‘Wall Street Whiz Kid’ Says Best Financial Guide is the Oldest One


Financial how-to books come and go – they’re published by the hundreds every year. But Peter Grandich, dubbed “The Wall Street Whiz Kid” by Good Morning America’s Steve Crowley, says the one he relies on has been around for nearly 2,000 years.

“I get my financial guidance from the Bible,” says Grandich, author of Confessions of a Wall Street Whiz Kid (www.confessionsofawallstreetwhizkid.com). “Money and possessions are the second most referenced topic in the Bible – money is mentioned more than 800 times – and the message is clear: Nowhere in Scripture is debt viewed in a positive way.”

Grandich, who says his years as a highly successful Wall Street stockbroker left him spiritually depleted and clinically depressed, says the Bible is an excellent financial adviser, whether or not you’re religious.

“The writers of the Bible anticipated the problems we would have with money and possessions; there are more than 2,000 references,” he says. “Our whole culture now is built on the premise that we have to have more money and more stuff to feel happy and secure. Public storage is the poster child for what’s wrong with America. We have too much stuff because we’ve bought into the myth fabricated by Wall Street and Madison Avenue that more stuff equals more happiness.”  He adds, “That’s the total opposite of the truth, and the opposite of what it says in The Bible.”

What’s Grandich’s No. 1 most important biblical rule of finance? “God owns everything. You may have bought that house, but He gave you the money to buy it, so it’s His.”

Some other lessons from the ultimate financial guide?

• Do put money aside for investing: “One of the most revealing parables is Jesus’ story about a wealthy master who left three servants in charge of his financial affairs when he went away on a long journey,” Grandich says. “When he returned, two of the servants had multiplied the coins for which they were responsible. The third buried his to keep it safe.” That last servant ended up out on his ear. The story is a lesson: We must invest our money – and invest wisely.

• Debt’s not prohibited, but it should be avoided: The Bible clearly warns that the borrower will be a servant to the lender, but it also instructs us to lend money. That suggests that there are times when it’s OK to borrow, but it should not become a way of life. The Bible also instructs us to repay what we’ve borrowed.

• The more you make, the more you should give. This is a hard one for people caught up in buying bigger and better things, but there are numerous references to charitable giving. The Bible says that it’s quite all right to buy the bigger house – but the more you make and spend on yourself, the more you need to give to others. That doesn’t include tithing, another very clear demand: God expects you to give 10 percent of your wealth to your place of worship.

• Don’t focus on acquiring possessions. There are many, many warnings that accumulating stuff is dangerous. Material things are fleeting and they’ll do you no good in the long run. What you put your effort into, that’s where your heart will be, Grandich says.

About Peter Grandich

Peter Grandich became renowned in the financial industry when he predicted market crashes and rebounds in The Grandich Letter, a newsletter he created in 1984. It’s currently a blog featuring his commentary on the world’s economies and financial markets as well as social and political topics. Grandich is co-founder, with former New York Giants player Lee Rouson, of Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management Co., a firm that specializes in offering guidance from a Christian perspective to professional athletes and celebrities.

Planning for Long-Term Health Care? | Tips for Selecting Insurance Options

Thanks to modern medical marvels, more people than ever are heading into their golden years, and they’re expected to live longer than ever, too. Barely 50 years ago, our average life expectancy was 62.5 years; today that number has risen to 78.2 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That means that more people than ever will also soon be deciding how to handle their eldercare. Steve Casto, Retirement Income Specialist and author of Is Your Retirement Headed in the Right Direction?, (www.stevecasto.com), says there are important questions and answers to consider before making that critical decision.

“The key thing to balance is the difference between what you think you’ll need and what you can afford between your liquid assets and insurance coverage,” Casto said. “If you don’t start by asking yourself the right questions, you’ll never get to the answers that will lead to a successful long-term care plan.”

Here are some questions – and their answers:

Q. Should I opt for nursing-home or in-home care insurance?
A. When selecting insurance plans, protect against your worst risk first. In-home care is more about maintenance, while care outside the home is focused on crises. Home care is good for when a person needs help getting around. If he has a stroke, he’d need to be cared for outside the home initially, so there is a need for both.

Q. What should I select as my daily allowance?
A. If your health deteriorates, a daily allowance of $100 per day could cover all your care outside the home, but only a third of the care inside the home. Your home-care costs could rocket to more than $400 or more per day, so plan for the worst.

