Learn How To Invest Your Money

September 4th, 2012

When you hear your friends and colleagues talking about their latest stock picks, do you wonder how they know all that stuff? Even the idea of investing seems scary for people who don’t know how to invest.

Many people think that investing is only for the rich class. That’s not true. You can start investing with as little as $200. In fact, it is better to start investing at the earliest and see your money multiplying, thanks to the magic of compound interest. You just need to learn a few basics in order to reap the benefits.

Beginning of Investing Basics: Set Goals

The first step is to pen down the kind of returns you expect on your investments. It will give you a direction when deciding to put money in various instruments. For example, if you don’t want to take any risk and are happy with the low returns, the most appropriate choice for you would be a term deposit or online bank account. However, if you want reasonably high returns, direct share purchase and mutual funds will be suitable for you.

“If you’re investing your money for a particular objective, clearly state the objective before you start investing. You may be investing for your child’s college education, your retirement or any other purpose. The level of risk you have to take entirely depends on two things: the objective and time limit,” says Matt Krantz, a financial reporter and author of Fundamental Analysis for Dummies and Investing Online for Dummies.

When setting goals, be realistic. It’s worthless to pour money in stocks, bonds or mutual funds if your credit card carries a heavy debt at high interest rates. Get rid of the credit card debt first. Also, ensure that you have at least 3-6 months of expenses in your emergency fund.

Investment Instruments

As a beginner, you should be aware of the most common investment instruments: stocks, mutual funds and bonds.

When you purchase stocks (shares), you get partial ownership in the firm. As a shareholder, you will get a part of the company’s total profits every year, called dividend. However, people usually don’t invest in stocks to get dividends. They expect the stock prices to rise over time. Stock prices fluctuate based on the company’s perceived value and its net value on the paper. The success mantra to invest in stocks is to buy at low prices and sell when the prices go up.

Another tool is mutual fund. A mutual fund is run by the professional money managers. It collects money from thousands of investors like you and then purchases a portfolio of stocks, debts, bonds and other securities. The biggest advantage of mutual funds is that your money is invested in a diversified portfolio that reduces the risks. If one company in the portfolio loses money, the gains from other companies will make up for the loss, thus yielding a decent return.

Professional investors consider bonds one of the safest investments. In simple terms, bonds are a type of loan where the investors lend money. A common example is our Treasury Bond or T-bill. The investor is directly loaning money to the US government when she buys a T-bill. There are other types as well, such as corporate bonds, municipal bonds, etc. Since they are extremely safe investments, bonds yield very low interest rates.

Choose a Broker

Before you start investing, you have to open a brokerage account. You can’t directly trade the stocks, bonds or mutual funds. You have to tell your broker which item to buy or sell, and they will charge a “commission” for their services. Their fee ranges from as low as $5 to hundreds of dollars.

There are two types of brokers: traditional brokerages and discount brokers. Traditional brokers offer a wide range of services such as advising on the instruments and companies suitable for you. Discount brokers charge a much lesser fee, but they do only what you tell them to. They do not offer any advice, so they are more suitable for self-directed investors. Brokerage firms like Charles Schwab and Merrill Lynch offer both types of services, allowing you to choose the format you like. Some of the most popular discount brokers are TD Ameritrade, E-Trade Securities and TD Waterhouse.

Nowadays, you can also find many online brokers who fall in the middle of traditional and discount brokers. They charge $15-$30 per trade, but offer you good support and guidance.

Know The Strategies

The best investment strategy is diversification. Spread your money over several instruments to reduce the risk. Usually, when one investment is yielding higher returns, the others may be plunging. By putting your money in a number of investments, you are likely to yield decent returns even if one investment take a downturn. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says, “Do not put all your eggs in one basket.”

Build Your Portfolio

Now that you have learned the basics of investing, it’s time to build your portfolio of well chosen instruments. Your portfolio should consist of stocks, mutual funds, bonds, REITs and other instruments. Aim to diversify your portfolio, so that you won’t lose everything even if you make a mistake.

