Category Archives: News


How to Apply for a Job

The national unemployment rate held at 8.2 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With so many people looking for work, you may be wondering how to apply for a job and have the best chance of landing it.

Personal experience ” and the combined advice of a number of job-search resources ” tells us any successful job application requires four things:

Honesty In such a competitive job market, it can be tempting to fudge facts a bit if you think it will give you an edge. Yet honesty consistently makes the list of top qualities employers want most in a job candidate. More than one high-profile professional has very publically been ousted from a job when fabrications on their resumes were discovered. Honesty should also include being candid about your credit, if a potential employer asks because some employers are able to check candidates credit reports.

Preparation Do your homework when youre applying for a job. Research the company and its products or services online so youll not only know what the company does, youll have a better idea of whether youre a good fit for the job. Take pertinent materials to the interview, like a copy of your resume (even if youve already emailed, faxed or snail mailed a dozen copies) and work samples, if appropriate. Also, dont forget a pen! Changing jobs requires plenty of planning and preparation. Be diligent in your search and something will come through.

Professionalism No matter what job youre applying for short order cook or director of operations professionalism is always appropriate throughout every step of the application process. From sending a polished, well-written resume with your initial application to showing up for the interview in appropriate workplace attire, be professional and courteous throughout your interactions.

Tactful persistence In todays job market, its not enough to simply land an interview, because chances are the company is interviewing multiple candidates. Youll need to be persistent to get the answer you want, but be sure to do so tactfully. Follow up the interview with a handwritten thank you note to everyone you spoke to or an email if you have their addresses. A week after the interview, a polite call should be OK, unless the interviewer specifically told you not to call, or shared a hiring timeline with you that would mean no decision had yet been made.


Easy Ideas for Starting Your Own Business

Being your own boss has lots of advantages ”and lots of challenges. One of the first hurdles many would-be entrepreneurs face is deciding just what business to go into and trying to come up with the funds to launch it.

Raising start-up capital can be a daunting task ”so daunting that it may make you think you just cant do it. Or, you may be tempted to start your business wholly on business credit cards, which can escalate an already risky proposition.

Yes, youll need a lot of money to start some of the most popular, successful businesses, like an established fast-food franchise or a gas station. But there are also a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities that dont require loads of start-up cash. In fact, lists several franchise opportunities that the site says require less than $10,000 to get started.

But you can do even better. Here are some very low-cost ideas to consider if youre thinking of starting up your own business:

1. Pet sitter/dog walker Buying the tools youll need is one of the challenging aspects of financing a business. Youve probably already got one of the most important tools youll need for this job: a car. You can start out small, serving families within walking distance in your immediate neighborhood, and grow from there. Initial expenses might include advertising materials (although word of mouth will be a good, no-cost way to start out), leashes, dog treats and depending on how much you intend to grow your business basic liability insurance.

2. Vehicle detailing If youve ever had a car detailed you know how good it can look when a professional spends some time cleaning. Whats their secret? Its more that they take their time, rather than use any special products or techniques. To start with, youll need cleaning supplies, possibly some advertising materials and a lot of elbow grease.

3. Freelance writing Online: content is king, and nearly every company with an Internet presence is looking for fresh content. With a simple online search, you can find multiple sites that connect freelance writers with companies looking to pay them to produce content. Youll need a good grasp of grammar, punctuation, spelling and good storytelling, plus a computer and Internet access.

4. Home chef There are a lot of people who dont have the time to cook a meal at home, but would love to serve their families nutritious, good-tasting home-cooked food. If you have a kitchen, the time and a talent for making yummy food, you may have what it takes to be a home chef. You prepare meals at home that can either be delivered to or picked up by customers who then reheat the food and enjoy it at their home.

Starting up your own business doesnt necessarily require a lot of capital. Creativity and perseverance can be just as important as cash to your success as a business owner.


Cyber Monday Safety Tips

Last year, online shoppers spent more than $1 billion on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to comScore, a company that measures digital media. It was the single biggest day in online sales history, and represented a 16 percent increase over the previous year, the company said.

