Sunday

How to deal with collection agencies

Knowing your rights is very important

Credit collection companies make money only when you begin paying off old debt. However, not all collection agencies operate within the guidelines set up by the Fair Debt Collection laws that protect consumers.
Collection agencies will generally call you one (or more) times daily, and this practice borders on harassment. You have every right as a consumer to protect yourself from this type of practice. You should write to collection agencies and request they not contact you except in writing.
Collection agencies do not want you to know what rights are afforded you as a debtor. Many will use fear tactics including threatening legal action, threatening jail time and threatening to have your wages garnished.
Make sure that you understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection rules. Individual states may also offer additional protection to consumers. Before you return a telephone call to a credit
collection agency, make sure that you fully understand your rights under both your individual state laws and federal law
purchased from istockphoto.com
purchased from istockphoto.com

Saturday

How to borrow money against your home

Hidden assets: Home equity

There are various reasons why people want to borrow money against their home. Sudden medical bills, vacations, replacing a vehicle or paying off high interest rate credit cards are a few reasons.
Before making a decision to tap into home equity, borrowers need to understand the risks associated with home equity loans as well as the benefits. They also need to know how to borrow money against their home. Borrowing money against home equity can take on several forms including a cash-out refinance, home equity line of credit or a straight home equity loan. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
Homeowner's will have to investigate which method works best for their individual needs depending on their own personal financial condition. However, the steps to successfully borrowing against your home are nearly the same regardless of which type of loan you are using to obtain cash.

Steps to getting a second mortgage

Determine viability
Using the equity in a home may cause long-term financial challenges. Before you decide to borrow money against your home, make sure that you have the financial stability to repay the loan. Whether you are using an equity line of credit, refinancing or taking a second mortgage, the consequences of being unable to make payments are very serious including the potential to lose your home to foreclosure.
Contact your current lender
In many cases, most homeowner's will do better if they contact their current lender to inquire about a second mortgage or to take out an equity line of credit. Existing lenders already know your payment history and probably have a good idea of the current value of the home and how much equity is in the home. Your lender will often work with you to determine which type of cash-out is better for your individual financial situation. One of the primary concerns a lender will have is whether you qualify based on your home's value. Nearly all lenders will want to keep loan-to-value ratios below 90 percent whenever possible.

Lenders typical requirements

When applying for a home mortgage or a second mortgage, lenders not only look at debt to income ratios, they also look at loan to value ratios. This is the ratio that is calculated based on the value of the property and the amount that the borrower is requesting.
Loan to value ratios help lenders minimize their risks and ensure that the loan is secure as well. Lenders who loan to borrowers who have less than 20 percent equity in their home may also require that a borrower purchase PMI (personal mortgage insurance) and in some cases they also require that certain payments be escrowed. These payments may include taxes and homeowner's insurance.

Friday

Understanding the Power of Twitter

Twitter and your business

It's true that Twitter is a social networking site, but it also offers unlimited possibilities for marketing your business. Whether you are a new business owner or the owner of an established business, you can learn how to harness the power of Twitter to market your business. There is a significant market that can be developed if you understand how to use Twitter for marketing purposes. Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Surveys - Find out what your customers expect from you by conducting surveys on Twitter. This can help determine what additional services are valuable to perspective clients. A well thought out survey can also help you determine what your clients ability is to pay for your services. You can conduct surveys about what customers want to see on your website as well, helping you make it more useful.
  • Specials - You can jump start a new product or service offering by marketing a special deal for those who follow you on Twitter. This can result in a flood of new business and expand your client base very quickly. Before you undertake this method to harness the power of Twitter for your business, make sure you are prepared for the potential demand.
  • News - Your Twitter account can be a fast and effective way to broadcast news about your company. Twitter can be a great way to let your followers know about a company newsletter, new staff members or any other news that is worthy of distribution. Because Twitter is "immediate" people will see a "tweet" often more quickly than they will see an e-mail.

