Why You’re Better Off Buying Insurance Through an Insurance Broker or Agent

insurance brokerDo you try to go the do-it-yourself route when it comes to buying insurance? Some people do, thinking that they can get a better deal. But whether you are buying life, health, auto, homeowners, or any other type of insurance, you’re generally better off buying through a broker or agent than going it alone.

For the record, I’m not in the insurance business, nor do I represent anyone who is. This is just one of those little facts in life that I’ve become aware of though the school hard knocks. It’s well worth passing on to others.

3 Reasons Some People Don’t Use Brokers or Agents

People sometimes feel that they will be dealing with certain disadvantages when working with a broker or agent. Some of the areas of concern include:

1. They think the cost might be higher.

The general assumption is that you will pay more for an insurance policy since the broker or agent works on commission. It’s often believed that the broker or agent’s commission will be added on top of the cost of the policy, resulting in higher annual premiums.

2. They think they might be steered into policies that are in the agent or broker’s best interest, not theirs.

There is also the widespread belief that agents and brokers will steer customers into policies that they themselves prefer. The reason for the preference could be the possibility that the broker or agent will want to place your policy with a company that pays the highest commission, rather than the best policy for you.

3. They think they might have to deal with a hard sell.

Most of us would probably rather go to the dentist for a cleaning then spend an hour alone with the salesperson. We don’t like the hard-sell treatment when we’re trying to make important financial decisions. It can make us nervous, and cause us to make decisions that we wouldn’t otherwise. And in fact, some people feel just plain intimidated by strong sales pitches.

While there could be some truth in each of these concerns, most often our fears are exaggerated. There are solid reasons why you should prefer working with a broker or agent any time you buy insurance of any kind.

You Don’t Pay Extra Using a Broker or Agent

Surprise! Generally speaking, you’ll pay no more for an insurance policy that you buy through a broker or agent than you will for one that you obtain on your own.

Insurance brokers and agents work on much the same basis that travel agents do (or at least did, when there were more travel agents around). Much like airlines, hotels, and car rental companies working with travel agents, insurance companies make their products available to brokers and agents on a discounted basis.

The same policy that you might buy for $1,000 per year, can be had through a broker or agent for the same price. As an inducement to attract business from brokers or agents, an insurance company will make their products available to them at a lower price. The insurance company will accept the policy from the broker or agent at the same premium rate you would pay anyway, but they might pay a 15% to 20% premium to the broker out of the proceeds.

It works such that you will pay no more by using a broker or agent than you would if you purchase the policy directly from the insurance company yourself.

There is a big reason why you should happily accept that the broker or agent is being paid a commission on your policy too . . . .

The Broker Knows the Business Better than You Do

Unless you work in the insurance industry yourself, a broker or agent knows the business much better than you do. That’s important since insurance policies are far more complicated than most of us understand. This is especially true when it comes to health insurance, auto insurance, and virtually any type of business insurance.

You can simply explain to the broker or agent what kind of coverage that you want, and it will be their job to find the type of policy you want at a price you can afford. They may even tell you that such a policy is not available, which will save you a lot of time and money shopping around.

You’ll Likely Pay Less Using a Broker

Given that agents and brokers work on commission, it seems like a contradiction in terms that you would pay less for an insurance policy by using one them instead of doing it yourself. But that is actually more likely true than not.

Because brokers and agents know the business, they also know where the better-priced policies are. At any given point in time, there’ll be some insurance companies who will be particularly aggressive in an attempt to increase business – and others who are looking to reduce their exposure. The broker will know who the aggressive companies are, and you may save money on your policy as a result.

The important distinction is making sure that the broker or agent is independent and not a representative of a single company. They should be working with dozens of different insurance companies, to make sure you get both the best price and terms.

A Broker or Agent Can Deal With the Insurance Company Regarding a Claim

Still another advantage is that a broker or agent can be your contact person going forward. The broker or agent speaks “the language” of the insurance industry, which is something that the rest of us don’t. It can be a huge advantage going forward, particularly if there any issues in the future. The broker can intervene on your behalf, and either improve the situation or move you to a different policy.

When you need to buy insurance, do you seek out a broker or agent? Or do you prefer to do it yourself? Leave a comment!