Online shopping is popular for many reasons. You can find great deals online without the hassle of going to the mall or store during the busy holiday season. Plus, with more online retailers offering free shipping and gift-wrapping services, buying your holiday gifts online and having them shipped directly to the recipient is easier than mailing them yourself.

The holiday shopping season is also a busy time for criminals perpetrating identity theft. So before you whip out your credit card and go online on Nov. 28, here are some Cyber Monday safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Make sure your computers anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software is up to date and set to protect you automatically.
  • Restrict your online shopping to sites you know and trust.
  • Read the sites privacy policy before you plug in your information.
  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Save those confirmation emails and order numbers.
  • Keep an eye on your accounts after the holidays.

Five Financial Things to be Thankful For

Turkey day is around the corner. Are you ready for the feast? If your family is like mine, you may talk about all the things in your life that youre thankful for while you share your Thanksgiving meal.

It can be easy to get swept away by all the negative financial news thats still swirling around us. But theres also plenty of good news out there too, this holiday season. Here are five financial things to be thankful for.

1. Americans are improving their credit scores. According to Experians second annual State of Credit list, which ranks major American cities by their average credit scores, five out of the 10 lowest-scoring cities improved their scores and decreased their debt since 2010.

2. Banks appear to be listening. After much public outcry, one of the nations largest banks announced it will not impose a $5 per month fee on account holders for using their debit cards. The move will save account-holders $60 a year and can be interpreted as a sign that the power of the consumer to take your business elsewhere is alive and well in America.

3. More jobs need to be filled. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that there were 3.35 million available jobs at the end of September, an increase of 220,000 jobs since August. Plus, hiring rose in September too.

4. Credit cards are getting fairer. And were all using them less. The federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 has made it harder for credit card companies to add on fees and change interest rates. Plus, were using less unsecured (revolving) credit and more of the good  secured (nonrevolving) type of credit, according to the Federal Reserve.

5. Were paying down debt. Plenty of polls and studies throughout the year have indicated that  Americans are doing their best to get out of debt. The aftershocks of the Great Recession may continue to linger, but so has this good habit that many of us relearned during the economic turmoil. Were working toward paying down credit card and other types of revolving debt.


Helpful Facts for Gift Card Givers

Who came up with the idea of the gift card? The credit for the concept that has revolutionized holiday giving is often laid at the door of Blockbuster video. Given Americans affection for plastic in the form of credit cards is it any wonder weve embraced replacing paper gift certificates with plastic gift cards?

Some people love them, some people hate them. But neither camp can argue a couple of facts:

  • Gift cards are among the most popular holiday gifts. In fact, last year, 57 percent of Americans asked for gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Gift cards are never the wrong size or color! And as long as you have even just a passing knowledge of the likes and dislikes of the recipient, you can be pretty confident of finding a gift card he or she will like.
  • Its a lot cheaper and easier to mail a gift card than a box. Stuff it in an envelope, slap on a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. You never have to stand in a long holiday line at the post office to mail a gift card.

But what about inactivity fees and expiration dates, you say? What could be worse than finding out that $50 gift card you discovered in the pocket of the coat you havent worn since last Christmas is now worth only about $25 thanks to fees?

Turns out, fees and expiration dates are a lot less worrisome for consumers in 2011 than they were in 2008, thanks to the federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009.

The act limits the fees an issuer can apply to a gift card, and requires the issuer to fully disclose those fees. Issuers are not allowed to hit a card with any inactivity fees until its been inactive for at least 12 months. They have to give you at least five years from the date of purchase in which to use the card before it expires for non-use. Plus, after 12 months of inactivity, they can only charge one fee a month.

In addition to the federal regulation, many states have their own laws regarding gift cards. These can vary widely. For example, California and Connecticut go one better on the federal rules, by prohibiting any expiration date for gift cards. The National Conference of State Legislatures   has a listing on its website of all state regulations regarding gift cards.

So you can give gift cards with confidence this year, knowing theyll keep on giving for a long time to come– even if the recipient doesnt remember your gift until she finds it when shes changing purses in the spring.

