How Do I Improve My Credit Score?

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

An important financial concern that we often hear from clients is, “How can I improve my credit score?” First of all, I have to give a quick disclaimer that our company, CameronDowning, is not a credit repair or debt consolidation service. Our goal is to arm you with the education you need to establish a strong financial foundation. Consequently, this often includes advice on how to raise your credit score.

If you’re considering buying a home, taking out a loan, or you’re getting yourself organized after a season of personal financial challenges, you understand that your credit score may determine what you can and cannot do in life.

The most widely used credit score are FICO scores. FICO score and credit score are often used interchangeably. FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation. Founded by William Fair and Earl Isaac in the late 1950s, they developed a mathematical algorithm that predicts consumer behavior,...

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Young Professionals & Good Financial Decision-Making

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Isn’t it funny that we are expected to make the biggest decisions of our lives when we are young? 

We get married, we pursue a career path, maybe have children. We have to make quite a few decisions that will affect us the rest of our lives and determine our future trajectory. The decisions we make now can lead to heartache and loss, or security and success down the road. Some of us are fortunate to have parents to steer us in a good direction, while others lean on friends, extended family, or (gasp!) blogs. When to start investing for the long-term is also part of this equation.

When to Start Investing? The Answer Could Mean Millions.

Sometimes pure inertia delays our decision-making process.  We know we need to save for the future.  We know we need to save for retirement.  But that is so far away!   And if we start off on a bad foot we may choose a bad investment, establish a short-sighted plan, and potentially...

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Is it DĀTA or DĂTA?

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’m here to tell you once and for all.

Yes, I know . . . this is a little off the beaten path for me. 

The World is Not in Good Order

I usually write about financial topics, given that I’m a professional financial planner.  But occasionally some NIGO aspect of the world (that’s Not in Good Order, in my professional parlance) comes to my notice with such frequency that I just can’t take it anymore.  Sort of like the crescendo in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  It builds and builds, and you know that a climax is coming. 

Well, today it peaked, and I’m seized with great generosity of spirit (and indeed, humility) to set the English-speaking world right. 

Ready?  Here it is:  data is the plural of the singular datum.  There is your pronunciation:  dāta with a long a.  Not dăta with a short a.  Never Ever EVER. 

Now that that’s settled, let’s turn...

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Top Five Mistakes People Make With Their Money

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Channeling David Letterman and all those Top Ten lists. I thought it might be fun to compile one of my own. To wit:

The Top Five Mistakes People Make With Their Money

This is a list compiled after about 25 years of experience. 

Mistake #5

You eat out way too much. This is what your kitchen is for! If you get a sandwich and a coffee in Miami on a daily basis, you’ve spent ($10/day * 20 days) $200 in a month! How about all that fast food? I’m seeing families who spend several hundred dollars each month eating out, when a little planning and Publix time could save much of that money and everyone would be healthier and richer for it.

Mistake #4

You don’t have enough life insurance. What happens if you get hit by a bus? Are your existing savings enough for your surviving spouse and children? Term insurance is relatively cheap and easy to obtain. No excuses. See Mistake #5.

Mistake #3

You don’t have an emergency fund....

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The Time Value of Money

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

We usually understand the time value of money in two contexts: the growth rate of an investment, and the inflation rate.   Nonetheless, the TVM is a topic that should be understood by everyone serious about financial planning.

Sketch Out a Timeline

To conceptualize this, sketch out a timeline of your life. At the leftmost point is your date of birth. The rightmost point is your date of death. In between, mark your retirement date, and today’s date. If you are not yet retired, then the time value of an investment pertains to you in particular.

TMV: Investment Growth Rates

Let’s look at investment growth rates.  On your timeline you have 10 years before your retirement.  You're interested in projecting out your IRA balance over these 10 years, assuming an 8% annual rate of return, compounded monthly. Your current balance is $250,000, and you are depositing $300/month – less than what is permissible by law. I make...