Car Loans or Credit Cards – Which Do You Pay Off First?

credit cardsWe can all agree that paying off debt – any debt – is a good thing. But specific tactics for paying off debt are usually open to debate. There are various debt payoff strategies, such as the debt snowball, that simply have you paying off the smallest debt first, then working your way up.

But when you have a variety of debts – which most people do – that includes both credit cards and car loans, do you still use the debt snowball?

The complication is that not all debts are created equal. Some debts are more threatening than others, while paying other debts can lead to quicker improvement in your financial situation. That’s often the case with car loans and credit cards. So which do you pay off first?

The Advantages of Paying Off Credit Cards First

On the surface, paying off credit cards first seems to be the default choice, and there plenty of reasons for this.

1. Credit cards usually have higher interest rates.

While car loans typically have low single-digit fixed rates, credit card rates can run well into double digits. That would seem to make credit cards the natural first choice.

2. Credit cards are variable rate loans.

Car loans are fixed rate, while credit cards are variable. Even if you start with a low single-digit rate – even zero interest – the variable factor means that there is plenty of room for rates to go toward the upside. Credit cards are something of an interest rate ticking time bomb!

3. The revolving nature of credit cards.

Another factor with car loans is the term. Even if it runs as long as six years, it’s still certain that the loan will be completely paid off within that timeframe. Credit cards on the other hand are revolving arrangements that can keep you owing money on them for many years, particularly if you only make minimum payments.

4. Credit cards can be annoying!

Few other credit arrangements so raise our “debt awareness” as credit cards. There is a term in the lending industry: Once a Visa, always a Visa – and it brings the point home. Credit cards seem to hang around, even as other fixed-term loans are long gone. If you have multiple debts, it will be natural to want to knock out as many credit cards as possible.

The Advantages of Paying Off Your Car Loan First

Despite the usual reasons for wanting to pay off credit cards, there are equally compelling reasons for paying off car loans.

1. A car loan is probably your biggest single debt payment.

Next to your house payment, your car loan is probably your largest monthly payment. Paying off the loan and getting rid of the payment may be the single best step you can take to lower your overall debt. The money that you will save as a result of the nonexistent car payment can then be plowed into paying off credit cards, which will make that process go much quicker.

2. Payment-to-balance ratio is usually high with car loans.

Relative to the amount of the loan balance, a car payment is typically much higher than credit cards. For example, while you might pay $200 per month on a credit line with a $10,000 balance, the payment on a car loan with a similar balance can easily be $400 per month. Paying off your car loan can be the equivalent of paying off several credit cards – at least as far as the monthly payment is concerned.

3. It frees up a strategic asset.

For the vast majority of people, a car is a strategic asset in that it’s completely necessary in order for you to earn a living. This is true whether you commute to a job, or if you have a business that requires the use of your car. Owning the car free and clear eliminates the possibility of losing the car to creditors. And that’s important because the loss of the car could seriously impair your income, and not just your credit standing.

4. It will leave you in a better position to buy your next car.

You can never know when your car will break down and need to be replaced. But at least if you own the car free and clear, you’ll be in a better position to make a larger down payment on the next one. That will leave you in an improved future debt position! If your car is 100% financed, or worse, you’re upside down on the equity, you’ll have to scramble for cash to come up with the down payment. Owning the car free and clear will leave you ready for whatever may happen.

The Choice Depends on Personal Circumstances

Each of the advantages – whether they apply to paying off credit cards or your car loan first – will depend upon your own personal circumstances.

If the size of your car loan is larger than your combined credit card balances, paying off your car loan may have the greatest positive impact on your overall financial situation. Or, if you put a lot of mileage on your car, and replacement is more likely, paying it off will be a priority.

On the other hand, if your credit card balances are large and threatening to get out of control, it may be best to start with paying those first.

In a perfect world, we should concentrate on paying off all debts equally. But we’re not equally affected by all the loans that we have. That’s where a priority needs to be developed.

What’s your opinion? Which loan type would you prioritize for payoff, a car loan or credit cards? Are there any reasons you can think of that I haven’t cited here? Leave a comment!

Can You Get Discounts for Paying Cash?

discountsNow that the use of credit cards and debit cards has become so universally accepted, we can often forget that paying cash offers certain benefits. Some merchants and businesses may provide a discount for cash for a variety of reasons that we don’t normally think of.

