El Cid Bookkeeping

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The 10 Unhappiest Jobs in America

If you happily get out of bed every morning for work, you’re one of the lucky ones — not everyone is satisfied with their current job. 

These people feel stuck for a variety of reasons, including low pay, irregular hours or the inability to move upward, says a report published by CareerBliss. 

The company identified the unhappiest jobs based on more than 100,000 employee-generated reviews between February 2011 and January 2012.

The ratings are based on key factors such as work-life balance, one’s relationship with their boss and co-workers, their work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks, and control over the work that they do daily. 

Here are the top 10 jobs that make workers’ lives miserable.

1. Security Officer

Average salary: $29,641

Bliss Score: 3.510/5

Why: “People might think that the work environment security guards often face, such as working late hours alone at night, would be what contributes to unhappiness,” Matt Miller, the chief technology officer at CareerBliss told Smith. “However, our data shows that growth opportunities and lack of rewards in this field is what affected the overall sentiment around this type of job. Work environment scored relatively high.”

Description: Guard, patrol, or monitor premises to prevent theft, violence, or infractions of rules. The BLS projected the growth of these jobs to be 18 percent through 2020. 

2. Registered Nurse

Average salary: $60,857

Bliss Score: 3.549/5

Why: “Nurses … have more issues with the culture of their workplaces, the people they work with and the person they work for,” Golledge says.

Description: Provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions. The BLS projected the growth of these jobs to be 26 percent through 2020. 

3. Teacher

Average salary: $43,663

Bliss Score: 3.595/5

Why: CareerBliss’ chief executive Heidi Golledge told Smith: “CareerBliss has found through our research that teachers appear to be quite happy with their work and their co-workers. However, the rewards for their work, lack of support and lack of opportunities to be promoted counteract many of the good parts of the job.”

Description: Prepare students for future schooling and working by teaching them a variety of subjects. The BLS projected the growth of grade school teaching jobs to be 17 percent through 2020. 

4. Sales Engineer

Average salary: $71,283

Bliss Score: 3.636/5

Why: Smith reports that these engineers don’t appreciate the “lack of growth opportunities, company’s culture, compensation and support.”

Description: Sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work. The BLS projected the growth of these jobs to be 14 percent through 2020. 

5. Product Manager

Average salary: $81,865

Bliss Score: 3.648/5

Why: Smith says that these workers “voiced unhappiness with the range of growth opportunities, compensation, company culture and support.”

Description: A blog describes product managers as those who “conceive the idea; run with it for many months; … gather, [develop], test, [go] through the painful exercise of bringing that product to market, and then support it until it is made obsolete.”

6. Program Manager

Average salary: $94,371

Bliss Score: 3.655/5

Why: Jacquelyn Smith at Forbes reports that “the unhappiest aspects of [this] job are a lack of growth opportunities, the culture of the company they work for and the surrounding workplace support system.”

Description: Plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion. The program managers’ responsibilities are finished when the product is delivered, and they turn it over to the product managers.

7. Marketing Manager

Average salary: $64,437

Bliss Score: 3.677/5

Why: Thomas O. Davenport at TLNT.com says: “With many organizations expecting managers to act as player-coaches, both performing and overseeing work, their roles often become complex and unwieldy.”

Description: Plan programs to generate interest in a product or service. They work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff members.

8. Director of Sales

Average salary: $91,821

Bliss Score: 3.677/5

Description: Set sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for the organization’s sales representatives. The BLS projected the growth of these jobs to be 12 percent through 2020. 

9. Marketing Director

Average salary: $68,873

Bliss Score: 3.688/5

Description: Plan, direct, or coordinate marketing policies and programs, such as determining the demand for products and services offered by a firm and its competitors, and identify potential customers.

10. Maintenance Supervisor

Average salary: $52,799

Bliss Score: 3.691/5

Why: Long hours and a lot of on-call schedules. 

Description: Reviewing contracts to ascertain service, machine, and workforce requirements; answering inquiries from potential customers regarding methods, material, and price ranges; and preparing estimates according to labor, material, and machine costs.

(By Vivian Giang, Business Insider)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: Business Insider)

Filed under money finance debt jobs employment

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10 Reasons You Can’t Get Credit

If you’ve never been rejected for credit, count yourself fortunate. Somewhere between 25% and 35% of credit card applications are typically approved, “depending upon the pricing value proposition and other factors,” according to Robert Hammer, the president of R.K. Hammer and Associates, a consultant to the card industry.

With some issuers, the approval rate may be a mere 10% or so.

If you’re not turned down for credit, you may be told instead that you didn’t qualify for the best rate. Either way, if a credit score (or credit-based insurance score) was used in the decision, you must be told the main factors that contributed to your score.

Deciphering those reasons can be maddening, though. “What do you mean, I have no recent revolving balances?” Or, “So it says my account balances are too high. What does ‘too high’ mean anyway?”

Here’s a guide to some of the main reasons you may be turned down — and what you can do about them.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the factors that may be used to evaluate your credit. Not all of them will apply in all situations, and there may be variations on these as well.

'Proportion of balances to credit limits is too high on bank revolving or other revolving accounts'

What it means: The score likely looks at your total available credit limits and compares them with your outstanding balances, individually and in the aggregate. The greater the percentage of your available credit that you are using, the greater the impact on your scores. There’s no magic number here, though. In other words, getting your balances below 30% or 50% of your available credit doesn’t automatically eliminate this factor.

What you can do about it: Focus on paying down balances that are close to the credit limits as quickly as possible. What about transferring a balance from a maxed-out card to one with a smaller balance? While that might help, it’s not likely, since you still have just as much debt as before (another factor). If you can’t make headway on paying down your credit cards, you may want to talk with a credit counseling agency.

'Amount owed on accounts is too high'

What it means: This factor may look at your debt in comparison with that of other consumers, and if your debt is higher than optimal, it could show up as a reason why you weren’t approved.

What you can do about it: This one is particularly frustrating because you probably have no idea how much debt is too much, nor do you know which balances to try to pay down first. Typically, though, you’ll get the most bang for your buck, credit-wise, by focusing first on paying down your credit cards with balances that are closest to the limits.

