5 reasons to sell your house quickly

Here’s a UK perspective on selling your house quickly – it’s an interesting (and sobering) look at a serious situation.

Although nobody wants it to happen, for whatever reason you may be stuck in a situation where you need to sell your house quickly. Here are some of the reasons that you may have to sell your house quickly.

1) Divorce
The latest report from the Office of National Statistics has shown that the number of divorces in England and Wales is continuing to fall, but again, those in their twenties show the highest rates of divorce. The breakdown of a relationship is never pleasant, and often those young people who are ending a marriage will be unable to keep up mortgage payments separately, or afford to buy out their former partner. In these cases, the house must be sold, and the quicker it is sold, the quicker they can move on with their lives.

2) Illness
Illness or accident can take a financial toll on a family. Often families in these situations will choose to downsize to a home that is both more affordable and easier to take care of. In these situations a quick sale is always desirable, as it leaves families with more time to devote to the well-being of the ill person.

3) Debt
The latest research by Aviva found that on average, UK families have debt to the value of half their annual household income. That shocking statistic makes it clear why some families might choose to sell their home as quickly as possible so that they can downsize to a more affordable property and pay off some or all of their other debts. The quicker they can sell their home the less they will need to pay in interest.

4) Inheriting a property
When you inherit a property you may have to take over the mortgage payments or perform upkeep on it. Regardless of whether you want to continue living in your old home or move to the property you have inherited, you may find that you need to sell one of the properties quickly in order to keep above water on your mortgage payments.

5) Leaving the country
More and more of us are considering emigrating to another country. In fact, a recent survey, as covered by the Telegraph, found that nine in ten of us would seriously consider leaving the country some time in the next five years. While it might seem that this would allow a lot of planning, in fact you may need to pick up and leave quickly when you are offered a job. The last thing you want is to have to pay the mortgage on two properties at once while you wait for your old house to sell.

 

thinking big about investing

heights

heights

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

When beginning any sort of ambitious self-improvement project – be it paying down credit card debt, learning a new skill, improving your health or reading the 100 greatest books of all time – you should have a clear idea of when to cut your losses and try a different path.

I have seen many people attempt to avoid quitting at all costs. You know the type – your friend who insists on watching the movie to the end.  Your cousin who will eat the same dish that gave him heartburn last time.  People who furiously pay down debt by directing every last penny to their debts while eating Ramen noodles.  Being someone who can stick to a goal and achieve it is admirable.  But there are times when it’s not admirable.  Being someone who sticks to a goal that no longer has a clear benefit is foolish.

The best example in terms of personal finance can usually be found in investing.
Many investors will establish a pattern of investing that suits them, and then defend that pattern to others (and to themselves) even if it doesn’t work.  A good example is mutual fund investing (or even investing in stocks).  The conventional wisdom is that “market gurus” exist.  Bill Miller’s Legg Mason Value Trust beat the market for 15 years and looked like a gold mine (and made Bill Miller a rich man).  Since 2005, though, that fund has lost 60% of its value.  The truth is that index fund investing is the investing pattern with the best possible return for a non-knowledgeable investor.  But far too many people continue to cling to the idea that the market can be “beaten.”  It can’t, unless you’ve got the time to focus on studying the market 24/7.

A foolish consistency – an attempt to hew to a failed philosophy – is going to be the road to failure for most of us. If what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s unlikely that it’s going to improve.  I know that persistence is considered to be a virtue, but in investing or life it isn’t.  You have to admit that what you’re doing isn’t working sometimes, and try to find an alternative.  In investing, this is called cutting your losses.  If you invest 10,000 and lose 2000, you need a 25% gain to recoup your 20% loss.  Think about that.

So think bigger. Think about moving past goals.  Think about ambition and think about money like something new, every day.  I’m constantly reevaluating my goals and my ideas about how to generate (and grow) my money, but not as much as I should.  If you get to a point where you’re comfortable, you’re in bad shape.  Life requires growth, in one form or another.  Think bigger.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by striatic

how to book hotels without emptying your wallet

One of the biggest hindrances to planning a trip is figuring out where you can stay during your travels that won’t break the bank. Finding a clean, convenient, and, last but not least, affordable hotel shouldn’t take up all your time, and it shouldn’t be a hassle. But who has time to compare dozens of hotel websites, or even dozens of hotel bargain finders online?