Though we often associate merchants accepting cash as being primarily a tax dodge, there are actually very tangible reasons why a business might do it – and even provide you with a discount to encourage you to pay cash.

Cash Eliminates Credit Card Fees

Credit cards and debit cards are quick and easy – no doubt about that. But from a business owner standpoint, they also charge fees. These fees are typically in the 2% to 3% range, but a merchant might offer a discount for cash simply because they are tired of paying fees to the bank.

From a psychological standpoint, accepting cash may be the merchant’s way of “sticking it to the banks.” It may enable them to feel less dependent upon banks for their living.

Cash Eliminates Chargebacks

When accepting credit cards, merchants have to be concerned about the potential for chargebacks by the customer. If you return an item that you paid cash for, you’ll have to dispute the transaction directly with the merchant. But if you go through the credit card company, they can initiate a chargeback against the merchant with very little input from the merchant. This is especially prevalent with service-type businesses.

When a business accepts credit cards, they can never be entirely certain that all of their sales will remain intact. A certain number will be charged back in any given month, and that will reduce profitability and the overall benefit of accepting credit cards.

The Merchant Doesn’t Have to Wait for Payment

Most businesses need payment yesterday! Accepting credit cards often involves a delay in receipt of income for several days or longer. If it accepts checks, it will have to wait for the checks to clear before accessing the money. As a result, the business may accept cash if for no other reason than it has immediate financial needs.

The advantage to cash is that it is both immediate and unconditional. The business owner can spend the money as soon as it is received. And if they deposit it in the bank, the access is immediate since there is no need to wait for funds to clear.

Certain Merchants are More Cash Dependent than Others

It’s without question that some businesses are more dependent on cash than others. A merchant may operate in a business environment that typically requires cash, rather than checks or credit cards. It could be a tradition of the business, or it could be more tangible reasons.

For example, if a business operates largely with immigrant labor, its employees may insist upon being paid in cash. This is often because the employees don’t have a banking relationship and would be forced to rely upon check-cashing services otherwise. The business owner may find it impossible to hire employees if they pay them in anything other than cash. Since payroll often consumes a significant percentage (and often the largest) of a businesses cash flow, the need for cold, hard cash may be particularly high.

Still another situation may involve the merchant’s personal financial situation. If they have financial problems – particularly credit issues – payments in cash may be especially welcome. The immediate nature of cash will make it easier to handle debt payments and other obligations.

Merchants that are Most Likely to Give a Cash Discount

For starters, let’s eliminate the businesses that are unlikely to provide cash discounts. These would include large chain operations and likely most franchise businesses as well. And obviously paying in cash would not garner any favor in paying tax bills, loan payments or utilities.

As to the businesses that are likely to welcome cash – and provide a discount – this would include any small, privately-owned businesses. This can include retail merchants, restaurants, repair services, housekeeping services, and even medical providers.

Though paying with cash has become much less conventional than it used to be, there are plenty of businesses that would be more than happy to provide a discount if you did.

How much of a discount should you expect? Some businesses may provide no discount at all, while others may offer discounts as high as 10% or 20%. It will all depend upon factors behind the scenes (as discussed above) that the businesses are dealing with.

Try offering cash in exchange for a discount for any payments you make to any privately-owned businesses. The worst they can say is “no,” but they may say “yes” – and then you’ll save some money.

Do you ever try to work out cash for a discount? Or are you strictly a credit/debit payer? Leave a comment!

How to Choose Keywords for Your Resume

ResumeIt’s tough out there for job hunters. If you are looking for a new job, you need to make your resume stand out. And one way to do that is to include keywords. Not only can the right keywords on your resume cue a human resume reader to your fitness for a position, but they can also be helpful if some sort of digital filtering process is used.

Including keywords on your resume indicates that you understand the position and that you are qualified for it. If you want want to send the right impression to a potential employer, you need to include keywords.

Use Keywords that Reflect Your Skills

First of all, consider your skills. What are your strengths? What have you done in previous positions? As you ponder this information, remember to include any job titles, professional organization memberships, jargon, words used to describe certain job responsibilities, certifications and degrees, and types of services. If you know that you will need to show your proficiency with certain software programs, list what packages you can competently use. Consider other skills that you have, including soft skills that might prove useful.