'Too many recent inquiries in the past 12 months'

What it means: This reason appears when your credit report indicates a high number of credit applications (inquiries) within the past year. But not all are counted the same. Checking your own credit reports doesn’t count; nor do promotional inquiries, inquiries from employer and insurance companies, and account reviews by your current creditors. The impact of inquiries on your credit will vary, depending on your overall credit profile, but the typical inquiry can be expected to affect your score by about five points.

What you can do about it: This reason is more likely to appear when you have a limited credit history or strong credit, simply because there are fewer other significant negative factors affecting your scores. But it doesn’t hurt to lay low for a while. Avoid opening new retail cards. While inquiries resulting from shopping for a mortgage, student loan or auto loan aren’t as likely to hurt your score as the same number of inquiries for credit cards, limit your applications to a short period of time, such as 14 days.

'Level of delinquency on accounts'

What it means: Delinquency refers to payments that were late. The general rule of thumb is that the further you fall behind, the greater the impact on your credit score.

What you can do about it: If the information is inaccurate, you can dispute it. If it’s correct, you’re going to have to live with it for a while; usually up to seven years. Focus on making your current payments on time. If cash is tight, remember that all you have to do is make the minimum payment on time to avoid a delinquency on your report.

'Time since delinquency is too recent or unknown'

What it means: Recent late payments will have a greater impact on your score than older late payments. Typically, delinquencies within a year or two will hurt your scores the most. If an account was delinquent a while ago but the credit report doesn’t indicate the date, this factor can pop up as well.

What you can do about it: The good news is that as time passes, these delinquencies will carry less weight, especially when you are paying current bills on time. But the date is important here. If an inaccurate date (or no date) is reported for a charge-off or collection account, for example, make sure you dispute that with the credit-reporting agency.

'Serious delinquency, derogatory public record or collection filed'

What it means: This can mean that your credit report includes a bankruptcy, judgment, tax lien or collection account. Bankruptcy remains on your report 10 years from the date you file (seven years for a completed Chapter 13). Paid judgments can be reported for seven years, but unpaid judgments can stay even longer. Paid tax liens are removed seven years after being paid, but unpaid tax liens can remain on your report indefinitely. Collection accounts may be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor, leading up to the account being turned over to collections.

What you can do about it: If the information is accurate, this is also a matter of biding your time and making sure you have as many positive credit references currently reporting as possible. (A secured card may be an option if you can’t qualify for a regular credit card.) And while paying a collection, judgment or tax lien won’t likely change this factor in the short run, it could result in the public-record item being removed from your report sooner and protect you from being sued for a debt, which could result in additional judgments or collections on your credit reports. If dates are incorrectly reported or payments are not being reported — not uncommon with collection accounts — dispute them.

'No recent revolving balances (or no recent bank card balances)'

What it means: This reason may appear when your credit report doesn’t include any revolving accounts (usually credit cards), or when all your credit cards closed or are no longer being reported. If you have open credit cards, it may also appear when there are no balances on those accounts.

What you can do about it: Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you have to have debt to have good credit. As long as you use your cards from time to time, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you are avoiding credit cards altogether, you’ll have a tough time getting a top credit score. Get a credit card and use it occasionally — even a secured card — pay it in full and on time, and you should be fine.

'Lack of recent installment loan information'

What it means: Your mortgage was paid off years ago. You pay cash for your cars. You don’t have any outstanding student loans. Guess what? The fact that you’re ultra-responsible here doesn’t help your credit scores.

What you can do about it: The strongest credit scores go to those with a mix of different types of accounts. Does that mean you have to rush out and take out a loan? No. But next time you go to buy a car, you may want to find out if you qualify for 0% financing or a low-rate loan. Or you may want to see if you can get a low-rate personal loan to consolidate some higher-rate credit card debt. On the other hand, don’t go overboard. You don’t want to pay a lot in extra interest charges.

'Too few accounts currently paid as agreed'

What it means: This reason appears when your credit report does not show enough accounts paid on time relative to the number of accounts with late payments. But if you haven’t been late with payments, this reason most likely means that you need more accounts reported on your file as “paid as agreed.”

What you can do about it: You may want to think about adding a current credit reference, or even a couple of them over time. If you’re having trouble getting approved for a credit card or personal loan, consider a secured card.

'Too many consumer finance company accounts'

What it means: Consumer finance companies make relatively small personal loans, usually limited to a several thousand dollars, and quite often at interest rates higher than those on most credit cards. Consumers who rely heavily on consumer finance company accounts tend to be riskier to lenders than consumers without such accounts.

What you can do about it: Paying off these types of accounts will not improve your credit immediately, but it’s still a good idea to pay them off as soon as you can, since the interest rates are probably high. Next time you need to borrow, try first to get a standard personal loan through a social-lending website, for example, or from your bank or credit union.

(By Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: MSN)

Filed under money finance debt credit

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Turn Your Toys Into Cash

This is not your ordinary child’s play. As host of Travel Channel’s “Toy Hunter,” Jordan Hembrough takes viewers on the ultimate adventure across America searching for the rarest toys and turning them into huge profit.

Hembrough caught the collecting bug at a young age and quickly learned he could make more money selling vintage toys to his school peers than he could on any paper route or summer job. At only 16-years-old, he began buying and selling toys professionally and hasn’t looked back since.

Hembrough has plenty of at-home tips for our “Good Afternoon America” viewers on how you can score big bucks on your old toys.

Tips on what to look for when purchasing vintage toys and collectibles:

  1. Always try to make sure the toy is in original packaging.
  2. Make sure the box is not torn or ripped in any way. This will affect the overall value.
  3. If not in box, make sure toy is complete with all accessories.
  4. If battery operated, check battery compartment for any corrosion or damage. Remove batteries if still in toy.
  5. If it’s a toy with soft goods or clothing, check for mold or mildew.
  6. Look for multiple items that you can purchase all at once, to help strike a better deal.
  7. Consider the market (if purchasing for investment). Will people still want this toy 20 years from now?
  8. Make sure the toy you are purchasing is truly vintage and not a re-issue made to look vintage.
  9. Ask questions: Is this complete? Are all the parts here?
  10. Don’t ever be afraid to walk away from a potential purchase. If it’s not what you want, you will eventually find what you’re looking for later on.