That’s where a hotel finder like Excellent Hotels comes into play. Excellent Hotels has relationships with over 35,000 hotels in over 130 countries worldwide.  Simply enter your destination, the duration of your trip and how many people are involved. Excellent Hotels will combine the best elements of selection, price and service to find the perfect hotel for your budget. And whether you’re looking for hotels in New York, hotels in Paris or hotels in Montreal, you’ll get a varied selection of 3 to 5 star hotels. Excellent Hotels has also partnered with Auto Europe, a leader in worldwide car rental services. Auto Europe has over 8,000 car rental locations in all Excellent Hotel countries, and can help you book discount car rentals, chauffer and transfer services, and prestige and sports car rentals.

If you’re looking for something especially fancy, Excellent Hotels is the exclusive distributor of Châteaux and Hotels Collection and Exclusive Hotels brands in Europe. Exclusive Hotels offers accommodation options in Paris and the surrounding French region. The majority of the lodgings offer amenities like spas, golf courses and gourmet dining. With the Châteaux and Hotels Collection, you can choose from over 500 hotels, mostly in Francy, Italy, Spain and Portugal. These hotels always fall into the category of luxury hotel, a historic building, a hotel in the heart of the city or a hotel in the heart of the countryside. Through them, you can find prestigious and unique hotels that allow you experience Europe to the max – without the price problem.

To save extra time, we can do the booking and planning for you – no matter whether the trip is concerned with business, pleasure or group travel. Excellent Hotels specialists are standing by toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call them today to see what they can do for you.

Top 5 Career Paths in Computer Forensics

computer forensics

computer forensics

Cybercrime is on the rise, so more and more people are needed in the world of computer forensics. Thieves and criminals now see computers as the best way to steal money or information that can in turn lead to money. With all of the easy information that is available, they are not far from the truth. You no longer have to rob someone in person in order to take their money. You can do it over the internet as long as you know what you are doing. Fortunately, there are many people working around the clock to catch criminals of this nature. If you want to contribute to this effort, you should think about one of the top five careers that are listed below.

You should note that it is hard to pin down specific career paths since they are always changing. As computers and computer crime evolve, computer forensics careers will do the same. Make sure that you keep looking into new opportunities besides the ones that you see listed here.

1. Be a Team Manager

First of all, you could be a team manager, working with multiple people under you to hunt down criminals. Most of the jobs after this describe the people who would be working for you. It would be your job to make sure that they all work together so that their efforts are coordinated.

2. Gather Evidence

You could choose a career gathering the digital evidence that can be found in many different places. You will have to know how to search through laptops, flash drives, portable hard drives, and all other places where information can be stored. You will then compile this evidence for trials and cases.

3. Computer Tracing

Even though cyber criminals can be elusive, computers can be tracked. You will need to use IP addresses and digital evidence to track actions back to a user. With this information, the person’s location can be obtained and they can be arrested.

4. Hacking Through Security

Many criminals will use security measures such as encryption keys and firewalls. You will need to hack through these. Once you get through, information about these people can be gathered and used to build a case for prosecution.

5. Updating Security

Your team will also need to have up-to-date security systems to make sure that criminals do not attack you. Your job will be to work constantly to make sure that your security systems are robust and current.

Computers have changed the world of business, and, in doing so, they have changed the world of crime. Law enforcement agencies have been forced to react and adapt to this new style of crime, and people who work in computer forensics divisions are the first line of defense. If you choose a career like this, you will be able to help keep order. You will help uphold the laws. You can be sure that your career will make you feel happy and fulfilled at the end of the day because you will be getting a good salary to make the world a better place.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by Bruce Guenter

Layaway Plans – Good or Bad?

