Searching for the best car loan rate 

Average interest rates on new car loans rose to 5.2 percent in February, and many consumers are not taking advantage of several ways to lower their rates and save money in the long run,according to USA Today.

While the market rate had fallen to as low as 3.9 percent at the end of 2012, analysts are forecasting that rates are headed higher. Only 31.6 percent of those that leased or bought a new car in 2015 even tried lowering their rates through negotiation or searching for financing elsewhere.

Many buyers tend to focus solely on the monthly payment when shopping for a new car. They pay less attention to the interest rate and overall length of the loan. With this in mind, car dealers are likely to extend loan terms out as long as possible.

The average loan is three months longer now than five years ago.

Rather than accepting whatever rates the car dealership offers, it pays for consumers to take time to shop around for a better rate elsewhere, as tough competition can lead to better deals, according to Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. As an example, a $35,000 car loan with 7 percent APR will cost $3,800 more than a loan with 3 percent APR over five years.

Different dealerships will have different networks of lenders that might offer better terms.

Also, local credit unions, which have been moving into the auto loan market in recent years, can often provide excellent rates to members.

Sometimes the absolute best interest rate does not make the best deal.

Special promotional rates of 1.9 percent or even zero percent often mean forgoing same-as-cash incentives on specific new cars. When adding that money to the total loan amount, the overall costs could end up being more substantial in the long run than those with a much higher interest rate.

How small businesses can use the gig economy to grow

About one in three workers in America are currently freelancing and this growing gig economy allows small businesses to grow more efficiently by hiring specialists quickly and cheaply, according to Small Business Trends.

An estimated 40 percent of those who work in the gig economy are engaged by small businesses, and those same freelancers are more likely to consider working full time for a smaller company than a larger one in the future.

Many entrepreneurs start their businesses with a small budget and limited access to human capital. It just isn’t feasible to hire full-time experts to provide the skills needed to build things like online infrastructure, branding material, or a social media presence. In these cases, a small business can turn to a freelancer that specializes in these specific tasks but often charges less than an established firm in the industry because they have less overhead and more flexibility with their time, according to CNet. Online services such as UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com allow business owners to connect with freelancers quickly and provide a secure way to track activity.

When searching for a freelance worker to complete a project, such as building a website for your small business, the ability to search among many talented individuals across a variety of factors will allow you to find the perfect match for your situation. Narrow the field by focusing on individuals that have a solidly reviewed track record with a particular kind of project and offer a portfolio of work. From there, sort out whether they prefer to be paid by the hour or completed project and find someone who meets your budget. Once you find a freelancer, there will always be a contract employee on call to help your business grow.

Identifying the ideal team player

The best team players have three virtues: humility, hunger, and smarts.

According to Patrick Lencioni of management consulting firm The Table Group, these traits are sometimes inherent in personality, but more commonly they show themselves through how a person reacts to life, work, and personal development over time.

Humility allows a person to drop their ego and put a team ahead of themselves. Humble people recognize the contributions of others and don’t step on others to get to the top. If a team member lacks this characteristic, they will not be able to build trust and work through conflict over time.

Hungry people are always trying to learn more, improve themselves, and achieve more responsibility and recognition. This drive will propel them to work with a high level of self-motivation and see that projects are completed quickly and correctly. Their ambition will keep them moving upward towards the next opportunity. A person that isn’t hungry will have a hard time getting the desired results and will likely only perform at the bare minimum required.

Smart team players understand how to talk to other people. Listening, asking the right questions, and engaging the team in conflict resolutions are all qualities that a smart person will bring to the table. People without this emotional intelligence will tend to create interpersonal problems that require constant mediation from others.

Lencioni suggests that these virtues should permeate interviews, performance reviews, and even personal introspection to help identify the best way to hire, retain, and coach employees. Deficiency in even one of these areas can cause problems for business, and it can take time to correct a culture problem caused by weak team players.

Dilemma: Buy big or big enough

Dilemma: Buy big or big enough
Buying a house might come down to a choice: A big-enough house or the biggest house you can afford?

The choice you make affects not just your wallet, but your lifestyle as well.

Many considerations go into the house you buy and they are just as important, if not more so, than square footage.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the median size of an existing single-family home purchased in 2017 was 1,930 square feet, down from 1,950 square feet in 2016. Square footage in new construction also decreased slightly from 2,473 in 2015 to 2,419 in 2016.

Location is a big factor. If a house is just big enough, but close to work, it could be a better choice than the big homestead. Be sure to figure in the cost of a commute in time and money before choosing the larger house over the just-big-enough house.