Tips on how to begin collecting:

  1. Avoid storing toys in extreme hot, cold or damp environments. Choose something climate controlled if possible. Your toys should “live where you live.”
  2. Avoid storing any toy in direct sunlight. It can fade packing and even bleach out some fabrics.
  3. Be mindful of spending limits. Don’t over-extend yourself when it comes to purchasing.
  4. Collect what you love. Never think of “what this will be worth down the line?”
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the seller; How long have you had this? Do you have any more items like this?
  6. Utilize research tools; Internet and websites are bountiful on toys and history. Read about what you’re interested in.
  7. If going to an event such as a toy show or flea market, bring a friend or two. Collecting is a social activity.

How to keep toys intact:

What toys should be kept in boxes?

Ultimately, all toys should be kept in their boxes. If that’s impossible at the very least try to keep the package for when you want to sell the toy or pack it away. This ideally applies to boxed vehicles, dolls and play sets. Some toys, such as smaller action figures and Diecast cars, are on blister packaging, making them impossible to play with without tearing them off the card.

If possible, save any instructions and cardboard inserts. Truly intense collectors save the small wire bands that hold the toys in place in the box.

Are there toys you can repair and then restore value?

Almost any toy can be repaired. The question is to what extent the repair can be done? Teddy bears can have arms sewn back on, and action figures can have a leg glued back into place.

However, restoration and repair does not always translate into value. Few toys retain value, once broken.  The intrinsic value of most of these toys is their originality. The exception would be something like a plush doll, a teddy bear or stuffed animal. It’s simpler to attach an arm or eye and add stuffing to a bear than glue a leg back on plastic toy.

The important thing not to do is try to repaint a toy. This is particularly true of older tin toys from the turn of the century and 1920′s. Many of the older wind-ups from that era are manufactured from pressed tin. The graphics and lithographs are part of the metal making up the toy. It’s nearly impossible to match paint on a toy once it’s been manufactured and sustained some life of play. Moreover, collectors actually look for small imperfections and patina to validate the age of the toys. It adds to the overall look and mystique, thereby increasing value at times.

The important thing to remember:

Whenever possible have the repair work done by a professional, especially when dealing with valuable toys.

What types of toys are worth saving from a child’s toy collection that could eventually become valuable?

This is a really difficult question to answer since nobody has a “crystal ball” that can predict the future. A safe guess would be to look at the current hot trends in the market, and base your decision on that. Look for either hot movies or TV shows that were popular during the child’s life that are still popular today.

Try to save some of the toys which may not have been readily found on the shelves. For example, many of the larger playsets from GI Joe and Batman were simply too big for store shelves. Retailers did not carry many of these toys since they took up valuable space that could have been used for smaller, faster-selling items.

The GI Joe Defiant Shuttle was an absolutely huge toy that retailed for more $100 back in the 80′s. It was extremely difficult to find since it stood nearly four feet high. Today, a sealed boxed version could easily sell for close to $4,000.

If all else fails, I always use the old “rule of two.” Purchase two; One for the child to play with and the other to store away for the future.

What are ways a parent can preserve these toys while still being enjoyed by their children?

Parents can start by trying to monitor how their children are playing with the toys. While most kids’ toys today are suitable for outdoor use, keeping them clean is a must. Give them a good wipe down if the toys have been in mud or sand. And be sure to keep electronic toys out of water.

Parents can help their children take care of the toys by explaining the importance of keeping the toy together and intact with all their accessories. I used to tell my son, “How would Luke Skywalker feel if he didn’t have his lightsaber? You need to help him fight Darth Vader… by keeping his weapon close to him. Don’t lose it.”  If you can find a way to explain it “in a child’s eyes” it makes it more personal to them.

Keep it fun. I always tell parents to have fun with their children when it comes to cleaning their rooms, brushing their teeth, or even taking care of their toys.

Try giving a “gold star” for each week that the toys are put back on shelves or away in a toy chest. Kids can collect their stars on a bulletin board in their room. At the end of the month, if the toys are all packed away nicely and with accessories, the child gets a new toy.  Encourage your kids to donate some of their older toys as well to local churches or charities.

(By Eliza Murphy, ABC News)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: abcnews.go.com)

Filed under money finance debt

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How to Control Your Heirs From the Grave

Can you force a grandchild to take a drug test in order to receive an inheritance? Insist your heirs use trust funds only for tuition at your alma mater? Make sure your wife’s future husbands can’t run through money you worked hard to earn?

In many cases, the answer is yes—you can, in effect, control your heirs from the grave.

The issue of what you can give away and how is especially relevant now because unusually favorable estate- and gift-tax rules are set to expire. The “exemption” for both—which is the amount of assets a taxpayer can transfer to others, tax-free, either at death or through gifts while alive—is now $5.12 million per individual, and twice that for a couple. The top tax rate on amounts above that is 35%.

But not for long. In January the exemption is slated to drop to $1 million per person, and the top tax rate will jump to 55%. Although many experts don’t think those changes will stick because they are so unfavorable, a new regime might well be less generous. President Barack Obama favors a $3.5 million exemption and a 45% top rate.

With the law in flux, experts are recommending that wealthier taxpayers who can afford to part with assets make gifts of them this year. The rationale: if the law becomes less favorable, this year’s gifts either will be grandfathered in or, at worst, won’t be “clawed back” until death.

Clients are listening. “For this year I’ll be filing three times as many gift-tax returns as I have in the past,” says Lauren Wolven, a tax expert at law firm Horwood, Marcus & Berk in Chicago.

"It’s as if a cork popped out of a bottle," adds Joe McDonald, an attorney at McDonald & Kanyuk in Concord, N.H.

As with many good tax deals, there is a hitch: Taxpayers taking advantage of the exemption by making gifts have to give up control of assets today. Typically that means putting them into “irrevocable trusts” that require upfront decisions about who will get what, when and for how many years thereafter.

So what does the law permit? Surprises, at times. Leona Helmsley, the widow of billionaire real-estate magnate Harry Helmsley, left a trust to care for her beloved dog, Trouble, after her death. Ms. Helmsley also required her grandchildren to visit their father’s grave once a year in order to receive payouts.

For people scrambling to set up trusts before year-end, here are some important considerations. And for those who don’t have millions to give, the good news is that most of the same rules governing trusts apply to ordinary wills as well.