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Student Loan Forgiveness

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

By early 2015, the amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. exceeded $1.2 trillion. What a staggering number! Tens of millions of young professionals carry significant student debt balances. The payments may be stiff. It can take years to pay off many of these loans. Consequently, other financial priorities get postponed. Commonly we see saving for retirement pushed ahead into the future. Does this describe you?

There is Some Good News

The good news is, there are federal programs for income-based repayment and even loan forgiveness. Before you get too excited, though: only certain kinds of federal student loans qualify. These include Stafford and Grad PLUS loans. Each year, program participants verify their income and family size. The loan servicer then calculates a new required monthly payment amount. Loan payments go up or down as appropriate. The intent is to assist borrowers in making on-time payments. These payments, however, may...

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The Ins and Outs of Traditional IRAs

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

In this blog post I want to go just a little bit beyond the basics of traditional IRAs and how they work. 

What are Traditional IRAs?

An IRA is an individual retirement account by definition, with the emphasis on individual. One IRA means one owner, so there can be no joint titling. In order to contribute to an IRA you must have earned income. That is, income from compensation defined as wages, salaries, tips, alimony, and separate maintenance payments. These are all earned income. Income from capital gains, dividends, and interest is not considered earned income by the IRS – they classify it as investment income.

How Much Can I Invest?

Your contribution limit is $6000 per year (2020). If you’re over 50 an additional $1000 catch up contribution is allowed, so the limit becomes $7000.  Age limits on contributions have been repealed in the 2020 CARES Act, so as long as you have earned income you can contribute.

What’s the...

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The Surgeon Who Lost His Fingers

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Nobody plans for a disability. In our experience, people are more willing to incorporate life insurance into their financial plan than disability insurance. Why is this? Let’s first get into the differences between disability and life insurance.

Disability Insurance vs. Life Insurance

Here are a few key differences between these two types of insurance:

  • With a life insurance a policy claim, your insurance company pays others at your death. A disability income claim pays you, maintaining your family’s financial well-being during an illness or injury.
  • Death is a certainty, so your beneficiaries will get paid the life insurance death benefit. A disability benefit pays only when you have a covered injury or illness, insuring against the loss of earned income.
  • Traditionally, a life insurance death benefit pays beneficiaries in a lump sum. A disability policy typically pays a monthly income to the policyholder up until age 65.
  • Many life...
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This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’ve been pondering this.

This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

It sort of hit me one day after having noticed This Page is Intentionally Left Blank in clients’ brokerage account statements.

Seems to me that if there’s printing on the page, it is not blank, is it?  Brokerage statements go on for pages and pages.  Who formats these things?  Why not print on it and save a tree?

Sometimes business written communication makes me crazy.  Why not say use instead of utilize? Or even worse, why not say complete instead of effectualize? Seems the more jargon the better.  Or how about our deliverables?  Deliverables indeed!  We sell deliverables? I though we sold planning and investment management.  

Personally, I’d rather eschew obfuscation. (That’s a joke.)

Ok, I'm ranting.  I guess we should close the flight plan on this.  (Really? Why not simply conclude?)

Just...

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Your First Home Purchase Part II

 

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

In the previous installment of this 2-part series, I discussed how you can prepare yourself for a mortgage application in terms of your credit report and credit score. In this installment I’ll look at the criteria that lenders use when evaluating your application.  

Where Can You Get a Mortgage?

You may obtain a mortgage from a commercial bank, a savings and loan institution, a mortgage company through a loan originator, or even a private individual.

How Much Will They Lend You?

To answer that, let me give you a term and define it. The term is PITI: Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. PITI is, in other words, the out-of-pocket expense that it takes to keep you living in the home you buy. PITI also includes association maintenance or condo fees.

Mortgage Qualifying Ratios

Lenders use two qualifying ratios in determining how much mortgage you can afford. They will loan you 28% to 36% of your monthly gross income for PITI...

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