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Finance For Dummies

Finance For Dummies offers personal finance information on investing, retirement investing, finance, insurance, credit cards, loans and more. Personal finance education is our goal.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ETFs

ETFs have become the hottest thing in the investing world--especially with more novice investors.
ETFs behave just like a stock except they track a specified index. there are benefits to this and drawbacks. You can be more flexible than mutual funds because they can be traded at any time. They will help the tax-efficiency of your portfolio as well and there are no loads. However, you will have large fees if you wanted to invest $100 in an ETF like you can in a mutual fund. If you are going to be buying in smaller sums it is best to go with mutual funds, but consider ETFs for your large investments because you will only incur the trade fee.
Check out best performers and worst.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Disputing Your Credit Report

Know that errors do happen and it seems that credit reporting agencies are some of the biggest culprits.

Once you have obtained your credit report you see there are errors on it. You are upset, but dread calling the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to straighten everything out. But the wonders of the internet have saved you from long waits on hold. You can dispute online through whichever, or all, that committed the errors. Once the official dispute is taken on you can wait to see how it goes. Maybe it will be taken care of quickly, but you might need to call. Remember to document everything.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Electric Bill

Your parents always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Now in the digital age they might be asking you to unplug your cell phone charger.

Unbelievable as it may be stanby power can take up to 10-15%. Now, obviously you need to keep that refrigerator plugged in at all times, but do all of your other devices need to be plugged in 24/7? Your electrical devices drain more power than you can imagine. When these appliances are "off" they still drain as much as 95% of the power when they are on. So if you are not using it--unplug it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Warranties

Sometimes warranties are a good thing and sometimes they are a rip off.

Did you know that a major portion of Best Buy's revenue is from selling warranties?

Ask yourself:

Have you ever had the opportunity to use a warranty you purchased?

Have you ever followed up on a warranty?

Have you had a good experience with a warranty?

Typically warranties are not a good deal, but people like them becuase it gives them peace of mind, but oftentimes if you purchase something with a credit card and it does not work or is broken you can get it replaced. Do you homework and make sure it is truly worth your money.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Stock Market

The stock market had its third straight week of gains and in that time the 3 major indicies have gained 2.4%. We will continue to see how oil prices have effected the economy as whole in Q4. So by the beginning of 2007 you might see a bump in many companies earnings because of energy prices dropping. The housing market, North Korea and the Middle East should not be forgotten. If any or all begin to show strong signs of serious trouble you could count on a quick reversal of the recent gains had. Many blue chip stocks having been performing well and that trend should continue.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dealing With Your Service Companies

We all dislike dealing with customer service employees for services we receive from a wide variety of companies ranging from credit cards to the gas company. It can be an ordeal to get through the red tape in order to get what you need.

Remember to:

Get the representative’s name each time you call in so you can refer to them when discuss your case.

Get a case number of your issue so the representative can quickly look it up in the database and familiarize themselves with the problem quickly.

Write down the date, time and what, if anything, was promised to be done about your problem.

These seem like tedious things to do each time you call a company regarding their service that they provide you, but you are much better equipped to get results by doing this and having precise details than not having this information.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Annuities

Fixed-Income Annuity
You deliver a lump sum to the insurer and they pay you a set amount each month. As you get older and as interest rates rise you are paid more. You know how much you will receive each month which helps when you budget. However, inflation can eat away at your monthly payment. Shop around because all insurers are not the same and do not give the same rate.

Variable-Income Annuity
You invest a lump sum in a something that resembles a mutual fund called a subaccount. The amount of your first check is based on your life expectancy and assumed interest rate. The performance of your subaccounts will determine the rest when it comes to your payouts. If subaccounts perform well you will get larger payments and not have to worry about inflation. You are guaranteed payments for life, but there is no certainty to what the amount of those payments will be plus if the market goes bad your portfolio usually will suffer. Watch out for fees because they will eat up your payments.