Give as You Wish—Sort Of

In general the law is biased toward allowing people to leave assets as they wish—even if the wish seems silly. Nearly 100 years ago, a Connecticut court upheld a requirement that heirs had to spell the family name in a certain way to receive a payout. (It was Tyrrel.)

But there are limits. One is for provisions “contrary to public policy.” This category has always included requirements that promote divorce or criminal behavior; now it extends to racial discrimination. For example, courts have struck down provisions leaving money for scholarships for white girls.

Discouraging marriage also is frowned on. A court would almost certainly invalidate a provision requiring a daughter to remain unmarried in order to receive her trust payout. But people are free to put assets in trusts that bypass the future partners of a spouse.

Also problematic are ambiguous, illegal or impossible-to-satisfy provisions—such as one that required a treasured snowball collection to be preserved in a freezer. (What if the electricity went out?)

What is allowed varies according to state law. A Missouri court once struck down as too vague a provision requiring brothers to be capable of “prudent exercise, control and ownership” of a piece of real estate so that “no further danger shall exist.”

But vagueness didn’t prevent Northern Trust Chief Fiduciary Officer Hugh Magill, based in Chicago, from recently requiring a man in his mid-50s to prove he was “of sound mind, good moral character and temperate financial habits”—as a trust for the man required. Among other things, the heir submitted three years of tax returns, a financial statement and a letter of support from his minister; he got the money.

What about religious restrictions, such as mandating that tuition payouts be used for a parochial school? Courts often uphold them if they don’t violate other rules.

It is harder to predict the outcome of demands that an heir marry within a certain faith: An Ohio court validated such a provision in 1974, but an Illinois appellate court struck down another in 2008 (on public-policy grounds) and the state’s Supreme Court sidestepped the issue. “Norms may be changing on this issue,” says Ms. Wolven of Horwood, Marcus & Berk.

People who want to take advantage of this year’s gift-tax exemption should beware of one giant constraint: The Internal Revenue Service will deny tax benefits to a trust if the person who sets it up retains control, either himself or through an agent.

Although new laws in some states allow trust modifications for shifting circumstances, experts say taxpayers shouldn’t push these limits because they could wind up with a trust but without a current tax break.

Diving Into the Details

Here are more specifics to consider before setting up a trust or tinkering with a will.

Who is included? This is one of the most important decisions to make at the outset; much leeway is allowed, but taxpayers need to be clear given changing social mores. For example, consider carefully the definition of “spouse”—and decide whether that includes same-sex partners, and whether they have to be in a registered or long-term partnership.

Likewise, if a trust is to benefit descendants, make sure to define the term. Do adoptees count, or stepchildren, or the child of a surrogate? Is a child conceived with frozen sperm a descendant?

"Even experts are struggling with how to draft language on some issues," says Mr. McDonald.

Then there are decisions to make about shares. For example, if a matriarch’s daughter has four children and her son has one, she will need to consider whether payouts to the grandchildren should be “per capita” (each gets the same amount) or “per stirpes” (the son’s child gets one-half and the daughter’s children split one-half).

Many trusts also have “spendthrift” provisions preventing creditors from reaching trust assets, although the wall doesn’t extend to claims for child support or taxes.

Incentive provisions. Want to promote your descendants’ productivity by matching their income, or providing funds to help them start a business? Would making payouts to a stay-at-home parent of young children strengthen family ties? Many givers think about including incentives in trust or wills.

But experts counsel caution: “It’s impossible to foresee every circumstance,” Ms. Wolven says. What if you match income dollar for dollar, and the heir wants to enter a worthy but low-paid profession like teaching?

Norm Benford, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, remembers a carefully written trust that matched private-sector pay one for one, public- and charitable-sector pay four for one and “sacrifice” public-sector pay (like the Peace Corps) six-for-one—but the heir became a jazz musician and didn’t qualify for a payout at all.

That said, Ms. Wolven says she recently set up a trust for a younger person who had become wealthy and wanted to help his extended family. He empowered the trust to make loans to relatives for education, travel and mortgages. As long as the borrowers repay on schedule, the trust forgives half the payment. The trustee also can suspend collection if the borrower goes through a rough patch.

"It’s a good structure for helping loved ones without encouraging lack of productivity," Ms. Wolven says.

Experts also caution about inserting a requirement to test heirs for drugs, because it can be hard to find a trustee willing to undertake this intrusive supervision.

"Heirloom asset" trusts. People set these up to hold a treasured asset, such as a vacation compound, in trust for heirs to enjoy. Mr. Magill recommends endowing the trust with sufficient funds so heirs don’t wind up squabbling about maintenance of the asset. Sometimes such trusts make payouts for transportation costs so that far-flung relatives can visit.

Pet trusts. Leona Helmsley wasn’t wrong. Experts say such trusts are a good idea if the owner is worried that informal arrangements might fall through after death, because otherwise the pet is at risk of being euthanized.

Typically the owner chooses a trustee, specifies the care to be provided and endows the trust with sufficient funds.

"No contest" provisions. In some states, people can bar heirs from receiving payouts from a trust or will if they challenge it in court. Sometimes the law voids these provisions, known as “in terrorem” clauses, if an heir challenges the will and wins.

It is wise to think carefully before encumbering a trust or will with this or other inflexible constraints, even if such moves are legal. Experts say one of the chief aims of planning should be to avoid leaving a “legacy of ill will.” No matter how much money comes with it, that’s the worst legacy of all.


El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Filed under money finance debt estate will heirs

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Citigroup’s Odd Foreclosure Rental Program

Citigroup is getting into the rental business, at least it says it is.

On Wednesday, the bank launched a program to rent out 500 homes to homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage, rather than put the loans in foreclosure and kick the owners out. Homeowner advocacy groups and liberal economists have been pushing banks to offer the option to rent to borrowers nearing foreclosure. So the fact that Citi (C) was becoming the second large bank - Bank of America launched a similar program in March - to try out a rental program that would alleviate some of the pain of foreclosure seemed like good news.

"It’s another step in the right direction," says Dean Baker, an economist who has been a proponent of the rental programs.

The only problem is that Citi isn’t actually renting out any homes. Why is that? Well, you know those 500 homes Citi is going to generously try to rent back to their former owners? It doesn’t own those homes anymore.

In fact, Citi’s “Home Rental Program,” which is capitalized in its press release for extra branding power, is not really a rental program at all for the bank. For Citi, it’s a sales program.

