You should talk to a certified credit counselor for help. Identify what your expenses and income are and create a budget that keeps you within your limit. Getting out of debt is not easy, but by taking small steps towards that goal today you will be doing yourself and your health a huge favor.

Financial stress is a serious health issue that millions of Americans face every day. If you feel like you are drowning in debt, then it is time to take proactive steps towards getting better. Dealing with the financial problems that are holding you back will ultimately allow you to regain control of your life and help you improve your overall well-being.

Editor’s note: Tom Hanson is a personal finance consultant who contributes to lifestyle, news and finance blogs all over the web whether he’s sharing some tips on how to invest, or simply how to save for a rainy day.

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Excitement in the Energy Sector: The Comeback Kid of the Stock Market

Excitement in the Energy Sector: The Comeback Kid of the Stock Market

Many will remember the oil prices dropping to as low as $27 a year ago with natural gasses feeling heavy pressure too. Oil performed at around 65% under its five-year average during that time. Companies buckled under the natural gas and oil prices with borrowing rates surging. Natural gas traded the lowest it has been in almost two decades, and energy analysts painted a bleak future for oil prices.

With such a grim look in the energy sector, investor confidence is at a low, but others see it as an opportunity for a massive comeback. In 2016, the energy sector was the top-performing S&P 500.

Why is investing in energy good right now?

Oil prices hit $50/bbl and natural gas rose $1 higher than a year ago. Despite the performance of the energy sector in 2016, the decline of Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) made it the worst S&P 500 since the start of the year.

With this setback in the sector, some investors are seizing the opportunity on sites such as OilandEnergyInvestor.com. The oil price outlook is moderately bullish – analysts in Saudi Arabia are estimating $60/bbl for crude trading in the country this year. History tells us that what the Saudis want as far as the oil market goes, they get. Many of the top oil producers will benefit from this trend. Even though there was a mild winter, the natural gas inventories are still 10% below the previous year.

Oil producers on the watch list

EOG Resources, EOG on the NYSE, had investors sticking with them due to their reputation as the most efficient shale oil company. Their balance sheet remains strong, even after the $30/bbl oil price drop. EOG’s net debt-to-total capitalization ratio sits at an impressive 31%. While their balance sheets are expected to suffer somewhat this year, it is still in a much better position than most shale oil companies. The oil price will recover, boosting the companies that can manage to last that long, and EOG has what it takes to survive until then.

Valero Energy Corp, VLO on the NYSE, is another oil refining company to stick with during this time. The biggest stand-alone company in the oil refining sector, VLO can produce a staggering 3 million barrels every day. The majority of their refineries can be found in the Gulf Coast, a location that allows them to easily export to Latin America, northern Europe, and eastern Canada – growing economies. VLO has one of the lowest costs per barrel, falling 20% below its competitors, and as much as 33% lower than the highest competitor.

As of late, VLO has made improvements to its safety profile and reliability. Increases in its dividend yields are expected to rise from 3.81% to 9%, and 9% for the following three years. Its current valuation is meeting historical valuations for companies that are expected to grow by 5% in earnings every year.

Natural gas producers to consider

BHP Billiton Ltd., BHP on the NYSE, has a range of income sources outside of natural gas and oil, including metal mining. Its assets are located in the Gulf of Mexico, Australia, Tobago, and Trinidad. As with other oil and natural gas companies, 2016 saw the BHP Billiton’s stock hit lows of $18 per share. It now trades at $40 per share – a figure that is expected to increase in the coming year. The increase in natural gas and oil in 2017 will benefit the company while giving it stability through its diversified product line.

Antero Resources Corp, AR on the NYSE, is an independent natural gas and oil company. AR has made their business model around exploring the resources found in the United States. It has around 292 miles of pipelines funneling gas from all over the country. The company has seen strong growth in production with another 25% increase expected in 2017. Its stock has remained virtually the same since last May, with a promising outlook for the year to come.

Conclusion

There is no use in investing when the markets are going well and there isn’t much chance for a loss; however, the best time to stake your claim is when the chips are down. While the energy sector continues to show little improvement in this year, now is the time to make your picks. The companies mentioned in this article are likely to be part of the top performers in the energy sector based on their history and the comeback of the sector.