Let me know if this was helpful to you. My goal is to provide my visitors with useful and helpful money management tips so that you can obtain your financial goals. Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

The Common Man’s Guide To Identity Theft Prevention

August 30th, 2012

Wondering why identity theft prevention is so important? Well, what will you do if your banker calls you to inform that the entire money from your savings account has been withdrawn? Or, what if somebody gets his hands on your Social Security Number, opens several financial accounts and obtains heavy loans under your name? These are examples of identity theft. If you don’t take precautionary measures, your personal information such as credit card number, SSN, bank ID and password may get into wrong hands; and criminals will commit fraud or felony at your expense.

Many a times, people don’t even know that they have fallen victims to identity theft until they are caught in trouble. So, it is important to know the tricks used by thieves to steal your identity and how you can avoid falling a victim. Every year, approximately 9 million people fall victims to ID theft, according to Federal Trade Commission.


7 Ways to Identity Theft Prevention


1. Beware of Shoulder Surfers

You go to the ATM, but don’t realize that someone right behind you is standing a little closer than they should be. You are completely unaware of it, but that person might be taking a photo of your debit card, or worse, recording a video when you enter the pin number. That’s shoulder surfing. Ensure that you have blocked others’ view with your body the next time you visit an ATM.

2. Don’t Give Your Password To Anybody

I am talking about social engineering tricks. Sometimes, a criminal calls you and gives false assurance that they are from the technical support, and they need your password to resolve an issue. They may also add that your password will not be shared with anybody.

When somebody talks like that on the phone, you feel glad to share your password with a stranger, thinking that you are helping a co-worker or the organization. Later you realize that the helpful gesture has landed you into a big trouble.

3. Keep a Watch on Important Documents

Many thieves still use the age old technique of stealing your wallet. There may be important documents such as driver’s license, SSN, insurance card, etc. Sometimes, they also attack your mailbox to get your personal information.

It’s good not to carry your Social Security Card in your wallet unless necessary. You should shred all the papers that carry your financial and personal information before dumping them. You think those documents have now become useless, others don’t. Another way is to keep track of your credit report.

4. Synthetic Identity Theft

Here goes the high tech heist. We are well aware that the first three digits of your SSN refer to your birthplace, the next two digits hint on your birthday, and thieves can guess the remaining four digits using statistical tools.

The criminals don’t specifically target your Social Security Number, but the trouble brews when the SSN they randomly decode unfortunately happens to be yours. Now they add a fake name to your SSN and make a new ID. This way, the criminals can borrow money from banks using your Social Security Number with a fake name. You may not be aware of all this while it’s happening.

The issue comes into limelight much later because debt collectors usually search a borrower using their SSN, instead of the name. They will approach you to get their money back that was borrowed using your SSN with a different name. The debt collectors may force you to pay the debt you are not responsible for.

You must be vigilant that your Social Security Number is not associated with any other name. So, try to occasionally check your credit score using your SSN instead of name.

5. Be Smart on the Web

Nowadays, hackers are using several tricks to obtain your personal information without leaving their comfort zone. Sometimes, the hackers put a “mirror” website that looks exactly like a merchant website. Then they send you an e-mail that seems to be from the original merchant website. The e-mail contains a link and it requests you to log in or place an order using the given link. If you do that, they get your credit card number, ID and password. So, you should always visit the original website by manually typing the web address.

Another tip, get a firewall if your computer doesn’t already have one.

6. Don’t Fall Prey to Telephone Scams

You get a telephone call, and your heart starts pounding when the caller congratulates you on winning a big fat sum of money. He further adds that you just need to make a small payment using your credit card as shipping fee. Don’t! You won’t have to pay anybody if you have really won a prize. Or, ask that person to deduct the shipping fee from your prize money and send the remaining sum to you. Well, the latter is just for fun.

Consider registering your phone number to the ‘National Do Not Call Registry‘ (1-888-382-1222).

7. Skimming

We don’t even care when handing over our debit/credit cards to the attendants at restaurants or shopping places. Are you sure that your card is in safe hands? The criminal-minded employees take an image of the card or memorize the card number. You then sign on the credit card receipt without even realizing that your credit card number and signature are already into someone else’s hands.

It’s better to give the credit card directly to the cashier when making payments. Many people own a disposable credit card with limited spending amounts. It is useful only until the limit is reached.