As part of the deal, Citi sold $158 million worth of mortgages to an investor group of Carrington Capital Management and Oaktree Capital Management. In fact, this deal isn’t all that different from ones banks have been striking with investors for some time now. Like in other deals, Citi has no remaining stake in the homes, or really much say in what happens to the mortgages or homeowners.

The only difference is that Carrington and Oaktree have agreed in this instance to offer the borrower the right to hand over their home in return for getting the right to rent it back. And if they do, how long will those people be able to stay? Who knows? There’s nothing in the deal that requires the investors to wait a minimum period of time before flipping the houses or evicting the former homeowners. Carrington, which is managing the homes for the partnership, says it’s preference is to offer 3-year leases.

"Without Citi requiring a minimum three-to-five year time frame for the lease at a fair price, I’m not sure that this program will be very helpful to anyone other than the investors," says John Taylor, who is chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

So borrowers might actually be getting a worse deal in this instance. Often, investors are willing to offer more generous modifications than banks because they have bought the loans at a discount. Citi isn’t saying how much it got for the loans, but you can guess that Carrington and Oaktree paid even less than usual. Why else would they have agreed to the restriction they had to try to rent out the homes before proceeding with a foreclosure. But even with the discount, it appears Carrington is eager to rent out the homes, rather than modify the mortgages.

What’s more, since Citi no longer owns the mortgages, those borrowers are no longer eligible to get a modification under the $25 billion settlement agreement. Carrington could still decide to modify those loans instead of trying to rent them in lieu of foreclosure, but it won’t have the added incentive to modify the loans that the banks who signed the AG settlement have. So if you are one of the homeowners whose loan just got sold there is that much less of a chance that your loan will be modified.

So why didn’t Citi hang on to these homes and rent them out itself? Robert Cushman, a senior director of customer management at CitiMortgage said the bank’s regulators wouldn’t let it. But the Federal Reserve recently wrote a white paper advocating so called deed-for-lease programs as a way to help the housing market and alleviate the foreclosure crisis. So it seems at least one important regulator would be all for rental programs. What’s more, Bank of America’s rental program involves mortgages it still owns. Bank of America may end up selling those houses to investors, but it said it will only do so after they are rented back to the former owners.

So who cares if Citi is the one that is renting the homes, as long as they do end up as former-owner occupied rentals and not abandoned foreclosure blights? It might not matter. But it adds accountability. If Citi were doing the renting itself it would have more at stake to make sure homeowners are not abused.

And that may not happened, but Carrington hasn’t had the best record working with troubled homeowners. In May, in an article titled “Meet Your Hedge Fund Landlord” Mother Jones detailed a number of cases in which borrowers claim they were charged dubious fees by Carrington. The state of Ohio twice hauled Carrington into court because officials believed the company was not offering good faith loan modifications to borrowers who were eligible.

Rick Sharga of Carrington, though, says the firm has a growing business of renting out homes and wants to grow that business. “Our objective is to rent out these homes,” says Sharga. “If this works, Citi is inclined to ramp up the program so we would like to get as many people participating as possible.” Sharga says in most cases Carrington will be able to offer rents that are significantly less than what the former owner was paying on their mortgage.

And that might be the case. But if that happens it should be Carrington’s reputation that gets the boost for doing so, not Citi’s.

(By Stephen Gandel, Senior Editor)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: CNN)

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What Your Home Is Really Worth


When it comes to assessing a home’s value, real estate agents and homeowners tend to be an optimistic bunch.

In the post-bust world, appraisers are a different story. They have to predict a realistic value for your home that the bank can use to extend credit to a borrower — and that number can make or break your sale or refinance.

Appraisers say the following five areas are where homeowners often misjudge the worth of their abode.

1. The outside

The appraiser sees: Overgrown bushes and chipped paint.

What he does: Slices as much as 3% off the value of an average-size home.

Why: Curb appeal is primo. And an unkempt yard is a sign that there may be other issues.

"A good-looking lawn and bushes imply that you also take care of the internal systems in the house," says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of a New York City-based appraisal firm that works throughout the tri-state area.

Moreover, the more meticulous your neighbors are about grooming, the more your appraiser will downgrade the value of your home.

"If a lot of the nearby properties are professionally maintained, the one that sticks out like a sore thumb will get a harder adjustment than in a subdivision where there’s more variation," says San Diego appraiser Armando Ortiz.

2. Basic systems

The appraiser sees: A brand-new roof.

What he does: Nothing.

Why: Just as a knee replacement won’t make you look 20 years younger, a new roof, furnace, or boiler isn’t considered an improvement to your home.

That said, if your roof is in disrepair, replace it: Signs of leaks or discoloration can knock a significant amount off the home’s value.

"When people buy a home, they expect the roof to be working," says Columbus appraiser Mike Armentrout. "So while a new one isn’t an added feature, it will help your chances of a sale."

3. The basement

The appraiser sees: A recently finished basement with a half bath.

What he does: Adds about 2% to the value of the home.

Why: Yes, your finished basement adds value — but don’t expect it to count like first-floor space.

The addition of a bedroom and quarter bath on the ground floor could increase your home’s value by up to 20%, especially if you’ve got only one other bathroom.

"A below-ground basement normally isn’t included in the square footage of the house," says Miller.

The same rule applies to outbuildings like a pool-house casita, painting shed, or studio.

4. The market

The appraiser hears: Two nearby homes just went into contract above their asking prices.

What he does: Nothing.

Why: While a broker might pump up a home’s asking price based on the sense that the market is “hot,” by and large, appraisers are bound by the data of recent comparable sales.

What if prices are suddenly up in your area, and you’re nervous that your house won’t appraise for contract price? In that case, you might want to delay your appraisal until one of those recently contracted sales closes.

5. A remodel

The appraiser sees: An expensive, custom-made, built-in entertainment center.

What he does: Makes a negative adjustment to the valuation.

Why: “Cost doesn’t equal value,” says Miller.

Renovations that are at all trendy — or not in keeping with the historical period of the home — will be assessed at the cost of ripping them out.

Timeless improvements, on the other hand, such as a deep sink or new wooden cabinets in the kitchen, will add value.

So if you’re thinking of remodeling, ask a local real estate agent to tell you what’s on the wish list of today’s buyers.