Consider neighborhood. Older neighborhoods might have smaller houses, but they also can have stable housing values. For example, buying new construction can be satisfying, but once newer houses are built in the tract, older houses can decrease in value. On the other hand, you still have a new house with all the security that implies.

One thing you don’t want to do is buy a house that is too small. Allow some consideration for guests or just a home office.

Think ahead to your future financial needs. Buying the largest house you can afford will lock you into high payments for not just a mortgage, although that is the most dramatic cost, but also higher utilities, taxes, insurance and repairs over the time you own the home. Some of those funds could be directed to retirement, for example.

Here is an example from the Wall Street Journal: If your smaller home saves you $20,000 each year over the life of the mortgage, you could invest that amount. That investment during the same time in a stock market portfolio making 4 percent could add up to a $1.2 million retirement fund.

It’s also possible to buy smaller but remodel over time. Pick a smaller home in a desirable neighborhood and renovate.

 

New headlight technology stalled by regulation

New headlight technology stalled by regulation
Outdated federal regulations have blocked automakers from introducing new headlight technologies that could help drivers see better and even prevent some pedestrian deaths, experts say.

About 2,500 pedestrians are killed at night in the U.S., but new headlight technologies could help, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Adaptive beam headlight technology automatically adjusts head lamps to oncoming traffic, reducing glare and helping drivers see better. The technology is legal and widely available in Europe and Japan.

In fact, Japanese automaker Toyota petitioned the NHTSA in 2013 to allow adaptive beam technology, but no decision has yet been made.

NHTSA did evaluate the technology in 2014 when it was first introduced by Audi, according to ArsTechnica.com. At that time, NHTSA found the adaptive beams too slow to respond at an intersection or when two vehicles are oncoming on a curved road.

Drivers should use high beams responsibility for proper lighting does involve the driver, however according to the IIHS, drivers should always use high beams, except when another driver is approaching. According to one transportation study, drivers activated their high beams only 25 percent of the time they should have been using them.

Avoiding high payment fees in a small business

Avoiding high payment fees in a small business
Only 11 percent of shoppers used cash during 2016, according to creditcards.com.

For small businesses, this means lots of credit card processing fees are coming out of each sale and that can be expensive.

According to small business financing blog Nav, there are three ways for a credit card processor to charge fees: flat, interchange plus, and tiered pricing. Flat fee providers, such as PayPal or Square, use one rate for every transaction no matter the price or volume. Interchange plus models use a flat percentage fee along with a small charge for each sale, such as 30 cents. Tiered pricing applies three different rates depending on what type of card is used; such as debit, credit, or rewards, and is more expensive when manually keyed in.

It is easy to see that a per-transaction charge of even 30 cents could be devastating to a business that sells a high volume of cheap items, such as a dollar store. In these situations, it is entirely acceptable to list a minimum purchase amount for credit processing to make the sting of a per-transaction charge less painful.

As such, The Simple Dollar recommends that small business owners do their research and shop around for the best rates that their business can command. Those currently using or considering a tiered pricing structure, for instance, have reduced the complexity of their accounting and found savings by switching to a flat rate service. While an online search can be helpful, reaching out to other local businesses can be a great resource to see what works for those in a similar situation.

When it comes to equipment, purchasing a credit card terminal can save money over the long run compared to renting it each month so don’t be lured by the promise of savings from the credit card company. Additionally, many of the newer options such as Square provide a free scanner that can be used with any smartphone or tablet to act as a digital register both in a store or on the go.

Who can use the new business tax deduction?

Who can use the new business tax deduction?

Recent reforms in the tax code will be a significant benefit for small business owners who claim company income on their personal tax returns, according to The New York Times.

When income is declared in this way, it is called pass-through income, and the legislation will impact as many as 40 million taxpayers with small businesses making up almost half that number and ‘non-business’ individuals making up the rest. In many cases, a full 20 percent of all pass-through business income will be deductible, and further changes to deductions for depreciable property can help certain types of businesses as well.

Individuals that operate sole proprietorships and contract out to other companies, as well as people that claim income from things like hobbies or vacation home rentals, will fall into the non-business category. Even before these changes, it was desirable to declare this income to make use of other deductions like home offices and equipment. With the new deduction on income.

How keeping a house book can help your family

Anyone that has dealt with the death of a loved one has likely had to endure the stress and uncertainty of how to proceed with getting their affairs in order. According to The Simple Dollar, taking the time to assemble a house book will answer a lot of specific questions about how a person would like things to be handled as well as arming the caretaker with all of the information they will need to get it done. It will include a master record of any and all assets and outstanding obligations that a person might have along with instructions on how to access them.