Q. What is an elimination period?
A. Sometimes referred to as the “waiting” or “qualifying” period, this refers to the length of time between the beginning of an injury or illness and receiving benefit payments from an insurer. With long-term care, the typical elimination period is 90 days, which means you are responsible for covering the first 90 days of care on your own. Most people believe that Medicare covers the first 90 days, which is dead wrong. It only covers it under certain conditions, and not all patients meet those conditions, which include:

o A nursing home stay that follows a three-day hospital stay
o Admission to a nursing home within 30 days of hospital discharge
o A Medicare-certified nursing home
o Physician-certified need for skilled care on a daily basis

Your best bet is to be insured through a long-term care policy for that first 90 days.

“These are just a few of the issues,” Casto says. “A good starting point for those planning early is to completely discount the idea of getting a dime from Medicare. Even if it is still around when you need long-term care, the restrictions on Medicare are tightening. You’ll be lucky to get the program to pay for 10 percent of a nursing home stay.

“The real answer is to get a solid long-term care insurance policy that is based on a sound plan.”

About Steve Casto

Steve Casto is founder and president of Strategic Wealth Solutions, Inc. an Omaha, Neb.-based financial firm that manages money for investors in the Midwest. Steve helps clients reduce their tax bill, minimize their risk, and ensure they don’t outlive their money. He’s the author of Is Your Retirement Heading in the Right Direction? and offers presentations on how to increase income while reducing taxes.


Wealthy Investors Are More Worried About Economy Than One Year Ago


The prolonged economic downturn has become the top worry for most wealthy investors, according to new research from Spectrem Group.  Four out of five millionaire investors cited the sluggish economy as a concern in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 70% in the same period in 2011. Similarly, 81% of mass affluent investors, whose net worth is between $100,000 and $1 million, cited it as a concern in the first quarter versus 74% in 2011’s first quarter.

 

Only ultra high net worth investors, with at least $5 million in assets, didn’t list the slow pace of the recovery as their chief concern.

Instead, the national debt, cited by 82% of the wealthiest investors, and the contentious political environment, listed by 80%, beat out the lackluster economy. Even so, the economy came in third, with 77% of ultra high net worth investors naming it as a concern, up from 69% a year ago.

“With the unemployment rate remaining high, the continuing volatility in the stock market and gasoline prices, and a high-stakes presidential election looming, wealthy investors are anxious about the country’s outlook,” says George H. Walper, Jr., president of Spectrem Group. “You can expect a strong turnout among these voters.”

Anxieties among the affluent about maintaining their own financial position and having enough money for retirement also increased from a year ago. In addition, a strong majority worry about tax increases:

  • 70% of ultra high net worth investors
  • 65% of millionaire investors, with net worth of $1 million to $5 million
  • 64% of mass affluent investors

But tax concerns are not translating into major investment changes. Just 40% of the wealthiest, 28% of millionaire and 25% of mass affluent investors are making investment changes because of possible tax increases. “Overall, wealthy investors are more confident about their own finances, with roughly half optimistic that their personal financial situation will improve in 2012,” notes Walper.

Among wealthy investors expecting their financial situation to grow stronger in 2012:

  • 49% of mass affluent
  • 52% of millionaire
  • 55% of ultra high net worth

More insights from Spectrem Group’s first-quarter investor reports are available on Spectrem’sMillionaireCorner.com, including:

Research methodology 
Spectrem Group conducts monthly surveys with wealthy investors on a variety of topics. In the first quarter, Spectrem surveyed 1,319 mass affluent, 1,303 millionaire and 482 ultra high net worth investors, with a focus on investment attitudes and behaviors.
About Spectrem Group 
Spectrem Group is a strategic consulting firm specializing in the affluent and retirement markets, integrating proprietary research with expertise in building business, marketing and M&A strategies.  Its professionals have held senior management positions at leading global companies.
About Spectrem’s MillionaireCorner.com 
MillionaireCorner.com is a powerful source for up-to-the-minute news and information for investors, about investors designed to fuel financial growth.  It incorporates Spectrem Group research as well as outside information.  In the future, the site will offer financial advisor referrals.

How to Avoid Late Tax Filing Fees and Headaches

Are you a tax procrastinator?

Then you’re part of a non-exclusive and expensive club. A survey by TechBargains.com found last-minute income-tax filers pay nearly double over those who file earlier in the year. That’s better, however, than those who file late or don’t file at all.

The IRS makes a significant distinction between taxpayers who fail to file and those who fail to pay any outstanding tax debt. The penalty for “Failure to File” is more expensive, at 5 percent of the outstanding tax bill per month until the return has been filed. Though this amount is capped at 25 percent, other penalties like “Failure to Pay” may come into play, charging an additional 1 percent of the outstanding tax bill per month.