(By Alison Rogers, CNN Money)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: CNN)

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The Highest-Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a Bachelor’s Degree

When the economy started to show troubling signs, many decided to skip college and join the workforce earlier.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 percent of U.S. workers don’t have a bachelor’s degree, but if you have an associate’s degree, a postsecondary non-degree award, or a high school diploma, you can still get a high-paying job.

The BLS provided a list of 80 high-paying occupations that don’t require a college degree. The median annual wages listed include hourly, weekly, annual pay, sales commissions, and production bonuses. Overtime wages are not included in the data.

We also included the expected job openings through 2020 and what kind of work experience or on-the-job training are needed for a particular job.

1. Air traffic controllers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $108,040

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 10,200

Work experience: None

Description: Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft. Median annual wages of air traffic controllers are the highest of any occupation in which workers typically do not need a bachelor’s degree.

On-the-job training: Long-term or on-the-job training

2. General and operations managers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $94,400

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 410,100

Work experience: 1-5 years

Description: Coordinating an organization’s daily activities, these managers might develop policies, oversee budget activities, or review sales reports.

On-the-job training: None

3. Construction manager

Median annual wage (May 2010): $83,860

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 120,400

Work experience: More than 5 years

Description: Oversee a construction project from start to finish. They set timelines, prepare contracts, and manage budgets.

On-the-job training: None

4. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $80,210

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 33,700

Work experience: More than 5 years

Description: In charge of operations that range from railroads to shipping facilities. They manage budgets, set policies and standards, and direct procurement.

On-the-job training: None

5. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

Median annual wage (May 2010): $78,260

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through -2020): 38,700

Work experience: 1 to 5 years

Description: Coordinate activities of members of police force.

On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

6. Radiation therapist

Median annual wage (May 2010): $74,980

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 6,700

Work experience: None

Description: Check equipment, observe patients’ reactions to treatment, and document the session.

On-the-job training: None

7. Administrative services managers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $77,890

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 99,800

Work experience: 1 to 5 years

Description: Plan, direct, and coordinate supportive services of an organization.

On-the-job training: None

8. Nuclear power reactor operators

Median annual wage (May 2010): $75,650

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 2,000

Work experience: None

Description: Move control rods, start and stop equipment, monitor and adjust controls, and record data in logs.

On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training

9. Elevator installers and repairers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $70,910

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 8,200

Work experience: None

Description: Fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

On-the-job training: Apprenticeship

10. Power distributors and dispatchers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,900

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 3,600

Work experience: None

Description: Coordinate, regulate, or distribute electricity or steam.

On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training

11. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,880

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 123,500

Work experience: More than 5 years

Description: Coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers.

On-the-job training: None

12. Detectives and criminal investigators

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,820

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 30,100

Work experience: 1 to 5 years

Description: Conduct investigations related to suspected violations of Federal, State, or local laws to prevent or solve crimes.

On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

13. Nuclear medicine technologists

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,560

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 7,500

Work experience: None

Description: Use a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing the scans.

On-the-job training: None

14. Dental hygienists

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,250

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 104,900

Work experience: None

Description: Clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care.

On-the-job training: None

15. First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $68,250

Degree required: Postsecondary non-degree award

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 33,100

Work experience: 1 to 5 years

Description: Coordinate activities of workers engaged in fire fighting and fire prevention and control.

On-the-job training: None

16. Commercial pilots

Median annual wage (May 2010): $67,500

Degree required: Postsecondary non-degree award

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 19,300

Work experience: None

Description: Fly and navigate airplanes or helicopters.

On-the-job training: None

17. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay

Median annual wage (May 2010): $65,230

Degree required: Postsecondary non-degree award

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 6,900

Work experience: None

Description: Inspect, test, repair, or maintain electrical equipment in generating stations, substations, and in-service relays.

On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training

18. Registered nurses

Median annual wage (May 2010): $64,690

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 1,207,400

Work experience: None

Description: Provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

On-the-job training: None

19. Fashion designers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $64,530

Degree required: High school diploma

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 6,700

Work experience: None

Description: Sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training

20. Diagnostic medical sonographers

Median annual wage (May 2010): $64,380

Degree required: Associate’s degree

Projected job openings (Through 2020): 31,700

Work experience: None

Description: Use special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.

On-the-job training: None

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

(By Vivian Giang, Business Insider)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: Business Insider)

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Why Children Are Getting More Expensive

Despite the economic slump, the smallest Americans are requiring more money.

Here’s some bad news for parents: Even excluding college tuition, children are getting more expensive. The Agriculture Department reports that children born in 2011 will cost their parents $234,900 before they turn 18. That’s 3.5 percent more than what those born in 2010 will cost. The report attributes the increase largely to the rising price of transportation, child care, education (before college), and food. 

Even accounting for inflation, the cost of children has risen steeply since the department first started tracking figures in 1960. Back then, children were estimated to cost $191,720 each in 2011 dollars (for middle-income families). Today’s cost estimate represents a 23 percent increase from that figure, largely because of rising healthcare expenses as well as childcare costs.

Housing is also a key factor in the overall cost of children, points out Laura Vanderkam, author of All The Money In The World, since it makes up about a third of the total cost estimate. “Many people buy that family house in the suburbs when they start raising a family,” she explains, and since housing prices rose in the 1990s and early 2000s, so did the cost of having children.

According to the Agriculture Department, childcare and education expenses were the second largest expense after housing, followed by food costs. For a middle-income family that earns between $59,410 and $102,870 a year, here’s how the costs break down (miscellaneous costs account for an additional 8 percent):

• Housing (30 percent): The Agriculture Department calculates the average cost of additional bedrooms in order to estimate children’s housing expenses. That’s because having children doesn’t affect the need for more kitchens or living rooms, but usually requires more bedrooms.

• Childcare and education (18 percent): This expense is the most complicated, because about half of households say they spend nothing on this category. (That can be the case if one parent stays home to care for children and the family relies on public school, for example.) Instead of averaging the cost by factoring in “zero” for families with no costs in this category, the researchers create an average based only on families who do pay for childcare and education.

• Food (16 percent): The Agriculture Department uses its own food plans, which is based on a nutritious diet, to estimate the cost of feeding children.

• Transportation (14 percent): Researchers included the cost of family activities, but not those related to commuting to work or household maintenance.