First, take an inventory of any accounts open in your name including everything from retirement savings to the library card. The most critical items on this list are 401(k)s, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and any annuity or other long-term income vehicles that have a beneficiary or can be transferred. Write down anything required to access those accounts such as numbers and passwords and, when possible, have a copy of any signed contracts, membership identification, or statements. Clearly indicate any relevant websites or secondary authentication that might be needed to login to the accounts online or transfer ownership.

Next, collect any legal documents and insurance information that family will need to present to the estate lawyer or probate court if there are any legal snags. This will include a copy of your will along with any documents relating to trusts if there are any. The most common type of insurance to be concerned with for the deceased is the life policy, and those beneficiaries will need to be explicitly indicated along with contact information for how to receive the funds. Along with basic life, there might also be a burial policy in place that has prepaid for those arrangements.

Third, consider all of the valuable assets in the house or safe that will be left to loved ones and collect any relevant serial numbers, combinations, and locations so that they can be easily found. If the items are a bit obscure, such as a comic book collection, it might also be a good idea to leave a few instructions on the best way to liquidate the valuables.

Lastly, consider the fact that loved ones will be going through this record during a time of grief.  Leaving behind personal notes of wisdom and reassurance will likely be appreciated and timely. In any event, loved ones will undoubtedly be much better prepared to deal with the details of a passing with a house book at hand.

Buying your first house

Buying a new house is easy: Dive into some websites. Pick a house you like. Press “Add to Cart” and 10 minutes later you’re picking new furniture.
…Nah. Doesn’t work that way.

Like all pivotal decisions in life, the fun part is rarely the most important.

The best way to buy a home is to start answering the dull questions first.

Start by building a basic financial profile about yourself: First, pull your credit report and get your credit score. You can do this at freecreditreport.com or at other sites, such as creditkarma.com. If your score is under 620, you’ve got some work to do on your credit. Start by making absolutely sure every account is paid on time, every time, not one day late. During your credit building period, make sure you don’t apply for loans on cars or anything else. Do everything you can to pay off any loans or credit cards you may have.
With a credit score of at least 620 in hand, start gathering documents that show how much money you make and what your expenses are. You’ll need pay stubs and a list of your bills.
You will also need cash.

A good rule to remember: The more cash you have, the better the terms of any deal you make. You’ll have more flexibility and loans will cost you less, especially if you also have a high credit score.
But how much is enough? Down payments vary depending on the type of loan. With an FHA loan, for example, you might need no more than 3.5 percent of the selling price. But you’ll also need some cash available for closing costs — maybe up to 2.5 percent or more.

One of the best places to start the process is with a lender. Gather your financial information and chat with your bank or credit union to find out how much house you could possibly afford. They will tell you how much cash you will need. Once you have the cash, get a pre-approval from your lender. Then the fun part begins. Visit some websites and find your best home.

Good idea: Start small with a home, buying one that is easy to afford with a short mortgage. Then, add some elbow grease to fix it up to increase its value, while paying off the mortgage. Soon, you’ll have value in the house and you can sell with more money to put down on your next house. This is the way wealth is built over time.

How to cope with small business burn out

Entrepreneurs often have no problem jumping head first into their business, working long hours, and keeping things running through sheer force of will. Unfortunately, even small business owners with the highest levels of willpower and determination will reach a point at which they feel stuck or burnt out. Instead of letting these circumstances keep them down, Forbes magazine suggests using a few specific strategies to help get through the rut.

In the beginning, merely acknowledging the feeling of being stuck is critical to moving forward with solutions. It can be tempting for owners with incredible perseverance to want to hunker down and keep fighting rather than look under the hood to see what’s causing the problem. They should, in fact, be asking themselves a lot of questions about how they got into the current state of affairs.

Fear is an emotion often tied to entrepreneurs because they are usually creating their own story as they go and the need to get everything right all the time can be overwhelming. In these cases, admitting that failure is not only okay, but also a necessary part of many businesses’ success can be a powerful release.

Once the stuck feeling has been acknowledged and probed for answers, it is often a good idea to take a break and attempt to find a new perspective. Exercise can help clear the mind and let the brain wander a little. This is productive for coming up with solutions to problems in the background while helping to recharge the physical body at the same time.

While each piece of advice up until this point is something that a business owner can do on their own, it is essential for them to remember that they don’t have to do everything alone. Reaching out to a business coach, mentor, peer, or even just a friend can lend a great feeling of support during a stressful period.