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"It's Your Money and Your Money Matters"

success needed for tradingAs each day arrives it brings renewed money-making or money-saving opportunity to increase your family standard-of-living and net worth. Money Matters brings great opportunities in both real estate and financial markets! Money Matters is here to help you make a success involving your money! Remember, it's Your Money and your money matters!

Money matters. And using tried and true strategies for dealing with money or the lack of it, can make a big difference to your present and your future. Whether you are saving, spending, or borrowing money, this is information you can’t afford to overlook.

   Shopping & Saving

Realistic budgeting is the key to maintaining a financial safety net and spending wisely. Whether you’re shopping for things you buy routinely — or saving for that occasional big ticket item — planning is key. These shopping tips can help you save money on everyday purchases, as well as on some products and services you buy once in a while.

   Buying & Owning a Car

Having a car can be an expensive proposition. Read tips on buying vs leasing, negotiating the best deal, financing, getting the most out of warranties and service contracts, using gas efficiently, and avoiding repossession.

   Credit and Loans

Decisions about credit and loans involve lots of factors, including how much money you need, what terms you’re offered, and who is behind the offer. If you are choosing a credit card or wondering whether offers of credit and loans are on the up and up, these tips can help.

   Dealing with Debt

Debt collection, debt management, debt relief, debt settlement... Debt is a four-letter word that’s the subject of some complex laws. Learn how to exercise your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act — and how to recognize debt-related scams and frauds.

   Resolving Consumer Problems

Things don’t always go right. Sometimes you don’t get what you ordered; sometimes you get an item of the blue. What are your obligations? And by the way, are there advantages to using any particular method of payment in terms of consumer protections?

Jobs & Making Money

moneyIf you’re in the market for a job, an investment, or a business to run in your off-hours or as an encore career, there are some mighty convincing promoters out there who promise high returns, low risk, and ‘golden’ opportunities just waiting for the right buyer. Take the time to ask the questions that can keep you from getting ripped off.

   Job Hunting

If you’re looking for a job, you may see ads for firms that promise results. Unfortunately, some job placement firms misrepresent their services, promote nonexistent vacancies, or charge high fees in advance for services that don’t guarantee placement.

   Home-Based Businesses

There are all kinds of home-based businesses, including ones that are set up to fail. Scammers make appealing — but not always truthful — pitches for medical billing businesses, envelope stuffing schemes, and craft and assembly projects, knowing that many people must find ways to work from home.

   Going into Business

If you’re considering putting money into a business opportunity, do some research first. By law, business opportunity promoters must give you certain information before you hand over any money.

   Investments & Grants

Do your research before you commit to an alternative investment or money-making opportunity. Promises of “free money,” mysterious financial models, and outsize returns most likely are scams.

Homes & Mortgages

Buying or renting a home is a big financial decision. And whether it’s a condo, a townhouse, or a single family residence — new construction or a home with a history — this transaction will have a significant impact on your budget. What do you need to know?

Money Matters & MLS Flat Fee Listing's goal is to save home-sellers nearly 1/2 less typical real estate commission by not paying a listing broker commission to get their home listed in the MLS! We have a fixed fee listing nationwide network of Realtor® associates. Property sellers should visit Real Estate MLS Flat Fee Listing to get your real estate property mls listed in your local "Real Estate Multiple Listing Service" or more details!

   Home Loans

Information is critical when you are shopping for a mortgage. And it’s equally important to know the consequences of falling behind on your payments and the telltale signs of a foreclosure rescue scam. What about a reverse mortgage? When could it be a good deal — and when can it be a dud?

   Home Improvement

Building a deck? Installing an alarm system? Repaving the driveway? You can save time, money, and frustration by knowing the signs of a home improvement scam, and the consumer protections in the Cooling Off Rule.

   Saving Energy at Home

Energy efficiency comes in all sizes and shapes — from appliances and toilets to windows and light bulbs. The choices you make for your home or business can have a big impact on your budget — and on the environment.

   Renting & Time-shares

If you’re a renter or a property owner, scammers use tricks to try to get your money, like bogus rental listings and timeshare reseller rip-offs.

scams

Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine sophisticated technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. They add new twists to old schemes and pressure people to make important decisions on the spot. One thing that never changes: they follow the headlines — and the money.

Stay a step ahead with the latest info and practical tips from the nation’s consumer protection agency. Browse FTC scam alerts by topic or by most recent.

Health & Fitness

The market is swimming in products and services for fitness and health, making the competition for your business more fierce than ever. Learn how to decode ads for products that promise to cure everything from baldness and cancer to diabetes and dementia, and for services that say they will shape you up, restore your youthful glow, and turn those ABS into a well-defined six pack.