Write down these words that describe you and keep them in mind. These are words that might match a job description!

Read Job Descriptions

Next, go through the job postings to find positions that suit your qualifications. You can look at old and new postings, and even postings that you don’t intend to apply for. You will likely notice that certain words are used over and over again in ads for similar positions. Note those keywords, since they are the likeliest candidates for inclusion on your resume.

You should also look at the specific job description that you plan to apply for. What skills, certifications, and past experience are required for the position? Make sure you use words that show how you fit well with that position. Your resume should include something that highlights all of the qualifications listed in the job description. Make a list of a few words that appear prominent and important in describing the qualifications of the successful candidate. Then, match up those with the words that describe you. Tweak if necessary to ensure that your skills fit the keywords that you plan to use but be honest!

Inserting the Keywords in Your Resume

Rather than simply listing duties and responsibilities, you should make an effort to show dynamism. This means using action verbs that show you doing something. Pair your keywords with an action verb. This shows that you have accomplished something solid. Simply sharing a responsibility isn’t nearly as interesting as showing what you’ve accomplished. Additionally, the old list format doesn’t really allow you to focus on keywords. Rework your resume so that each qualification starts out with an action word, and remember to add keywords that highlight your expertise.

Also, realize that you can include keywords in the headings for various sections, as well as in other areas. Don’t forget, too, to add keywords to your cover letter. With a little planning, you can identify the keywords that are most likely to be associated with a qualified candidate and tweak your resume so that you appear to be close to the ideal person for the position.

What keywords would you use to describe yourself and your abilities? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published September 28, 2012.

11 Tax-Deductible Expenses During Business Trips

tax deductible expenses folderOne of the great things about traveling for business is that what you spend, in many cases, is tax deductible. As I write this, I’m on my way to the Financial Blogger Conference (also called FinCon), where I will learn some new things, make a few business deals, and have a great time connecting with people I consider my friends.

It’s a great experience, in a city I’ve never been to, and some of the costs are offset by the fact that they are tax deductible.

What Business Travel Costs Can You Deduct?

Whether you are traveling for a conference, or traveling for some other reason, your business expenses are tax deductible. This means that you can reduce your income by the amount that you spend on your business trip. Here are some deductible expenses while you’re on a business trip:

  1. Airfare
  2. Hotel
  3. Rental car
  4. Ground transportation
  5. Dry cleaning
  6. Conference registration
  7. Mileage if you drive your own car
  8. A portion of your meals
  9. What you pay to entertain business associates or clients (double check though, since not everything is tax deductible)
  10. Parking
  11. Internet access and other business services at your hotel or the conference center

You can ask a knowledgeable tax professional about what else might be tax deductible for your trip.

Getting the Most Out of a Business Travel Tax Deduction

You want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your ability to use business expense deductions, so it makes sense to keep good records. The IRS will want to see the records anyway. Keep all of your receipts. You can use an application like Shoeboxed to help you sort them. I just keep them in a folder at home, after entering them into my desktop personal finance software. I am able to mark business expenses, so during tax time I just get a report and use my receipts as backup.

You should keep other records as well. If you have a business lunch, and you want to deduct a portion of the meal’s cost, it can be a good idea to jot down notes about who you met with, and what you talked about. If you are driving your car, you want to properly record your mileage. Use odometer readings to help you.

Remember that a tax deduction is not a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of your tax liability. Indeed, while you can offset some of the cost of your business trip, you are not traveling for free. Keep this in mind. Don’t go on a trip that you pay for unless you had planned on it, or unless you can see benefit in it. Your business trip should be something that you have planned on, and would take anyway.

Be aware that if you are on a business trip that your company reimburses you for, you can’t take the tax deduction. You can only deduct business travel expenses that you were not compensated for. I recently went to Houston as part of a book project I’m working on. Since the client paid all the costs, I can’t deduct the cost of the trip on my taxes (but he can).

As long as you are careful about your travel, and you are engaged in activities for your business, you can enjoy yourself and reap a tax benefit.

What are some other business tax deductions you can take? Leave a comment!