Your only true competitive advantage is your customer relationships

Competitiveness is the hallmark of business. In today's global marketplace, business owners need to determine how best to compete. Not only are business owners competing with businesses in their own towns, they are now competing on a global level. In some cases, they are competing with businesses who only have an online presence making customer retention even more challenging.

New Ways to Compete

Historically, businesses competed by offering better products, lower prices and convenience. Today, this is nearly impossible to accomplish and keep a competitive edge. Building brand loyalty is not nearly as easy as it once was, in large part because of the internet. People tend to look for the products they need online. During this search, customers are more likely to ask friends via social media, shop for the best price on a product and are as interested in convenience as they are in a brand. Therefore, business owners and decision-makers in a business need to find the best way to attract and retain customers.

Do Not Bypass Tried-and-True Methods

One thing to keep in mind is that there are still some tried and true methods that you cannot change while working on attracting and retaining customers. Your business must still offer a high-quality product, stay current with trends that occur in your industry and provide value to the consumer. These are the basic building blocks of a good relationship between you and your customer. But, you cannot stop there. Today's consumer demands more.

Communication is the True Building Block of Loyalty

Communicating with your customer base is the true key to developing customer loyalty. If your customers only hear from you when you are trying to promote a new product, they may soon turn to other similar products that will meet their needs. Developing strong relationships with customers involves time and effort on your part, but, in the long run, it will pay off with a more loyal customer base.

Communicate More Than Sales

Consider the last time you offered a loyalty discount, reached out to your customer base to acknowledge a birthday or holiday or offered some special incentive that was not open to the public. These are great ways to build loyalty through customer relationships and you should attempt to do this type of outreach at least on a quarterly basis. Remember, you do not want to be a nuisance but you do want your customers to remember you the next time they are searching for the product or service you are offering.

Customer Service: Get More for Your Dollar

Communicating between sales is only one step in developing customer loyalty through strong relationships. The best way to ensure your competitors cannot poach your customers is to ensure you have superior customer service. This is the one way that your competition cannot match if you are doing things the right way. Customer service must be proactive and not always reactive. Naturally, if a customer has a complaint you want to be as reactive as possible but if you are proactive, you can stop a lot of problems. Be sure your customer service team is all on the same page with one goal in mind: keeping a happy customer.

Social Media, Telephone and Email

Being available to your customers in as many ways as possible can help you develop the best relationships. Your online presence can help you stop problems from developing before they harm your reputation with other customers. Keep in mind, a happy customer may only offer your information to others if they are asked. An unhappy customer will tell whoever will listen. Keeping the lines of communication open and being responsive to inquiries, complaints and suggestions are all great methods of developing customer loyalty.

Thursday

Cutting Vital Programs May Thwart Job Growth

For those who believe government can provide solutions and improve the lives of everyday Americans, it is worth noting the Cabinet members President Donald J. Trump has selected to help lead the United States. It is in these selections we may find some insight into what cuts will be made to government programs. 

Where the Cabinet Selections Started 

Heritage Foundation is a Washington, D.C. based conservative think tank. Any person with the inclination to do so can read their website and will quickly understand their intention is to shrink government as quickly as possible. Interestingly enough, Heritage Foundation has been a leading force in helping Donald J. Trump fill his cabinet. This should concern anyone who believes some issues need to be dealt with by the federal government. 

Most Can Get Behind Shrinking Expenses But... 

Whether you lean left or lean right, most people can get behind reducing bureaucracy. The problem is there are differences in opinion in where and how those cuts may be made. For example, one of the proposals floated by Heritage Foundation which may now be considered is cuts to the U.S. Commerce department. Overall these cuts would reduce federal government expenses by some $900 million dollars this year alone. The cuts could include eliminating these four programs: 
  • Minority Business Development Agency 
  • Economic Development Administration 
  • International Trade Administration 
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership 
The problem with these cuts is they seem diametrically opposite the President's pledge to help spur new jobs. Let's take a look at what each of these agencies mission statement is and see what cutting these divisions could mean in the long-run.