   Healthy Living

When you’re shopping for health insurance, beauty products, or other health-related goods, it pays to do some research before you spend any money.

   Treatments & Cures

When it comes to treatments for health conditions, it can be tough to tell useful products and services from those that don’t work or aren’t safe. It’s unlikely that a supposed ‘cure-all’ can cure anything.

   Weight Loss & Fitness

Advertising claims for weight loss products and services inevitably over-promise. The products and services themselves almost always under-deliver. Changing your diet and exercising more are the keys to successful weight loss. Find out how to evaluate weight loss and fitness claims before you buy products or services that claim to make it fast or easy to slim down or shape up. 

Paying Down Credit Card Debt

  • Minimum Payments on Credit Cards
  • Coping with Debt
  • Settling Credit Card Debt

Credit card interest rates and minimum monthly payments affect how long it will take to pay off your debt and how much your purchase will cost you over time.

  • Real World Examples
  • Suppose when you’re 18, you charge $1,500 worth of clothes and DVDs on a credit card with a 19 percent interest rate.

    If you repay only the minimum amount each month, and your minimum is 4 percent of the outstanding balance (the lowest amount permitted by some issuers), you’ll start with a $60 payment. You’ll be more than 26 years old by the time you pay off the debt. That’s 106 payments, and you will have paid more than $889 extra in interest. And that’s if you charge nothing else on the card, and no other fees are imposed (for example, late charges).

    If your minimum payment is based on 2.5 percent of the outstanding balance, you’ll start with a $37.50 payment. You’ll be over 35 years old when you pay off the debt. That’s 208 payments, and you will have paid more than $2,138 in interest, even if you charge nothing else on the account and have no other fees.

    Wondering how long it will take to pay off your debt? Based on the information you supply, this calculator estimates of how long it will take you to pay off your credit card balance.

  • Keep Credit Card Use Under Control

  • Whether you shop online, by telephone, or by mail, a credit card can make buying things much easier. But when you use a credit card, it’s important to keep track of your spending. Incidental and impulse purchases add up. When the bill comes, you have to pay what you owe. Owing more than you can afford to repay can damage your credit rating. Keeping good records can prevent a lot of headaches, especially if there are inaccuracies on your monthly statement. If you notice a problem, report it immediately to the company that issued the card. Usually the instructions for disputing a charge are on your monthly statement. If you use your credit card to order online, by telephone, or by mail, keep copies and printouts with details about the transaction.

    These details should include the company’s name, address, and telephone number; the date of your order; a copy of the order form you sent to the company or a list of the stock codes of the items you ordered; the order confirmation code; the ad or catalog from which you ordered (if applicable); any applicable warranties; and the return and refund policies.

  • Security Tips and More Information

  • If you use a credit card, charge card, or debit card, take the following precautions:

  • Never lend it to anyone.
  • Never sign a blank charge slip. Draw lines through blank spaces on charge slips above the total so the amount can’t be changed.
  • Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.
  • Always be cautious about disclosing your account number on the telephone unless you know the person you’re dealing with represents a reputable company.
  • Carry only the cards you expect to use to minimize the damage of a potential loss or theft.
  • Always report lost or stolen credit cards, charge cards, and debit cards to the card issuers as soon as possible. Follow up with a letter that includes your account number, when you noticed the card was missing, and when you first reported the loss.

Settling Credit Card Debt

  • Choosing a Credit Counselor
  • Coping with Debt
  • Facing Foreclosure?

If you've maxed out your credit cards and are getting deeper in debt, chances are you're feeling overwhelmed. How are you ever going to pay down the debt? Now imagine hearing about a company that promises to reduce – or even erase – your debt for pennies on the dollar. Sounds like the answer to your problems, right?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, says slow down, and consider how you can get out of the red without spending a whole lot of green.

   Debt Settlement Companies

Debt settlement programs typically are offered by for-profit companies, and involve the company negotiating with your creditors to allow you to pay a “settlement” to resolve your debt. The settlement is another word for a lump sum that's less than the full amount you owe. To make that lump sum payment, the program asks that you set aside a specific amount of money every month in savings. Debt settlement companies usually ask that you transfer this amount every month into an escrow-like account to accumulate enough savings to pay off a settlement that is reached eventually. Further, these programs often encourage or instruct their clients to stop making any monthly payments to their creditors.

   Debt Settlement Has Risks

Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, consider the risks associated with these programs before you sign up:

1. These programs often require that you deposit money in a special savings account for 36 months or more before all your debts will be settled. Many people have trouble making these payments long enough to get all (or even some) of their debts settled. They drop out the programs as a result. Before you sign up for a debt settlement program, review your budget carefully to make sure you are financially capable of setting aside the required monthly amounts for the full length of the program.