Hey, can you add some more tips to this list? What are YOU doing to prevent identity theft?


How To Manage Your Personal Finances During Economic Downturn

August 23rd, 2012

The economy is going through a rough patch, and millions of Americans are struggling to manage their personal finances. People have seen recession, downturn, slumping economy and skyrocketing unemployment rate for several years. You can overcome the tough economic times through budgeting and money management. Learning to manage your finances benefits you in two ways:

[ol style=”13″]
[li]It alleviates the burden on your current financial position. [/li]
[li]It will prepare you to weather tomorrow’s challenges successfully, and you will be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. [/li]


Here is what you should do to make each dollar work at its best for you:

The Biggest Mantra of Personal Finance Education: Save A Bit A Time For Rainy Days

You don’t know when an emergency would occur, or when your employer may announce a mass layoff. What will you do if you don’t have anything in emergency savings? To ensure that you don’t have to depend on others, you should have at least 6-12 month emergency savings fund. Do it in small steps. Put just a little every month into a bank saving account, and within just a few years you will have enough funds to pull you through any financial crisis.

Though it is the most important money management technique, it is a long-term process. So, you should start saving a little every month to weather the future economic downturns.

If you are already financially stretched, use the following process.

Step Back And Review

Sometimes it is important to look back and analyze in an objective manner, as they say, “you have to know the problem before you can solve it.” First, you should make a list of your income sources and expenses. Try to include every expense in the list, even the trivial ones like spa and gym memberships, daily trip to the coffee shop, etc. Now you are in a better position to manage your finances.

Re-budget During The Recession

Almost everyone has some bad spending habits. Even purchasing the premium brand cookies requires a little higher amount. Though it appears to be very small sum, but the small amounts add up quickly.

Make a list of your “needs” and “wants”, i.e., things that you can’t live without, such as food, clothing, shelter, etc; and things you can live without. To eliminate the unnecessary spending, go through your list of expenses and ask yourself, “Can I eliminate this expense entirely?” If that’s not possible, try to reduce it by 40-60 percent.

Cut on the luxury items. Do you spend $100 every month at Starbucks? Stop it and the money will easily stay in your bank account. Do you read all the books that you purchase every month? If not, buy only as many books as you can read. You can also save by downgrading the cable/Internet package based on whether you really “need” them.

If you don’t practice such self-discipline, you’ll soon be purchasing things on credit, or worse, you will go broke!

Supplement You Income With New Streams

Many people find their income sliding during the economic downturn, employers cut their salary, bonuses or working hours. So, it’s extremely important to cut your expenses accordingly. You can also create a second source of income to compensate for the loss of income from the primary source. Yes, there are many secondary sources of income, such as setting up an eBay store, mystery shopping, professional blogging, etc.

You can also take up a part-time job if you like. Many people put their skills and hobbies to make extra money. Do you like photography? If you have a skill that you may be useful to others, post your services on Craigslist.

Apply The Successful Money Management Techniques From The Past

For many people, this is definitely not the first economic downturn. Revisit the approaches that have worked for you during the past storms, and see if you can use them again. It gives you confidence that you have successfully weathered the tough economic times in the past, and you will do it again. Sometimes you can also learn from the mistakes of others.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the bad economic news on the TV, just take a deep breath. Stick to the above rules and you’ll survive the economic downturn without any major trouble.

Do you have any more tips? Share them with us.

Planning To Consolidate Your Debt? Beware Of the Underlying Dangers

August 14th, 2012

When you are burdened under heavy debt from a number of creditors, people or debt consolidation companies will persuade you to consolidate your debt. Hold on! Debt consolidation, which allows you to take out one loan to pay off all others, may not always be the most viable option for your financial needs. Though it can save you time and money by securing a lower interest rate and reducing the number of payments you make every month, there are certain potential dangers you cannot afford to ignore.

In the beginning, the idea appears to be very easy, but this quick fix may lead to more trouble in the long run. Chris Viale, general manager of Agawam, Mass.-based Cambridge Credit Corp., clears this illusion, “You’re getting symptomatic relief, not a credit cure.”