By Beth Montgomery

With the closely approaching holiday season, you may be considering the layaway programs so many companies have implemented in their retail stores. While these programs may seem appealing, it may be better for you to save up the money on your own and pay for your gifts in full later. Years ago, before the common use of credit cards, layaway programs were quite popular. Now that the economy has taken a downturn and more people are unable to establish credit, these programs are making a comeback through retail stores like Toys R Us, Sears, KMart, and now WalMart. Layaway allows shoppers to reserve items in the store and pay in installments without incurring interest or affecting the customer’s credit score. With one out of every seven consumers already using 80% of their credit limit, I wonder if it is smart to encourage these types of programs. Financial education has taken a back burner in our society, and this lack of knowledge isn’t helping the average consumer and their spending habits. On the other hand, people are having a hard time with the holidays during this recession, and some don’t have the option of using credit. For these people, financial illiteracy isn’t the problem. Layaway programs could help them through these difficult times because layaway allows them to buy their gifts without finance charges and with the ability to spread out the payments.

Pros of Layaway Programs

Sometimes, it can be easier for consumers to see a list of the facts related to a decision. Here is a list of the many advantages to layaway programs.

  • The cost is divided into several payments. The full amount doesn’t need to be presented at one time.
  • Fees added to the total cost of the items put on layaway are usually much cheaper than the monthly interest possible on a credit card.
  • You can set aside holiday gifts before they go out of stock.
  • The shopping rush that can happen over the holiday season can be avoided.
  • Impulse purchases can be realized and you have the option of backing out of buying an item (for a fee in some cases).
  • Failed payments will not reflect on your credit report
  • You can plan ahead for other special occasions (showers, weddings, birthdays, etc.)
  • More expensive items are available for purchase when a maxed-out credit card may have prevented that purchase before layaway.
  • The retailer stores the items. It isn’t necessary for you to find space in your own home.
  • Responsible use of layaway could help those who have a hard time managing money. It is necessary for them to plan ahead and make payments in order to get what they have bought.
  • You can put an item on layaway while it is on sale and keep that sale price, and if the price goes down during the layaway period, you may be able to get the item for that lower price (in some cases).

Cons of Layaway Programs

There are also many disadvantages to layaway programs. Before you decide to put any purchases on layaway, you should consider all of these cons.

  • Inexpensive items placed on layaway could result in fees equal to or greater than a credit card interest rate.
  • The store policy may require the initial price of an item be paid, even if the item goes on sale during the layaway period.
  • Fees attached to layaway programs can get expensive. These fees can range from $5 to $150 or more.
  • It is easier for undisciplined consumers to spend more than they can afford.
  • If the store goes out of business, the items and the money paid for layaway could be very difficult or even impossible to get back.
  • If payments aren’t made, the money already spent on the items placed on layaway could be lost, but will most likely be reimbursed in store credit or with a gift card.
  • Some consumers use credit cards to make payments on their layaway plan, which defeats the purpose.
  • Temptations to buy more items could arise when you go to the store to make a layaway payment.
  • Some say that if a customer can’t pay for something all at once, then they shouldn’t be making that kind of purchase in the first place.

Layaway programs can be a good option if they are used properly. However, the best way for anyone to buy holiday or other gifts is always with cash. Saving up your money and then making a major purchase will always be more satisfying than a layaway program.

Beth Montgomery is an author working for a company that focuses on financial education. Her articles relate to business, finance, and credit options for all credit ratings.

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by DaMongMan

Getting A Loan With A Bad Credit Score

Obtaining access to financing has gotten a whole lot more difficult over the last few years. It can be tough for a person with an average to below average credit score to get access to the funds that they need. There are some loan products that provide these borrowers with the funds that they need in a crunch. Here are three of the more popular ones.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are unsecured loans that are issued by a lender to a borrower. Unsecured personal loans can be found at banks, credit unions, online lenders, and loan companies. These loans are often used to pay down existing debts such as credit card debt or to catch up on past due balances. A person with a long time history with a lending institution has a much better chance of qualifying for a personal loan since the lender already has a relationship with the borrower. The rates on personal loans vary depending upon the institution.

Bad Credit Loans

Bad credit loans are last chance financing for borrowers whose credit scores are in the dumps. A bad credit loan is useful when it helps a borrower to avoid bankruptcy or helps a borrower avoid the loss of home or car. Bad credit loans are typically short term loans that carry higher interest rates. These loans assist borrowers with poor credit scores that would fail to qualify for a loan from a traditional financing institution like a bank. Borrowers can reduce the total amount of interest that would need to be repaid by paying off bad credit loans rapidly.