So what can you do to avoid these fees and headaches?

When Filing Electronically


There’s a selection of cheap and easy online tax software, like TurboTax or those linked to on the IRS site. Even if you owe money you can’t pay, file now to avoid fees. Then contact the IRS to figure out a payment plan or fill out the Installment Agreement Form for the outstanding debt.

When Filing By Mail


You can still file and pay on time, if your forms are postmarked with an April 17 date, so hoof it down to the post office by the close of business on Tuesday. Don’t put it off until too late, however, as the lines can be overwhelming.

When You Should File an Extension


If you have a complicated tax return or find yourself in a new financial situation, consider filing an extension to give yourself extra time. You don’t want to miss any available deductions, so it pays to take your time. File Form 4868 for a six-month extension. Outstanding tax debt is still due April 17, however, so pay as much as you think you owe to avoid the Failure To Pay fee.

When You Need Payment Options


If you don’t have funds to cover the entire outstanding debt, the IRS offers various payment options and can work with you to set up a plan. You may qualify for a plan under the recently launched Fresh Start Initiative, which offers an installment agreement or a six-month grace period depending on specific circumstances, including being unemployed, going through bankruptcy, or owing over a certain amount.

WHAT TO DO WITH A REFUND

If you’re one of the lucky Americans getting a refund this year, you can get the most from your money by following these tips.

Pay It Down


Pay off some or all of the debt on your high-interest credit cards. You can also make an extra payment on the principal of your mortgage. Do this just once a year and you could save tens of thousands of dollars on the back end of your mortgage.

Save!


Open an online savings account for better interest rates and a better return on your money. The most popular online bank is ING Direct, but there are several more that offer high interest rates.

 

(For more on saving money visit: MagicalPenny.com

Prepare For Emergencies


Lightning strikes all of us at one time or another, so it’s wise to establish a fund that will provide the necessary cash when emergencies arise.

Spend It Wisely


If you’re lusting after a big-ticket item, like a big-screen TV, use your refund towards this purchase, rather than putting this expense on a credit card or taking out a loan. And don’t just throw down your hard-earned cash without searching for coupons first. If it’s electronics you covet, you can find great deals on FreeShipping.org from TigerDirect and other online e-retailers.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

How Good Are Your Buying Skills?

April is an important month when it comes to spending money:

Soon-to-be grads prep for the “real world” as parents contemplate the rising costs of summer camp for their kids. Homeowners tackle pricey improvement projects during more favorable spring temperatures while others face the looming tax deadline for paying outstanding debt. With all the mounting financial woes Americans face this time of year, no wonder April has been dubbed National Financial Literacy Month in hopes of promoting financial health among consumers.

The journey towards financial wellness starts with a critical review of your spending habits. To get on the right track, brush up on these basic buying skills:

1. Research, research, research.
Scoring a good deal takes a little effort and doing your homework will pay off in the long run. Research reviews posted on product pages or through consumer review sites like Epinions for feedback on quality and reliability. Don’t forget to compare prices among retailers since you never know who may be offering a better deal or sale. CheckPriceGrabber.com for online purchases and download the barcode scanning app, RedLaser, to get instant price comparison feedback on your phone when shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

2. Don’t buy on impulse.
Buying on impulse means you haven’t had the time to compare prices or read reviews. Such purchases usually lead to buyer’s remorse since money was spent on an unneeded item. If sales and markdowns tempt you into spending, ask yourself if you’d buy the item at full price. If the answer is no, you don’t need it and should move on.

3. Use coupons to cut costs.
You don’t have to slave over the Sunday circular to save money these days. Thanks to technology, coupons can be quickly accessed from the Internet, through social media sites or even downloaded to smartphones. If there’s a “promo code” or “coupon code” box on the checkout screen, odds are there’s a discount out there to save you money. Check FreeShipping.org for coupons like $5 off orders of $50 or more at Target, and even set up notifications for when free shipping and other discounts are available from your favorite retailers.

4. Negotiate; It can’t hurt.
Though this bargaining skill won’t work at every store — grocery stores and mass retailers like Target have fixed prices — there are certain places and purchases where it’s appropriate to haggle. Shopping for electronics, appliances or jewelry usually offers an opportunity for negotiating. If you find the sales associate isn’t much help, ask to speak with a manager or supervisor who may have more authority to issue a discount. Don’t forget to point out product damage or lower competitor prices for leverage during the haggling process.