There are three main types of debt consolidation programs, let’s discuss each of them in detail, along with the dangers they can pose in future.

Paying Off Debt With Home Equity Loan

Home equity loans seem pretty lucrative. Just by leveraging the value of your house you will be able to pay off other debts. You also get tax breaks because home equity loan interests are tax deductible.

However, it doesn’t mean you must opt for home equity loan to consolidate your debt. The debt consolidation companies use your home as collateral. If, unfortunately, something unforeseen happens, you risk losing your home. With the economy in turmoil and unemployment rates at record high, you never know who will be fired next at  your workplace. And yes, the debt will still be there to haunt you!

Zero-percent Credit Card

What about those who don’t have a house? Well, in that case, many people go for zero-percent credit cards. Using this method, you switch the balance from one or more credit cards to a new one with a lower or zero interest rate for 6 to 15 months.

Again, caution and prudence is required. Companies offer low or zero interest rate in the beginning only to lure you. It won’t last forever. So, before transferring your balances to one credit card, get to know two things:

[ol style=”13″]
[li]When the low or zero percent interest rate will end.[/li]
[li]What the new rate will be.[/li]

Another thing, the interest rates will remain low for the given time period only if you pay on time. Just one late payment and the credit card company will push the interest rates up. Also, make sure that there are no hidden charges to surprise you in the future.

I have a tip that can save you some more money. Keep paying the debt on the new credit card without missing even a single payment, and switch to another credit card before the zero interest rate expires. However, you have to be a little cautious because getting a new credit card account so frequently may adversely affect your credit score.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Everyday, you might be getting dozens of e-mails pitching debt consolidation to be the best solution to your mounting debt problem. Convenience is the biggest benefit of debt consolidation loan. By taking one big loan to pay off all the previous loans, you get rid of paying 15 different lenders at different days of the month.

However, convenience doesn’t always mean savings. When consolidating your debt, make sure that the costs of consolidated loan are lower than the combined interest of all the previous loans. Usually, when you have nothing to get a secured loan (for example, your house or other property), lenders are highly likely to charge a higher rate.

A common problem in debt consolidation is that most of the companies are in business only for a quick buck. So, they try to capitalize on the fear of debt-ridden customers and provide them poor service at sky high fees. Worse, some of them are just out-and-out scams.

Still, paying off your debt by consolidating them into one can work for you. However, you must do two things:

[ol style=”13″]
[li]Analyse your current financial position to know whether or not debt consolidation makes sense for your needs (without risking your house). [/li]
[li]Verify the certifications, memberships and third-party registrations of the debt consolidation company. Check with National Foundation of Credit Counseling, Better Business Bureau or AICCCA to see if the company you are considering is a member of any of them. [/li]

Consolidating the debt without proper background research may lead you into a more complex financial mess.

Have you or any of your acquaintances experienced the dangers of debt consolidation? Feel free to share your story with us.

We’re Improving!

July 18th, 2012

Just a quick post to make sure our valued visitors know that Personal Checks Plus continually adds new check designs and merchants everyday. We strive to give our visitors a large selection of check designs to choose from. We focus on bringing leading online check manufacturer’s designs to you in one user friendly website.

We are currently working very hard at adding new website features that will improve your overall shopping experience. Over the coming weeks these features will be made available to our valued visitors. These changes will make your search for personal checks faster, easier and allow you to save even more money.

We like to know how we are doing from our visitors. Leave a comment below or if you have a suggestion let us know here. We’d love to hear from you!

Tips on How to Order Personal Check Online

August 21st, 2011

Ordering your next batch of personal checks online will enable you to browse through a wide variety of collections and designs. You can also compare prices and decide on the printing company which can provide you with the best quality, prices and the most secure shipping service. Actually when it comes to shipping services, you should choose the most reliable and secure service in order to avoid any risks related to your checks falling into the wrong hands.

When you order personal checks online you can easily get yourself a good bargain by choosing from the discounted personal checks collection or even ordering a large quantity for which the printing company may give you an offer. You can also get a good offer for shipping rates, either for free or at a discounted rate based on the quantity you order.