2 Main Ways to Pay Down Debt: The Siege and the Assault

debt siegeIf you have debt, chances are that one of your financial goals is to get rid of it. Debt can be overwhelming, especially since you pay so much in interest that it reduces the effectiveness of your payments. As a result, it can become disheartening as you try to pay it all off.

A plan can help your efforts, though. When you have a plan to reduce your debt, you have a direction and a purpose. That can make a big difference. Map out what you want to accomplish, and as you follow your plan, you will see your debt begin to disappear.

Two approaches you can take to paying down your debt are the debt siege and the debt assault.

The Debt Siege

A siege is all about wearing down your opponent. It may take a little bit of time, but eventually, if you keep at it, you are likely to be victorious. The debt siege works the same way. You wear down your debt over time.

With the debt siege, you figure out how much money you can put toward paying down your debt, and then pay that money each month until your debt is gone. You will need to figure out how much money you can put toward your debts each month in order for this to work. Here are the steps to follow as you prepare for your debt siege:

  1. Look at your income.
  2. List your expenses.
  3. Figure out which expenses can be cut (hint: the average household wastes 10% to 15% of its income).
  4. Decide how much extra money is available to put toward your debt each month.

Once you know how much money you can put toward your debt every month, budget that in. This becomes a non-negotiable expense. You pay off your debt before you spend money on “fun” items. If you want to speed up the effectiveness of the debt siege, you can do so by looking for ways to earn more money with a side hustle, or through a part-time job.

The Debt Assault

If you think that the debt siege technique is going to take too long, you might consider the debt assault! This method of debt reduction involves taking a very aggressive approach toward paying down your debt and it requires more sacrifice up front.

In the debt assault, you decide when you want to have your debt paid off by. You choose a realistic date, based on how large your debt load is. You can even make a stretch goal if you want. There are stories of people who have paid of tens of thousands of dollars of debt in less than two years.

Once you figure out when you want your debt paid off by, it’s time to go to work on your goal. The debt assault requires that you do whatever it takes to reduce your debt in the specified amount of time. Sell most of your stuff (and maybe even your house). Get a second job. Cut out every unnecessary expenditures. Reuse as much as you can.

The debt assault can be one of the fastest ways to pay off debt because you pull no punches. You make paying down your debt top priority, and then sacrifice until you have no more debt. The process can be more painful – at first – than the gentler debt siege, but if you can stick with it for between one and three years, the results are amazing. Plus, the faster you pay off debt, the less you pay, over time, in interest.

Which Should You Choose?

Consider your situation and decide what method of debt reduction would work best for you. For many people, making a big change and attacking debt head on to get rid of it as soon as possible is preferable. In some cases (especially if you have children or other obligations) the debt assault in its most extreme form may not be practical. The debt siege is easier to handle, and doesn’t require major lifestyle adjustments. Either of these methods can be tweaked to fit your circumstances.

Which debt elimination method will you choose? Explain in the comments!

This article was originally published October 9th, 2012.

How to Sell Your House Without a Realtor

sell your houseOne of the advantages of having a real estate agent sell your home is that you have access to their expertise. In addition the agent is working on your behalf so that you don’t have to do as much with the nuts and bolts of selling your home. The biggest downside is the fact that you have to pay a commission.

Many real estate agents take a 5% to 6% commission on a home. On a $180,000 sale, 5% is $9,000 – that’s money not going into your pocket. Whether realtors are worth it is a topic we’ve discussed before and it really depends on your personal situation.

However, if you’ve decided not to use a real estate agent to sell your house, here are some things to consider.

1. Understand the market.

Research your area and understand the local market. Find out what comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for. You can also ask a couple of real estate agents to come by and give you some analysis. If you are up front about your desire to sell the home on your own, some may pay you a visit. They want to leave a good impression just in case you get tired of trying to go it alone. Get a realistic idea of what you can expect for your home and try to avoid pricing it too high.

2. Advertise your home.

You can’t sell your home if no one knows it’s for sale. To spread the word, you’ll need to advertise your property.

You can do this with ads in the local classifieds, which can be quite reasonable. You can also list online with a service like For Sale By Owner. These cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000, depending on the service and what is included. Some sort of listing is a good idea, since it will make your home more searchable in databases used by real estate agents and buyers when they are looking for homes.