Line Of Credit

A personal line of credit is a loan that is granted to individuals that need access to cash and do not want to put up collateral. A personal line of credit is an easy way to borrow because you only have to pay interest on money that you use. You can get credit far greater than the amount that you need and just withdraw the funds as needed. Your line of credit will be replenished as you pay down the balance.

The Quick Guide to Recession Laptop Buying

This is a guest post from Sam at Dealzon.com, thanks to the folks from HP.com.

Many news reports have been saying that in the upcoming holiday season we’ll see consumers across the country spending more cautiously with their budgets in mind. This is completely understandable as its always difficult to make large spending decisions when the economic outlook of not only your individual household, but the entire country, appears to be on shaky ground.

Negative sentiments aside, if you happen to need a new laptop, there is actually no better time to buy than now.  Seriously, no joke!  Retailers are impeccably mindful of consumer sentiment and tightening wallets and thus have been aggressively discounting computer and laptop prices since the recession started full swing in 2007-2008.

One particular well-timed class of computers introduced in 2007 were netbooks.  These small, light-weight, and often inexpensive laptop computers quickly gained major market share because their attractive $300 to $500 price range made it incredibly affordable for most people to get a computer powerful enough to handle all the basic computing tasks such as web browsing, emails, and word processing.

Computer history lesson aside, the surge of netbooks and subsequent developments really helped to accelerate the affordable computing market, with entry-level / budget laptops dropping in price to match netbooks’ price range and battery life.  These days, you can easily buy a lightweight, ultraportable laptop for under $400, or you can get a larger screen 15-inch machine with comparable performance also around the $400-$500 price range.

One of my favorite current “netbooks” is the popular HP dm1z 11-inch ultraportable.  I put the word netbook in quotes because the netbook-class of laptops these days are far ahead in performance of similar size/price machines back in 2007.  Today’s ultraportables can easily stream HD video content and even run lightweight 3D graphic games or applications.

The HP dm1z has been well reviewed by Engadget, Anandtech and other major publications, and for good reason.  These wallet-friendly laptops are fast, capable, and stylish enough for all usage scenarios.  And the current 2011 models run only $370 to $400 after coupon.

If an 11.6-inch screen size isn’t to your liking, you could opt for something like the 14-inch HP dv4t, another viable option in the budget computing category.  This 14-inch laptop comes in many different configuration, with the cheapest of the bunch being a $470 Pentium B950 processor or similarly priced Core i3-2330M equipped laptop.  If the processor model names don’t mean much to you, don’t worry, 99% of other buyers aren’t familiar with them either.  Suffice it to say these processors will be fast enough for all the basic computing tasks mentioned above.

Finally, you can always head to the mainstream size of 15.6-inch laptops with the bestselling HP dv6 models.  While some of the higher-end configurations run as high as $800, HP thankfully has offered some more affordable options that offer a pretty big performance bang for your buck, thanks to the brand new AMD A6 series processors, released just a few months ago.

At an attractive price of $570, the A6-3400M comes with 4GB of RAM, and even a Blu-ray player so you can watch high-definition movies straight from your laptop.  The quad-core chip in this laptop is fast enough to move beyond basic functions to tackle even more intensive tasks such as medium video gaming or photo editing.  An all-around great bargain for those needing a little bit more performance, a larger screen, but still at a reasonable price point.

The great thing about all of these laptop choices is they are all very capable machines that will last through the years.  We’ve come a long way since budget laptops were first introduced years ago. Today’s “budget” machines are multitudes more powerful than the high-end machines of just a few computing generations ago, and their range of capabilities will happily perform up to many people’s expectations.  From chatting with your relatives on instant messengers, sharing photos on Facebook with friends, or jumping on video Skype calls with personal or professional contacts in other cities, you’ll be well served by any of the three frugal-friendly laptops listed above.  While a worldwide economic recession is far from an ideal situation (to say the least!), at least we no longer have to spend nearly a thousand dollars just to cover our basic computer needs.

Investing for Young People: How You Do It

For many young adults, the notion of investing for short and long-term goals is a scary one, simply because this is such unfamiliar territory. But thinking about investing doesn’t have to feel like studying a foreign language. There are plenty of everyday expenses worth saving for and many great reasons for young investors to set money aside.