• Healthcare (8 percent): This figure comes from out-of-pocket healthcare expenses that go toward children, which comes from the Health and Human Services Department.

• Clothing (6 percent): Government survey data on how much families spend on shoes and clothes are used to generate this estimate.

In addition to those hefty costs, parents also pay more now for convenience, and because the baby-product industry has exploded, says Molly Thornberg, founder of the Digital Mom Blog. “Every mom wants their kid to look cute, and all that cuteness comes with a price. There are hair bows, sunglasses, cute socks, diaper covers, personalized bibs and burp rags,” she says, adding that even many luxury designers now sell lines of baby couture.

Thornberg, the mother four children ranging from age nine to 11 months, says her most wasteful purchases include items that didn’t exist when she was a baby, including a battery-operated nasal aspirator, which didn’t work as well as the old-fashioned plastic kind, and a Diaper Genie, which failed to contain the smell of dirty diapers.

To minimize some of those costs, Thornberg suggests finding hand-me-downs from a friend, especially for pricey but sturdy baby gear such as swings and bouncy chairs. Smaller items such as diapers and wipes can be purchased in bulk at a discount through online sellers such as Amazon.

Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, WhatToExpect.com, and related pregnancy and child development apps, recommends focusing on just a handful of essential purchases, including a car seat ($90 to $350), stroller ($100 to $1,000), a crib and other nursery furniture ($150 to $3,000), diapers, and clothes. “The best things in childrearing—the hugs, cuddles, kisses—are still free,” Murkoff says. “Little babies are big business these days, putting the pressure on parents to buy, buy, buy, whether they need to or not … the plethora of pricey products has become pretty overwhelming for parents who understandably want the best for their little ones,” she says.

Wipes warmers and baby skinny jeans are among the items that parents can skip, Murkoff adds. “If babies were meant to wear skinny jeans, they would have skinny legs,” she says.

The good news for parents is that the Agriculture Department also found that the more children a family has, the less they cost. That’s largely because children share bedrooms, clothes, and toys, and families can also qualify for sibling discounts at schools and childcare centers.

Thornberg says that in her own family, that pattern held true: When her oldest daughter was born, she had a designer nursery, many baby toys, and dresses for every occasion. Then, by the time her fourth child was born, she and her husband realized how little the baby really needed. She didn’t buy any baby shoes, since babies don’t walk, and all of his toys and clothes came from his older brother. “His entire nursery was done for under $500, whereas we spent $400 just on baby bedding for our first child,” she says.

Vanderkam, the mother of three, says those cost-savings are also born out of necessity. “Most people don’t get raises when they bring another kid home from the hospital. There simply isn’t enough additional disposable income to keep spending the same amount per child as you would on one,” she says. Plus, she adds, there’s no evidence younger siblings suffer as a result.

Says Vanderkam, “That seems to suggest that what we spend on kids matters less than we probably think.”

(By Kimberly Palmer, US News)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: money.usnews.com)

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6 Surprising Things That Won’t Hurt Your Credit Ccore

Losing your job and emptying your bank account won’t directly affect your credit score. Neither will refusing to pay your rent. In fact, you could be in prison facing murder charges, but as long as your bills were paid on time, your credit score wouldn’t suffer a bit.

Of course, it’s always best to pay all your bills on time (and stay out of trouble with the law). Nevertheless, there are many things that you might think would affect your credit score but don’t. For example, some quick thinking can prevent a late payment from lowering your score. Here’s a closer look at six items that — perhaps surprisingly — won’t harm your credit score:

1. Changes to your income or assets. “People get concerned that if they are laid off or get part-time work, that will affect their credit score, and it doesn’t, as long as they continue to pay their bills,” says Becky Walzak, president of RJB Walzak Consulting, which assists financial institutions with risk management, including assessing the creditworthiness of loan applicants. Of course, losing your job can affect your ability to qualify for new credit as financial institutions review income and employment as well as credit scores. But receiving unemployment or even public assistance will not affect your credit score.

2. Not paying your rent. Let’s say you’re withholding your rent because you’re in a dispute with your landlord, or you’ve broken a lease. “That doesn’t show up on your credit score unless your landlord takes you to court and a judgment is entered,” says Kelley Long, certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Financial Literacy Commission. However, since landlords typically ask for references from prospective tenants, it may affect your ability to rent another place in the future. In fact, legal trouble of any sort will not affect your credit score, as long as you continue to pay any debts you’ve incurred.

3. Late payment of taxes — up to a point. “Paying your property taxes late will show up on your credit score if your county puts a lien on your home,” Long says. Depending on your county’s policies and practices, though, that will probably take a while. Likewise, problems with the Internal Revenue Service won’t immediately show up on your credit score. “If you don’t pay your taxes and then enter an agreement with the IRS, that goes on your report as another loan,” she says.

4. Late payments to small vendors who don’t report to the credit bureaus. In order for a debt to count toward your credit score, it needs to be reported to one of the big three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian or Equifax. “Small vendors typically don’t report to credit bureaus, and some large companies don’t either,” Walzak says. Once a vendor sends your account to a collections agency, however, it typically will be reported to the credit bureaus, but since collections agencies only pay a portion of what they collect to their clients, most small vendors won’t take this step in a hurry.

5. Anything your creditor agrees not to report. There’s another reason creditors may not report your unpaid debt to a credit bureau: Because you asked them not to.

"Often, with mortgages, people work out modifications," Walzak says. "Then people think, ‘I’ve got some debt relief and my car is shot,’ so they go apply for a car loan and they’re surprised to learn that their mortgage bank is reporting them delinquent. But it says in the mortgage agreement that if you pay anything less than the amount owed, you will be considered delinquent. So that’s a question to ask when you’re talking to a bank when reducing your debt or modifying your loan: ‘Will you report me as delinquent?’"

People get concerned that if they are laid off or get part-time work, that will affect their credit score, and it doesn’t, as long as they continue to pay their bills.

And, she says, you can ask a credit card company not to report you, depending on the circumstances. “If you accidentally don’t send a payment, or send it late one time, you should call the credit card company, let them know, and ask them not to report it. A lot of times they won’t even mark it as late. What really hurts is paying late over and over.”