Credit Hints for Womens Equality Day

Did you miss Womens Equality Day? Dont feel bad; instead, look forward and consider the ways you can help yourself, or the women in your life, find equal footing in their credit lives before the big day rolls around next year.

two women sitting on the couch making a purchase on a laptop.

Women’s Equality Day just passed, here are credit tips just for women.

The basics of good credit arent affected by ones sex. But there are some credit factors that can be of specific interest to women. Here are just a few credit tips for women:

Marriage and credit

Getting married is supposed to be a gals dream come true, and for many of us it is. But wedded bliss can morph into credit nightmares if a couple completely merges all their credit accounts. Theyll have a healthier financial life together if they take steps to maintain their individual good credit scores, like keeping their own separate credit cards and auto loans.

Stay-at-home moms especially can be at risk if they rely on their husbands to be the sole representative of the familys creditworthiness. Sadly, marriages do end, whether by divorce or death, and a wife who has little or no individual credit history will face tough financial challenges. One of the most important credit tips for women: Make a point of keeping some credit accounts separate so you can maintain your own credit score and history.

Employment and credit

For the first time in American history, women are a significant portion of the workforce. But with unemployment rates across the country still high, competition is fiercer than ever for jobs.

Many employers are now demanding job applicants demonstrate the ability to appropriately manage credit. Sixty percent of employers now check job applicants credit reports, according to The Washington Times. Just 42 percent did that five years ago, the Times reported.

With more women than ever playing important roles in the financial support of their families, a good credit score can make the difference in landing a job that helps pay the bills. Another vital credit tip for women: Stay on top of your credit score when job hunting.


Student Loan Trends and Your Credit

Used to be, student loans were a safe, relatively low-pressure introduction to the world of credit and loans for many people. Today, economic problems and the credit crunch have influenced student loan trends.

Its practically impossible to miss whats been going on in the economy for the past few years. Many of the factors affecting our financial health are also affecting how easy it is to get and repay student loans.

Like virtually every other type of loan, student loans are now more linked to your credit than ever before. Just as those with good credit histories and scores are better positioned to get mortgages and vehicle loans, good credit counts when youre applying for a student loan.

Many college-age kids will have little or no credit history to rely on. In those cases, a parents credit history may help the student secure a loan if the parent is willing to co-sign. Regardless of whose credit status is on the line, it pays to review your credit report and know your credit score before applying for a student loan.

During the height of the financial crisis, the number of student lenders dropped drastically. Now, more lenders are offering student loans, but competition remains fierce and you need every edge available to secure the best loan terms and rates.

Repaying a student loan  has, historically, been easier than paying back other types of loans. While repayment terms may be more relaxed for example, you wont have to start repaying until youve graduated late payments or defaulting on a student loan will still affect your credit score.

Student loan trends change constantly and keeping on top of them can be a challenge. The Internet is a great resource for learning more about student loans, and you might consider working with a professional who helps match families and lenders.

What to Give Mom for Mother’s Day: Help with her Credit

Mother’s Day is coming. Will this be yet another year when you give her the same old, same old? Some flowers, a box of chocolates and call it a day? Why not give her something she can really use this year? Help her get her hands on her free credit score.

credit history

This Mother’s Day talk to your mom about credit.

While the number of seniors who are Internet savvy is growing, they’re still the group least likely to monitor their credit, let alone monitor it online. Yet they’re also the ones with the most credit history at risk, if they’re not watching their credit report on a regular basis. And identity thieves target seniors.

The concept of a free credit score that you can access online is fairly recent – at least for older folks who probably remember the days of paper credit reports that they had to pay for. If your parents are senior citizens, they may not be comfortable with the idea of using a computer and the Internet to monitor something as important – and private – as their credit history.

But their credit will be an important aspect of their financial lives in retirement. And, with people living longer, chances are good you’ll one day be in charge of your parents’ finances. Helping them take steps now to preserve their credit history can ensure they have as comfortable a retirement as possible – and that your job is as easy as possible when the day arrives that you have to manage things for them.

Talk to your parents about paying down debt, so that they have fewer financial responsibilities – and a better ratio of credit available to credit used – when they retire. Stress the importance of monitoring their credit and all their financial accounts on a regular basis. Familiarize them with the ways in which identity thieves try to scam money out of older folks.