Buying a Home

The American Dream has always started with home ownership. It’s important to think about home buying as an investment. In spite of cyclical highs and lows in the market, real estate has historically proven to be an excellent long-term investment. Looking for cheap insurance and utility expenses makes this investment more affordable.

College Expenses

Whether you’re putting yourself through school or saving up to do it for your kids, college is a worthy financial investment because countless studies have revealed that college graduates have better luck with the job market and command higher salaries over the course of their careers. The upfront expense of tuition and books will pay off in the long run.

Paying for Your Wedding

A couple’s wedding day is one of the high points of their lives together. It’s also an event that requires some serious financial planning. It is great to set a wedding date at least a year ahead of time, in order to not only plan all the important details, but also to raise the cash needed to pay for it all. Invest wisely and don’t get saddled with wedding debt when you get hitched.

Travel Purposes

Vacations and business travel are often enjoyable and rewarding, but they can be very expensive as well. It is useful to think about travel in investment terms. Looking for the best value in a plane ticket and hotel fare, for example, helps you get the best return on investment. Saving ahead of time, once again, is very important, because smart investors are sure to balance out their expenditures with their income. A strong yielding portfolio can help make stress-free vacations possible.

Buying a Car

Car payments and car insurance are an unavoidable part of the financial picture for most young people. But this doesn’t mean you have to be resigned to overpaying. Research financial institutions to find the lowest loan rates, and compare car insurance providers to see which ones can furnish cheap insurance you can count on to protect you and your investment in the vehicle.

Medical Expenses

This notion of cheap insurance also applies to medical expenses. Over time, medical care gets more and more expensive, and it becomes ever more important to have quality affordable coverage. Compare several providers and find the right plan to help you control these costs.

Rainy-Day Funds

It’s impossible to categorize all the different areas that young people need to target in their investment activity. It’s easy for unexpected expenses to derail an investment strategy. Factor in a little bit for rainy-day expenses and make sure you’re ready if unexpected costs or opportunities to invest arise.

comments

Just as a general update to the “state of the blog” I’m considering ditching comments in favor of forcing everyone to comment either via Facebook or Twitter or StumbleUpon.  I’m getting so many spam comments that it’s become unpleasant to spend time deleting all of them. I’m coming to the conclusion that anyone who actually wants to comment shouldn’t be afraid to do so via Facebook or Twitter or any number of the options available via my “Share This” option set.  Pipe up if you think comments are vital, but I’m increasingly thinking that I’m better off asking people to give me their opinions on my writing via Twitter or Facebook or other social media.

around the web

 

Despite my bursts of silence here, I am popping up around the web from time to time. There’s an interview with me over at Blog Spotlight: 10 Questions With Steve of Brip Blap at Rather-Be-Shopping. I reveal my desert island CD choice, and the bizarre contents of my fridge.

And over at Lazy Man and Money, Lazy has a post, LinkedIn Goes Public: Reviewing the Valuation, in which he takes issue with my thoughts on LinkedIn’s recent IPO.

I’m still working on a few book reviews which I hope to post soon, and also a post on my (medical condition) near-death experience earlier this week which was, to put it mildly, awful.

Why Routine Living Can Leak Your Money

As we get older and more set in our ways and daily routines especially with a family, there is a tendency to live within a zone of comfort that could ultimately be costing you a lot of money. Like budgeting, your financial life is a living, breathing element of your life that needs to be updated and refreshed on an ongoing basis.

Here are just some of the ‘living comfortable’ money leaks you may be overlooking in your household:

Bank Accounts

You may have had the same bank accounts for years and be proud of your loyalty. Perhaps you use the same bank for so long because it is convenient. Whatever your reasoning for sticking with the same financial institution is, you might want to do some investigating to ensure you are getting the best deal. Compare two or three other bank’s terms and incentives against yours. Pay special attention to the fees being charged for the services you use most. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars in a year by transferring your banking services to a new company. Consider online accounts where the perks are particularly competitive. You may also want to check in regularly with your current bank to see how competitive they agree to be.