6. Not carrying a balance. “The question I get most often is, ‘What balance do I need to carry on my credit card?’” Long says. “You don’t have to carry a balance to show good credit.” The confusion arises, she says, because many people understand that if they have a credit card but never use it, it won’t improve their credit score. That’s because a credit score is supposed to show your ability to repay debt. You can’t demonstrate your ability to repay debt if you never have any to repay. But using a credit card and paying it off each month is a great way to do this. 

On the other hand, you do risk hurting your credit score if you run up high credit card balances, even if you pay them in full each month — a strategy many people adopt in order to capture credit card rewards. Since high utilization (using most or all of your available credit) negatively affects your score, it can have a negative impact if the credit card company happens to report to the credit card bureaus on a day when your balance is high.

If you still want to chase those rewards points, though, there are strategies for avoiding this effect. “I use American Express to pay for everything and then I pay it off,” Walzak says. “The closing date is the 27th of the month, and they typically report to the credit bureaus on the first of the month. So I make sure to get my payment in between the 27th and the 30th.”

Remember that you don’t actually have to wait till the closing date to make a payment, says Anthony Sprauve, director of communications for MyFico.com. “I use a credit card to make most purchases so as to accumulate airline miles,” he says. “But I make multiple payments throughout the month.”

Whatever your approach, keep in mind that a credit score is only one piece of your financial picture, and that any prospective creditor will consider many other factors, Walzak says. Someone with a less-than-perfect credit score who has extenuating circumstances may still get credit, while someone with a good credit score but a bad financial picture may not.

"I’ve seen so many people with good credit scores and then I look at the amount of debt they have and I think: ‘These people can’t manage their money,’" she says.

(By Minda Zetlin)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: creditcards.com)

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12 Things to Buy Used

Do you have an aversion to buying second-hand items? Don’t like the idea that someone else used them first? Well, get over it because you can save a lot by buying used rather than new.

Many pre-owned items can cost up to 50% to 75% less than the price you’d pay if you purchased them new. Often you can find “used” goods that have hardly even been used. And with some items, retailers or manufacturers refurbish and repackage them so that they’re practically new again.

Here are 12 things that you should consider buying used because you often can find them in good or almost-new condition at a fraction of the price you would pay by buying them new.

Furniture. If you want to avoid the straight-out-of-the-furniture-showroom look or just don’t have a lot of money to spend outfitting your abode, hit up estate sales, consignment stores, antique stores or even yard sales to find unique and affordable pieces. Craigslist.org is another good source of used furniture. For example, we found a china cabinet, dining table and six chairs for sale on the site for $475. A similar table and chairs was $1,199 at Macys.com and similar china cabinet was $1,499. Word of caution: Don’t buy used mattresses (unless you want to risk getting bed bugs) and consider getting upholstered items professionally cleaned before bringing them into your home.

Designer jeans. A pair of designer jeans (brands such as True Religion, 7 For All Mankind, Paige, Joe’s Jeans) typically cost $150 to $200. But you can find a gently worn pair at an upscale consignment store for a third of that price. Don’t like the idea that someone else wore them? Well, there’s a good chance at least one – maybe several – people tried on the “new” jeans you bought at the store. (And you probably didn’t think to wash them before wearing them because you assumed they hadn’t been worn.)

Tablets. The way to get a deal on pricey tablets is to buy refurbished models, which are tested to meet manufacturer specifications. For example, a new iPad2 with Wi-Fi, 3G and 16GB costs $529 new but only $399 refurbished. When buying refurbished, look for tablets with a warranty – one year is ideal, according to dealnews.com.

Swing sets. High-end, deluxe wooden swing sets can cost as much as several thousand dollars. But even simple models are at least $300, which can be a lot to pay for something your kids will quickly outgrow. That’s why it’s smart to buy used swing sets, which you can find for half the original price. Check your local paper’s classifieds or Craigslist.org.

Books and college textbooks. You can pick up paperbacks at yard sales for $1 (or less) or find them at used bookstores or online at sites such as Amazon.com for a lot less than you’d pay if you bought them new. You also can cut the cost of college textbooks in half by buying used. Use sites such as BigWords.com, CampusBooks.com and AllBookstores.com to scan multiple online retailers to find the lowest-price. 

Kids’ bicycles. No need to spend a lot of money on a bike that your child will quickly outgrow. You likely can find a used one with little wear and tear (because the previous owner outgrew it quickly) at a fraction of the cost of a new bike.

Video games. If your kids (or you) aren’t intent on buying the latest, greatest video games at the time of their release, you can spend half as much buying games used rather than new. Among the retailers that sell pre-owned video games are Amazon.com, Best Buy, GameStop and Walmart.

Lawn equipment. Mowers, trimmers, pressure washers and other outdoor equipment are good things to buy used because you can easily see what sort of condition they’re in. If the equipment is clean and the parts are barely worn, you know it’s been gently used.

Power tools. Sometimes people buy tools to complete a project, then never use them again – and unload them at great prices. So no need to pay full price for a tool that you can buy gently used for a lot less. You can find reconditioned tools at Amazon.com, or search Craigslist.org or the classifieds for like-new tools.

Baby gear. The cost of all the gear parents often buy when having a baby — such as a crib, bassinet, stroller and high-chair — can add up quickly. But there’s no need to spend a lot buying these items new when you can find them in mint condition at consignment sales or online auctions for a lot less. Don’t buy used car seats, though, because they might have been involved in an accident, their safety features might have been compromised or they might have been recalled.

Baby, toddler and kid clothing. Because kids — especially babies — grow out of clothing so quickly, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on their apparel. You can find name-brand children’s clothing in good condition for just a few bucks per item at upscale consignment stores, which are selective about the items they accept.

Exercise equipment. Plenty of people have every intention of starting an exercise regimen when they purchase treadmills or elliptical machines, but many times this pricey equipment just gathers dust. That’s why it’s often easy to find used exercise equipment in great condition at great prices — and you don’t have to feel so guilty if you don’t end up using it as much as you anticipated. For example, we found many name-brand treadmills and elliptical trainers listed for $300 or less on the Washington, D.C., Craigslist.

(By Cameron Huddleston, Kiplinger)

El Cid Bookkeeping & Income Tax Services

800 S. San Fernando Boulevard 
Burbank, CA 91502
Phone: 818-841-0255
Fax: 208-474-2744


(Source: kiplinger.com)

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