2. Your creditors have no obligation to agree to negotiate a settlement of the amount you owe. So there is a chance that your debt settlement company will not be able to settle some of your debts — even if you set aside the monthly amounts the program requires. Debt settlement companies also often try to negotiate smaller debts first, leaving interest and fees on large debts to grow.

3. Because debt settlement programs often ask — or encourage — you to stop sending payments directly to your creditors, they may have a negative impact on your credit report and other consequences. For example, your debts may continue to accrue late fees and penalties that can put you further in the hole. You also may get calls from your creditors or debt collectors requesting repayment. You could even be sued for repayment. In some instances, when creditors win a lawsuit, they have the right to garnish your wages or put a lien on your home.

   Beware of Debt Settlement Scams

Some companies offering debt settlement programs may engage in deception and fail to deliver on the promises they make — for example, promises or “guarantees” to settle all your credit card debts for, say, 30 to 60 percent of the amount you owe. Other companies may try to collect their own fees from you before they have settled any of your debts — a practice prohibited under the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) for companies engaged in telemarketing these services. Some fail to explain the risks associated with their programs: for example, that many (or most) consumers drop out without settling their debts, that consumers’ credit reports may suffer, or that debt collectors may continue to call you.

Avoid doing business with any company that promises to settle your debt if the company:

  • charges any fees before it settles your debts
  • touts a "new government program" to bail out personal credit card debt
  • guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away
  • tells you to stop communicating with your creditors, but doesn’t explain the serious consequences  
  • tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits
  • guarantees that your unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar

   Researching Debt Settlement Companies

Before you enroll in a debt settlement program, do your homework. You’re making a big decision that involves spending a lot of your money — money that could go toward paying down your debt. Check out the company with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if any consumer complaints are on file about the firm you’re considering doing business with. Ask your state Attorney General if the company is required to be licensed to work in your state and, if so, whether it is.

Enter the name of the company name with the word "complaints" into a search engine. Read what others have said about the companies you’re considering, including news about any lawsuits with state or federal regulators for engaging in deceptive or unfair practices.

   Fees

If you do business with a debt settlement company, you may have to put money in a dedicated bank account, which will be administered by an independent third party. The funds are yours and you are entitled to the interest that accrues. The account administrator may charge you a reasonable fee for account maintenance, and is responsible for transferring funds from your account to pay your creditors and the debt settlement company when settlements occur.

A company can charge you only a portion of its full fee for each debt it settles. For example, say you owe money to five creditors. The company successfully negotiates a settlement with one of your creditors. The company can charge you only a portion of its full fee at this time because it still needs to successfully negotiate with four other creditors. Each time the debt settlement company successfully settles a debt with one of your creditors, the company can charge you another portion of its full fee. If the company's fees are based on a percentage of the amount you save through the settlement, it must tell you both the percentage it charges and the estimated dollar amount it represents. This may be called a "contingency" fee.

   Disclosure Requirements

Before you sign up for the service, the debt relief company must give you information about the program:

  • The price and terms: The company must explain its fees and any conditions on its services.
  • Results: The company must tell you how long it will take to get results — how many months or years before it will make an offer to each creditor for a settlement.
  • Offers: The company must tell you how much money or the percentage of each outstanding debt you must save before it will make an offer to each creditor on your behalf.
  • Non-payment: If the company asks you to stop making payments to your creditors — or if the program relies on you to not make payments — it must tell you about the possible negative consequences of your action, including damage to your credit report and credit score; that your creditors may sue you or continue with the collections process; and that your credit card companies may charge you additional fees and interest, which will increase the amount you owe.

The debt relief company also must tell you that:

  • the funds are yours and you are entitled to the interest earned;
  • the account administrator is not affiliated with the debt relief provider and doesn’t get referral fees; and
  • you may withdraw your money any time without penalty.

   Tax Consequences

Depending on your financial condition, any savings you get from debt relief services can be considered income and taxable. Credit card companies and others may report settled debt to the IRS, which the IRS considers income, unless you are "insolvent." Insolvency is when your total debts are more than the fair market value of your total assets. Insolvency can be complex to determine. Talk to a tax professional if are not sure whether you qualify for this exception.

   Other Debt Relief Options

Working with a debt settlement company is just one option for dealing with your debt. You also could: negotiate directly with your credit card company, work with a credit counselor, or consider bankruptcy.

Talk with your credit card company, even if you have been turned down before. Rather than pay a company to talk to your creditor on your behalf, remember that you can do it yourself for free. You can find the telephone number on your card or your statement. Be persistent and polite. Keep good records of your debts, so that when you do reach the credit card company, you can explain your situation. Your goal is to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a level you can manage.