Grocery Choices

Many people go to one store for the same brands of products time and time again. However, by not branching out you can be spending hundreds –even thousands –more than you think. There is a significant increase in the popularity of discount grocery stores and the amount of money you can save over time on non-brand named products can be large. Keep your eye out for fliers from markets and stores you don’t normally visit and plan to do some test shopping. Try selecting items you haven’t tried before to incorporate some less-pricey food options into your life. You can always stick with some of the routine items you get from your regular store but venture out from time to time to see what else is out there.

Credit Cards

Similar to the comfort zone you may have with your bank, it may be time to look over your current credit card benefits compared to newer cards on the market. Credit card providers have been streamlining their services to cut down on the risk but there are still many new perks being offered to keep companies competitive. You may have a rewards card from 10 years ago still earning airline miles you never use. Look into getting a cash-back credit card or one where the reward benefits actually fit your lifestyle. A key thing to remember here though is never close the old credit card accounts. Doing so can hurt your length of credit history which can drop your credit score.

Budgeting Methods

You may have been working the same numbers month after month for years but there are many more resources available now to help you increase the efficiency of your budget.  A free online budget calculator and other personal finance software can be instrumental in adding perspective to your financial goals. There may be new ways for you to save more money and reach financial goals more efficiently that you are missing out on. Sure it can be good to stick with what has been working but it also doesn’t hurt to step out of the box and see what other tools are now available (especially for free) that can help you better manage your money.

There are many other areas of our lives where our comfort zones prevent growth and money-saving opportunities. Take the time to regularly review how you manage your money, where you are spending, and how better your income can be spent. When it comes to money, a little change can go a long way.

Debbie Dragon is a professional freelance writer, specializing in personal finance. She frequently writes for Vertex42.com which offers a large selection of free spreadsheet templates and financial calculators.

Is it Possible to Learn a Foreign Language as an Adult?

Having tried and tried again to learn various foreign languages since graduating from a very expensive college, I have resigned myself to the fact that it is nearly impossible. But then, when I take a minute and start to think about all the men and women who learn foreign languages as a result of a work requirement (in a short period of time to boot) or because they are married to someone of a different nationality, I begin to wonder, is it really that difficult? Research shows that except for minor considerations such as hearing and vision loss as a result of age, an adult learner is not handicapped when it comes to language acquisition.

So, this begs the question, what seems to be the problem? Linguists would agree that there is a “critical period” during which there is a heightened ability to learn a second language. However, what that period is has not been defined. Back to the question at hand: Why am I unable to pick up anything other than my mother tongue? The answer, in my opinion, is all about context and emotion.

First, the context in which adults learn has a major influence on their ability to converse, read, and write in a new language. Many times as adults, we become hooked on the idea that to acquire a language, we must learn it. In other words we must know the grammar rules, syntax and construction. However, this is not how we were taught as children. Before we entered our first English class, it is safe to say that most of us had a decent command of the English language and could converse with our families. We did that by listening. Children learn inductively and through interaction. As children we listened to those around us speaking and over time began to understand and recognize patterns. Then, we started to form sentences and soon after, began to speak. Acquiring the language, therefore, took precedence over learning it.

After having tried and failed many times to speak another language, I believe that it is essential to be immersed in an environment in which the language is used. The few times I have made significant progress in my foreign language aptitude was when I was visiting that foreign country for an extended period of time. Just because we are adults does not necessarily mean we need formal lessons – sometimes informal teaching goes just as far.

Second, as an adult, the idea of learning another language can be a psychological challenge. As young children, we are not nearly as affected by what others think or as worried about failure. As adults, we fear failure and sometimes lack the self-confidence to really take the plunge. We worry that our pronunciation will be off or that people will not understand us. To address these feelings, adult foreign language teachers must be able to reduce anxiety and build self-confidence in the learner.

Finally, it is impossible to ignore aptitude. Just as some of us are destined to be mathematicians or physicists, some people are just better at picking up foreign languages. Perhaps it is the way their brain is wired. All in all, learning a foreign language requires time and dedication. One must also understand what method of learning works best.  That means in an attempt to succeed you might have to purchase Rosetta Stone, take a language class at the local university and travel to Spain for six months. It is a very individual process, the only caveat being the last of these choices would certainly be the most fun.

This post comes from Michael, chief editor of DoughRoller.net, a site that helps consumers manage their finances and obtain their free credit score