5. Extended warranties aren’t worth the cost.
Consumer Reports found that most major appliances don’t break within that extended coverage period and, if they do, the average price of repair costs the same as the warranty itself. Though you may feel obliged to protect a pricey gadget, electronics have a rapid depreciation value so it’s better to replace something down the road than repair it. Protect your investment from the get-go by purchasing big ticket items with a major credit card that doubles the manufacturer warranty for free.

6. Store cards do more damage than good.
Sales associates love to tempt shoppers with bonus discounts for opening store cards. Don’t be fooled by the initial discounts: Store cards are notorious for carrying high-interest rates that lead you to buy more than you ever intended. What’s more, requesting a new line of credit will also temporarily lower your credit score, making future car or mortgage loans harder to negotiate and more expensive.

7. Buy used.
Though the thought of new and untouched material possessions beckon our wallets, there are plenty of items you should consider buying used to save some cash. From garage sales to consignment clothing to online reselling sites like eBay and Craigslist, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on cheaper, second-hand goods at a huge discount. Not sure what items to buy used? Consult this list of 40 used product recommendations.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Seven Steps To Take Before Disaster Strikes Your Home

You can never tell if or when disaster strikes your home but you can always be prepared:

 

1.) Protect your property. Think about ways you can avoid or reduce property damage if a disaster were to strike again. A few ideas:

  • Know where to turn off water, gas, and electric lines. Install smoke detectors.
  • Clear surrounding brush to protect your home against wildfires, install hurricane shutters on windows, use wind-resistant shingles on your roof, and secure objects that could fall and cause damage.
  • If you’re not sure where to start, contact your local fire department for recommendations.

 

2.) Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions so you can estimate their value for insurance or tax purposes.

  • Include model and serial numbers. Computer software programs are available to help with this task.
  • If possible, take photos or your possessions or videotape them. Don’t forget to photograph your property’s exterior, your vehicles, and contents of your garage, closets, and attic.
  • Save receipts for valuable items and get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, and artwork. These expensive items need to be listed individually in your insurance policy.
  • Store this list in a safe place away from your home, such as a safe deposit box at a bank located away from disaster prone areas.
  • Update your inventory annually.

 

3.) Have adequate insurance. If necessary, seek special or additional coverage for floods, earthquakes, or other losses not covered by standard insurance.

  • If you own a home, buy at a minimum, full replacement or replacement cost coverage. This means the structure can be replaced up to the limits specified in the policy. Even better protection, although not always available, is guaranteed replacement cost coverage. This means the policy will pay to rebuild your house at today’s prices, regardless of the limits of the policy. However, you must make an effort to keep the policy coverage amount current.
  • Check to see if the policy covers building-code changes, and look for a policy that covers the replacement cost of your possessions, not just the actual cash value.
  • If you rent, buy renter’s insurance, which pays for damaged, destroyed, or stolen personal property. You also may need special insurance if you live in an area prone to floods or earth movement. Ask your insurance agent.
  • Finally, don’t overlook the importance of wind and hail, health, disability, long-term care, umbrella liability, life insurance and flood insurance. Standard home-insurance policies don’t cover flooding, but the federal government does through the National Flood Insurance Program. You may need to draw on benefits from one or all of these policies if you are ever faced with another disaster.

 

4.) Keep cash available.

  • Stash a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks at home in a place where you can get at the money quickly in case of a sudden evacuation, or if a disaster shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Set aside extra money in an emergency fund in a bank savings account, and keep your credit cards paid off so you will have enough credit to get you through a disaster.

 

5.) Use an evacuation box and safe deposit box.

  • Put important papers in a box that you can grab in the event of an emergency. Some items to put in the box: traveler’s checks, a few rolls of quarters, negatives of important personal photographs, a list of emergency contacts, copies of prescriptions and medical records, copies of insurance policies, backup disks of critical computerized information, copies of other important family and financial records, and your safe deposit box key.
  • Store original documents, property deeds and birth certificates, in a bank safe deposit box.

 

6.) Make an evacuation plan. Imagine that you could take only one suitcase or pack a single carload in the event of a disaster. What would you take, how would you leave your home, where would you rejoin your family, and who would you call if you became separated?

 

7.) Do additional research -keep reading MoneyAdvice HQ and other sites for money saving ideas and tips.

The World’s Most Exclusive Credit Cards – Spring 2012

Want a Unique but CHEAP wedding? Here’s How.