And most importantly, sit Mom and Dad down in front of a PC and show them how to access their free credit score online. They probably worked hard all their lives to ensure they have a credit history they can be proud of. Helping them learn how to keep their credit in good shape will be a gift that keeps on giving long after Mother’s Day is over.


Earth Day Changes That Pay Off For You And The Planet

Earth Day is April 22. What will you do this year to celebrate Mother Earth, and to help keep her healthy and beautiful?

Will you mark the day by turning off the tap water when you brush your teeth and tossing your empty water bottle in the recycling bin instead of the trash? Or are you ready to make some bigger, long-lasting changes that will benefit the planet – and yourself?

You are? Then start by making sure your use of credit is green.

Yes, really – even something as seemingly practical as your credit report and score, and your relationship with the credit bureaus that track it, can have an impact on the planet. Can’t see the link? Think we’re stretching? Here are two ways to green your credit and make changes that pay off this Earth Day:

Take your tracking online

If you’re still using paper for tracking your credit report and score, it’s time to switch to the Internet. Every sheet of paper you use has an environmental cost associated with it – such as the trees and energy that were needed to make it.

The major credit bureaus make it easy for you to check your credit online, using plenty of security measures to help ensure your information is as safe as possible. Accessing and saving your credit report and score electronically, rather than printing it out, is also one more way to protect yourself from identity thieves – who might go through your trash looking for exactly the kind of information you printed.

Use credit to buy green

Once you’ve streamlined your use of information from the credit bureaus you can use your credit to benefit the planet by making green purchases.

For example, transportation is a major source of greenhouse gases and consumes millions of tons of fossil fuels every year. Your good credit score can help you secure an auto loan for a fuel-efficient, hybrid vehicle. Many consumers believe the higher cost of a hybrid is justified by how the vehicle’s fuel efficiency benefits the environment – and the savings they reap on gas mileage. Or, you can use credit to buy a bicycle and leave your car in the garage for short trips.

Home energy use also has a major impact on the environment. You can use your credit to pay for energy-efficient home improvements that will trim your utility costs and reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Making changes such as replacing older appliances with newer, Energy Star-rated ones, replacing drafty windows and doors with more efficient ones, and using solar panels to generate electricity and heat water for your home can help lower your home’s energy consumption and your family’s carbon footprint.

This Earth Day, go green with your credit – and make some changes that are good for you and the planet as well.


It’s Never Too Early: Get Organized For Next Year’s Taxes Now

With tax season winding down this year, you would probably prefer to not think about next year’s taxes. But if you start your preparations now while it’s fresh in your mind, your tax-time headaches will be minor next year.

Whether you prepare your taxes on your own or enlist the help of a pro, you can take some steps to get everything in order throughout the rest of the year. Try out these tips and you’ll be well on your way.

1. Check your credit report. At tax time, financial information is flying – and identity thieves know it. To make sure that your information hasn’t been compromised, keep a close eye on your credit report. Any problems can take time to fix, and you’ll want them resolved by next tax season.

2. Re-order existing tax information. In the list of paperwork you should hang onto, tax information is right at the top. It’s recommended that you keep records for at least seven years. Go through any and all tax information you have and file it neatly, separated by year; use clasp folders to keep papers from slipping out. Keep other important financial information, like annual credit report documentation in the appropriately corresponding folders.

3. Make a “living” file. As opposed to files from years past, which you can close up and store, make a separate folder where you can stash any paperwork and information that will be relevant to next year’s taxes. While you won’t get forms like W-2s until the early part of 2012, you can add documentation for any deductible purchases such as energy-efficient appliances and donations     that you accrue throughout the year. It’ll save you a lot of frazzled digging next spring.

4. Save up. While no one wants to be surprised with news that they owe the IRS, it happens. An unexpected windfall or underestimating your taxes could cause you to owe more at tax time. Set aside money throughout the year for a tax-related “rainy day,” and make it part of your regular household budget. If you don’t have a budget, now’s the time to get one set up – having recently checked your credit report, you’ll have a good idea of what you need to prioritize