For the best exposure you can have your home included in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) by agreeing to pay the commission of the buyer’s agent when your house sells. This is typically about 3% of the sale price – which is still a lot of money but better than 6%.

If you have some free time and want to be creative, you can take pictures of your home, and put them online on a website or blog of your own. Getting people to your site will be the trick but if you’re creative enough you might be able to draw attention from local media or local bloggers.

3. Know the paperwork.

Perhaps the most difficult portion of selling your home without a real estate agent is making sure that the paperwork is in order. You can get help on this from a trusted attorney, preferrably one with experience dealing in real estate.

The legal fees you’ll pay won’t be cheap but will be less than what you would pay in commission. You can do the paperwork yourself, but you need to make sure that you are in compliance with all the state and federal laws that apply. Take some time to educate yourself about these things before you begin.

4. Prepare to work hard.

Selling your home is hard work. Be prepared to show the home, negotiate, and keep it clean. You may need to stage your house or enhance its curb appeal. You also need to be ready to put in the hours necessary to educate yourself and properly advertise your home. If you are prepared, you can sell your home on your own – and save yourself the commission fee.

Are you thinking about selling your house on your own? What questions might you have? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published May 6th, 2011.

4 Reasons to Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report

credit reportYou probably understand how important your credit report is. You know that it’s a record of your credit activities, and that it’s used to establish your credit score, and that others look to your credit report for information about how fiscally responsible you are likely to be.

However, even if you understand the importance of your credit report, you might not be keeping tabs on it as often as you should. Here are some good reasons to check your credit report on a regular basis:

1. Catch identity theft.

One of the first indications that your identity has been stolen might appear in your credit report. If someone is using your name and Social Security number to open new accounts, you might not know, since the statements could be going to a different address.

If you check your credit report regularly, you can see when new accounts – accounts that you know you didn’t open – appear. You’ll catch identity theft sooner, and be able to address the problem.

2. Fix mistakes.

Studies indicate that a somewhat substantial number of credit reports contain errors that can impact consumer credit scores. Certain errors on your credit report can result in you not getting a loan, or not getting the interest rate that you want.

Check your credit report regularly to figure out whether or not something is inaccurate. Fix mistakes as soon as possible so that you don’t end up being held accountable for problems you didn’t cause.

3. Prepare for a major loan.

There are some very large loans that require good credit – at least if you want the best possible terms. Before you apply for a large loan, especially if that large loan is a mortgage, you should check your credit history. You want to make sure that everything is in order, and you need to identify problem spots and fix them before they hinder your efforts.

Checking your credit, and then making sure that you have as good credit as possible, you can ensure that you are getting the best deal for your loan. Good credit can mean savings as large as thousands of dollars over the life of the loan when you get the best possible interest rate.

4. Track your financial progress.

Checking your credit report can also help you track your financial progress over time. If you have fair credit, you can check your credit report regularly as a way to keep you motivated to make positive changes in your financial life. Watch as your payment history improves, and as sketchy loans from your past drop off. This can offer you a bit of encouragement to keep making positive changes with your finances.

Remember to check your credit report regularly. You are entitled to a free report from each of the major credit bureaus once a year via annualcreditreport.com. If you aren’t too worried about your report, you can stagger when you get your free reports so that you get one report every four months from a different bureau. However, if you want to check more often, you might need to be prepared to pay a little more.

Are you keeping tabs on your credit report? Why or why not? What are some other reasons one might want to track their credit report? Leave a comment!

4 Ways to Use Social Media to Advance Your Career

social mediaThere are plenty of people who think that social media is only for playing annoying games and sharing the meaningless minutiae of life. When used properly, social media can actually help you advance your career. It’s just one more way you can get ahead at work!

Social media is not only a way for you to keep in touch; it’s also a way for you to make connections and find others who can help you with your career. When you leverage your social media accounts properly, you can improve your career.

Here are a few ideas for using social media as an effective tool for career advancement:

1. Be consistent in your social media profiles.

Make sure that your profiles are consistent across social media accounts. You should use the same avatar and handle for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts. Make sure that what you use sounds professional.

Also, be consistent in the voice you use. Make sure that it is yours! You want the articles, blog posts, and comments you make on your social media networks to be sincere and to “sound” like you.