Editor’s Note: Ruby Tomlinson shares her views when it comes to investing. She started on her investment portfolio when she was 30, believing it the ‘adult’ thing to do – She’s never looked back!

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Are elaborate security systems worth it?

Are elaborate security systems worth it?

When we hear that a burglar has been snared by a home security system, we picture nothing more elaborate than an alarm wailing, perhaps a CCTV camera capturing it all on film as the burglar struggles to get over a barbed wire-topped fence. But for many, these traditional security systems are becoming outdated.

For those who can afford it, elaborate security systems are ever more in vogue, with some spending six-figure sums on high tech and flashy ways to keep their homes safe. But as these systems become more popular, we have to ask one question: are they worth it?

What do you mean by “elaborate security systems”?

Before we can decide if elaborate security systems are worth it, we have to look at the systems themselves. Granted, the term “elaborate” is fairly vague, but in this context, it means anything that is out of the ordinary in a grand and, perhaps, excessive way.

The interpretation of this may vary. For some, installing security gates will seem an over-the-top measure when a strong lock and key will do just fine. However, security experts are quick to note that different sized properties require different security systems; automated gates, for example, are appropriate for houses with driveways that lead onto low levels of traffic.

Other potentially elaborate security systems can be more difficult to justify. As the narrator of the above video explains, a loud barking dog is seen as an effective way to ward off potential burglars. Some security firms offer alarm systems that make barking dog sounds when someone triggers a motion sensor outside a house. These barking dog alarms may well seem bizarre, but they have many happy customers. The real question is whether these alarms are all that effective.

The answer, as it happens, is probably yes. A survey from the Sun-Sentinel found that convicted burglars agree that the presence of dogs makes them reconsider their targets. So yes, it may well be worth investing in a barking motion sensor alarm. Barking alarms only scratch the surface of just how elaborate security systems can be though.

Just how elaborate can a security system get?

The most elaborate security systems are un-affordable to all but those at the very top of the tax bracket and, therefore, the property ladder. As seen in this article, billionaires have many security solutions that those on regular salaries could only dream of.

The first of these (and, surprisingly, one of the most commonly mentioned) is a helipad. These can cost anything from £45,000 to £80,000, and are classed as a security system because they offer any billionaire a quick escape from potential danger—provided, of course, that they own a helicopter to go with it. One of the most elaborate security measures of all is a secret passageway. Passageways like these are the stuff of the movies, especially when they are hidden, as they really can be, behind movable bookshelves.

Security systems can get even more elaborate than this though, with Larry Ellison’s company Oracle spending $1.8 million on personal security. This money went on several measures that protected him on the road, but much of it was spent on his house.

Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, however, is even more secure than Ellison, as his home security measures include a garage full of armored SUVs and full-time security guards.

Do these measures make a difference?

With the rich and famous paying top money for security systems like these, it would make sense if these systems were extraordinarily effective, in proportion to their additional cost. But this may not be the case.

Just because we do not hear of high profile break-ins every day, that doesn’t mean they never happen. The fact that they even sometimes happen raises the question of whether systems like this are really worth it.

This year alone there have been several celebrity break-ins that have made headlines. Kevin Hart is estimated to have lost $500,000 worth of personal items when thieves broke into his Hollywood home this summer, this despite Hart’s home being fitted with a state of the art CCTV system capable of capturing highly detailed pictures.

This robbery was thought to be connected to a spate of high profile break-ins to celebrity homes this year by a gang known as the New Bling Ring. Named for the celebrity-robbing gang of the late 2000s who broke into the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and others, these thieves surely show that no matter how elaborate the security, it is possible for robbers to break in.

If elaborate systems are not effective, what should we do?

The truth is, ‘normal’ security systems such as burglar alarms are likely to be sufficiently effective in most cases. And if measures like these don’t seem enough, there is still more you can do. Contacting a keyholding service, for example, can decrease the risk of burglary; having a team of professionals that can provide speedy alarm response can greatly increase the security of your home, whether or not that alarm sounds like a barking dog.

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