Also if you are not satisfied with the shipping service that the printing company offers, you can always use whichever shipping company you find most suitable for you. Of course being assured of the shipping service, its reliability and security is very important in choosing a shipping service, especially when it comes to delivery of your personal checks with all your personal information printed on it. You can choose whichever shipping service you feel most comfortable and secure with and have the printing company use that service to deliver your personal checks. One option to further ensure the safe arrival of your personal checks is to have them delivered to your post office so you can pick them up yourself instead of having them delivered to your house and risking their delivery while you are not home.

In addition to giving you the option to choose your own shipping service, printing companies also give you the ability to print whatever information you want on your personal checks. You can send the printing company all the information you want printed on the personal checks, and you also don’t have to worry about your information being misused by the printing company, because according to their privacy policy all the data submitted by the clients to the printing company are protected and are not to be used by the company or distributed to other companies. But it is always advisable not to include a lot of personal information on the checks so it wouldn’t put you at risk of identity theft.

So, next time you run out of checks and are thinking of renewing your stack of personal checks, just use the internet to search for reliable printing companies to make your order and choose the designs you want, also submit the information you want printed on your checks, all from the comfort of your own home.

Charity Personal Checks

August 21st, 2011

Sometimes ordering personal checks and using them for conducting your day-to-day transactions can be more than just a payment method choice you make, because now printing companies give you the option to choose from a variety of causes personal checks. By ordering any of these checks, you get to choose from a collection of charity checks, where part of the money that you pay the printing company will be supporting the cause that you choose. Many printing companies offer these collections to support different causes so that everyone can find whatever they are looking for. The collections are also offered at lower prices to make them more appealing to you to choose over other designs and collections.

So buying personal checks does not have to be only about choosing the most appealing design to you anymore, you can actually give something back to society and pay charity by selecting any of the causes personal checks available in the charity checks collection. Also, to make the collection more appealing to you, the prices are usually cheaper than other collections as a way to encourage you to be charitable and at the same time save your money. But still the printing company uses a percentage of the amount you pay to buy the causes personal checks to donate to the organizations that support the cause you choose.

Causes can vary from supporting organizations that raise awareness for diseases like cancer to other organizations that help preserve wildlife and rainforests. There really isn’t a shortage of causes or of the personal checks that can help you support them, all you have to do is choose a printing company that offers such a collection and order whatever causes personal checks you want.

Using personal checks for a cause can also help these charitable organizations and what they stand for in many ways. In other words, it is not only your money that counts, but also the awareness that you are spreading by using such personal checks and exposing them to whomever you use those checks to pay, which makes other people aware of the causes and maybe taking your example and supporting a cause next time they order their own collection of personal checks.

So go ahead and give the charitable personal checks collection a look and get more than your money’s worth by giving back to society. You can also ask the printing company to print your cause charity checks on eco-friendly printing paper so you can benefit both the society and the environment. Really, ordering and using personal checks can save you money, enable you to support causes, pay charity and at the same time use your favorite payment method to handle your bills and transactions.

Eco-friendly Personal Checks

August 2nd, 2011

If you like paying your bills using custom-designed personal checks, but feel guilty every time you issue one or even order checks online because of all the trees and wood used to manufacture the check-printing paper that you are using, there is a solution to rid you of that guilt. Now you can choose from the collection of eco-friendly checks which are now offered by many environmentally-aware printing companies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Avoid Stale Dated Checks by Ordering Right Quantity of Personal Checks

July 18th, 2011

How many checks should you order online? It really depends on how often you use your personal checks. If you pay for everything using your personal checks or you conduct your business transactions with mostly checks, you might want to order enough quantity to keep you covered for a while. But you have to maintain the balance between the frequency of your consumption of the checks and the amount of checks you tend to order to determine if a large quantity is going to be unused for a long time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Personal Checks Security Features

July 14th, 2011

With the everyday advances in technology and the availability of high-tech equipment to consumers, it is becoming easier for scammers and con artists to steal someone’s identity or use their personal checks for withdrawing whatever amounts they want. But as the bad guys keep coming up with new ways to cheat security and anti-fraud systems, on the other hand security experts try to make whatever services you use as secure as possible in order not to give a chance to anyone who would take advantage of whatever loopholes there might be.

Read the rest of this entry »