If you don't pay on your debt for 180 days, your creditor will write your debt off as a loss; your credit score will take a big hit, and you still will owe the debt. Creditors often are willing to negotiate with you even after they write your debt off as a loss.

Contact a credit counselor. Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.

Most reputable credit counselors are non-profits and offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate non-profit credit counseling programs. Credit card issuers must include a toll-free number on their statements that gives cardholders information about finding non-profit counseling organizations. The U.S. Trustee Program — the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees — also maintains a list of government-approved organizations. If a credit counseling organization says it's government-approved, check the U.S. Trustee's list of approved organizations to be sure. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.

But be aware that “non-profit” status doesn’t guarantee that services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, which they made hide, or urge their clients to make "voluntary" contributions that can cause more debt.

Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over three to five years, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.

You must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program. Before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.

Filing fees are several hundred dollars. Attorney fees are extra and vary. For more information visit the United States Courts, and read Coping with Debt.

Debt Relief or Bankruptcy?

  • Dealing with Debt Collectors
  • Debt Collection
  • Filing for Bankruptcy: What to Know

Debt got you down? You’re not alone. Consumer debt is at an all-time high. Whether your debt dilemma is the result of an illness, unemployment, or simply overspending, it can seem overwhelming. In your effort to get solvent, be on the alert for advertisements that offer seemingly quick fixes. While the ads pitch the promise of debt relief, they rarely say relief may be spelled b-a-n-k-r-u-p-t-c-y. And although bankruptcy is one option to deal with financial problems, it’s generally considered the option of last resort. The reason: its long-term negative impact on your creditworthiness. Bankruptcy information (both the date of your filing and the later date of discharge) stays on your credit report for 10 years, and can hinder your ability to get credit, a job, insurance, or even a place to live.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers to read between the lines when faced with ads in newspapers, magazines, or even telephone directories that say:

“Consolidate your bills into one monthly payment without borrowing.”
“STOP credit harassment, foreclosures, repossessions, tax levies, and garnishments.” 
“Keep Your Property.”
“Wipe out your debts! Consolidate your bills! How? By using the protection and assistance provided by federal law. For once, let the law work for you!”

You’ll find out later that such phrases often involve filing for bankruptcy relief, which can hurt your credit and cost you attorneys’ fees.
If you’re having trouble paying your bills, consider these possibilities before considering filing for bankruptcy:

  • Talk with your creditors. They may be willing to work out a modified payment plan.
  • Contact a credit counseling service. These organizations work with you and your creditors to develop debt repayment plans. Such plans require you to deposit money each month with the counseling service. The service then pays your creditors. Some nonprofit organizations charge little or nothing for their services.
  • Carefully consider all your options before you take out a second mortgage or home equity line of credit. While these loans may allow you to consolidate your debt, they also require your home as collateral.

If none of these options is possible, bankruptcy may be the likely alternative. There are two primary types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 13 and Chapter 7. Each must be filed in federal bankruptcy court. Filing fees are several hundred dollars. For more information visit www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/fees.html. Attorney fees are additional and can vary.

The consequences of bankruptcy are significant and require careful consideration. Other factors to think about: Effective October 2005, Congress made sweeping changes to the bankruptcy laws. The net effect of these changes is to give consumers more incentive to seek bankruptcy relief under Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7. Chapter 13 allows you, if you have a steady income, to keep property, such as a mortgaged house or car, that you might otherwise lose. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to use your future income to pay off your debts during a three-to-five-year period, rather than surrender any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, you receive a discharge of your debts.

Chapter 7, known as straight bankruptcy, involves the sale of all assets that are not exempt. Exempt property may include cars, work-related tools, and basic household furnishings. Some of your property may be sold by a court-appointed official — a trustee — or turned over to your creditors. The new bankruptcy laws have changed the time period during which you can receive a discharge through Chapter 7. You now must wait eight years after receiving a discharge in Chapter 7 before you can file again under that chapter. The Chapter 13 waiting period is much shorter and can be as little as two years between filings.

Both types of bankruptcy may get rid of unsecured debts and stop foreclosures, repossessions, garnishments, utility shutoffs and debt collectors. Both also provide exemptions that allow you to keep certain assets, although exemption amounts vary by state. Personal bankruptcy usually does not erase child support, alimony, fines, taxes, and some student loan obligations. Also, unless you have an acceptable plan to catch up on your debt under Chapter 13, bankruptcy usually does not allow you to keep property when your creditor has an unpaid mortgage or security lien on it.

Another major change to the bankruptcy laws involves certain hurdles that you must clear before even filing for bankruptcy, no matter what the chapter. You must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust. That is the website of the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a “means test.” This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program at www.usdoj.gov/ust.