No one wants a cookie-cutter wedding. The day you tie the knot should be as unique as your individual personalities. There’s a quote that says, “The universe is not made of atoms. It’s made of tiny stories.” Just as you’re coming together as man-and-wife, allow your creativity to spill into the details you’re sharing on your wedding day.

1. Craft a story.
Telling your story as a couple as you approach the altar is a powerful way to connect with your guests and chronicle your journey to this point. Think of every element of your wedding — from the invites to the wedding favors — as a chance to craft a story from beginning to happily ever after. Don’t be afraid to incorporate religious or ethnic touches that are special to you.

2. Pick a theme.
A well-executed theme can add loads of personality to your wedding day without looking cheesy — like these Lego,hockey and 50s-themed weddings. By picking a theme that’s already a hobby or interest, you’re likely to already own a lot of materials you can incorporate into the decor.

3. Pick a repeating element.
If a theme is a bit much for your taste, focus on one element you can repeat throughout the printed materials, decor and attire for big impact, like these feathers or parasols.

4. Go handmade.
Making decor by hand ensures that the look of your wedding is one-in-a-million. Consider paper or fabric flowers (likethese cuties) or buy a custom wedding stamp to personalize all your paper goods.

5. Shop vintage.
Shopping for vintage or thrift items for your wedding and reception may save you some time and headache over everything handmade. A vintage wedding dress customized with modern accessories could be the thing that makes your wedding standout and memorable.

6. Register for gift cards.
Create a wedding registry online at CardAvenue and register for the the stores you most like to shop at nationwide, instead of just one or two generic ones that offer wedding registries.

7. Mix-and-match.
Stick closely to your theme but allow variations to create a unique look and feel. Think non-matching bridesmaids dresses and a menagerie of vintage vases of differing sizes in the same hue as centerpieces.

8. Re-imagine the guest book.
Set up an iPad to record or photograph guests as they enter, or set up something unique for your guests to sign that you’ll incorporate into your home decor later (a signed vintage map from your location, smooth rocks you can use in a clear vase). In our fall wedding we scattered colored paper leaves on the welcome table and pens and used the leaves in our wedding scrapbook.

9. Festive food.
Marry at a non-traditional time or place and you can pull off a unique reception for cheap. Think coffee bar & pastries for a mid-morning wedding, or a Memorial Day wedding on the lake for a laid-back barbecue dinner.

10. Send off in style.
Forget bubbles, sparklers and bird seed (some venues won’t even allow them due to the cleanup involved). Offer wrapped candy for tossing (which the kids are sure to clean up without complaining), release balloons or have your guests create a human arch or a large paper banner for you run through. For a nighttime wedding, fireworks or glow sticks create a fun and colorful goodbye.

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Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL, about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.

How to Negotiate a Salary Increase

Whether you just received a new job offer or have been working with your current employer for some time, salary – a critical component of your income and, in turn, wealth – is negotiable. However, new research from LinkedIn found that one-quarter of U.S. professionals admitted to having never negotiated their salary.  In response, LinkedIn has partnered withPayScale and Selena Rezvani to help professionals make a case for the compensation they deserve.

Using LinkedIn’s API, the new PayScale Instant Salary Report application allows LinkedIn members to pull an accurate analysis of the market place and determine their individual market value.  This information may be used as an effective tool in conversations about salary or benefits.

Selena Rezvani, author of the upcoming book, PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask—And Stand Up—For What They Want, offers expert advice to help strengthen your case in a workplace negotiation:

  • Consult with your network.  Your professional network is your most underused tool in a negotiation. Friends, peers and your LinkedIn connections can offer all kinds of insights and motivation.
  • Close the gap.  Don’t overestimate the other party’s power.  Instead, see the other person as an equal or a peer; this can make all the difference in getting the outcomes we want.
  • Hear “no” as “not yet.”  Many people assume that when someone says “no,” the matter is closed for discussion.  Timing is everything – try asking a second time under different circumstances.  If you never hear “no,” you’re probably not asking for enough.

Any other tips? Share them in the comments!

 

How to Buy a Diamond On A Budget – 10 Pointers

diamond buying

Buying a Diamond on a Budget

1 ) Buy a diamond with slight inclusions

2 ) Go for a diamond less than one carat

3 ) Go for near-colourless rather than colourless

4 ) Shop around on-line

5 ) Opt for white gold or paladium rather than gold

6 ) Choose 14 Carat rather than 18 Caret gold

7 ) Look for coupons

8 ) Buy the diamond separate to the ring

9 ) Cluster a group of smaller diamonds

10 ) Consider different ring setting types for the illusion of size.