2. Use keywords in your social media statuses.

Chances are, you have a pretty good idea of the keywords associated with your profession. What words are likely to be searched in relation to your industry? What are the topics of interest? Create a plan that allows you to use keywords on occasion (without being spammy). Naturally include them when you make observations about the current state of things in your industry.

What you share on Twitter and LinkedIn shouldn’t just be about what you had for lunch or what you plan to do with the kids this weekend. Think about what is happening in your industry and make thoughtful, articulate comments that show your insight. It’s important to have these comments out there, including in articles and blog posts you write, so that someone searching for this information, or running background checks on you, can see that you are competent and knowledgeable in your field.

3. Network with others.

The whole point of social media is to network. Use social media to your advantage by networking with people who have similar interests. You can not only write articles on your own blog regarding a relevant topic, but you can also offer guest posts to peers.

Join LinkedIn groups that are related to your industry and participate! You can connect directly with other group members without the need for intervening second and third connections. This can be a great way to make new connections that might be able to help you later. You can also look for Facebook pages with similar interests, or follow someone you want to connect with on Twitter retweeting what they share on occasion (try not to become a social media stalker).

4. Be sure to give.

Remember, though, that you have to give as well as receive. If you want people to share your blog posts and participate with your content, you need to participate with other’s content. You should also share good information for free. Don’t ask for a lot, but give. Eventually it will come back to you in a positive way, allowing you to make good connections, and even improve your career.

You never know: That hiring manager on LinkedIn could decide that you are just what they are looking for due to the professionalism of your online resume and the insights you share during group discussions.

Have you used social media to advance your career? How so? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published September 25th, 2012.

Get Your Finances in Order Today – Before Things Get Worse!

finances in orderWhen you feel overwhelmed, it is often difficult to become motivated to take action. This is especially true when you feel as though your finances are a mess. Disorderly finances cause problems, and can cost you more in the long run.

Even though it seems an insurmountable task, it is best to get your finances together as quickly as you can. Organize your finances now, and you can begin digging out of debt sooner, or get on the right financial path for a successful future.

Importance of Organizing Your Finances

One of the biggest reasons that people overrun their incomes, and find themselves paying overdraft fees or getting into debt is that they don’t know what is happening with their finances. When you don’t know where your money comes from, and how it moves through your personal economy, you set yourself up for failure.

Without the knowledge of where your money has been – and where it is going – it becomes easy to spend more than you earn. Plus, without the proper organization and planning, you could easily spend money on things that you don’t need (and perhaps don’t even want).

When you organize your finances, you can see your fixed expenses, track your spending, and make plans for a more successful financial future. Putting off getting your finances in order can lead to a future of indebtedness and an inability to meet your money objectives for important milestones like retirement.

Take the Time to Organize Your Finances

Once you realize that your financial situation needs help, start by organizing your finances. If you haven’t done much in terms of planning your finances in the past, this might actually take some time. It’s worth it to block out two or three hours (or more) to get the basic organizational structure of your financial life in place.

In order to make things easier, set up a budget app on your computer. You can use software that is meant for your computer, or you can sign up for a free account with some sort of web application. It is possible to find a number of free and freemium money management programs that can help you keep track of your money, create budgets and even plan for the future.

Keep track of your checking account(s), of course, but you should also set up a way to track your savings, and your credit cards. You can also track your investments if you want (although you may want to set those up on another day).

Start by figuring out where you stand. Set up your software to show you where your money is right now, and then, from this point forward, begin tracking all of your spending. Even on your credit cards. Go back through bank statements and credit card statements to see what you have been spending your money on.

Look for money leaks; most of us waste money on items of little importance. Once your identify these leaks, you can try to avoid spending on those things in the future. And, of course, keeping track of your spending in your personal finance software will help you cut back on the spending that leads you to overrun your income regularly.

Bottom Line

The longer you wait to organize your finances, the worse your situation will become. The costs in fees – as well as the lost opportunity costs for saving and investing – will add up to quite a bit. Take the time now to get your finances in order, and you will be better equipped to plan for success with your money.

What do you need to get in order? What are your financial goals, and how do you plan on achieving them? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published on February 16, 2012.

Page 18 of 190« First...10...1617181920...304050...Last »