Beware of mortgage insurance!

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Beware of mortgage insurance! – – Home Finance – Laurie Baird

OPINION: Who should we vote for in the Queensland election?

CAMPBELL Newman says the last thing Queensland needs is a hung Parliament.

Hes painted the election battle as one as a choice between himself and Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Newman argues the LNP has a strong plan. He argues Labor has none.

That, of course, is simplistic nonsense.

As many pundits point out, the LNPs billions in promises depends on selling rights to Queensland key assets.

Already hes said that if the LNP doesnt get a decent price for those 99-year leases than there will be none of the infrastructure projects that the government has promised.

What is of bigger concern to many punters though is what the consequences of those deals are.

Anyone who knows anything about big business knows that any buyer will be expecting healthy profits on their investments.

And that has to mean higher electricity prices.

As many will remember, Mr Newman went to the last election promising lower costs of living for Queenslanders.

I dont know about you, but I have yet to see any evidence of that.

My electricity bill has certainly not gone down.

And as a voter, I certainly will be considering the impact of flogging off electricity networks (whether as a sale or a lease doesnt matter) on my likely future cost of living.

On the Labor side, Fridays announcement of no asset sales but somehow they will pay down debt was not convincing.

As many punters note, Labor has had a shocking record when it comes to dealing with debt – both at a state and federal level.

The end result is that we, as taxpayers, can expect one of two things – reduced services or higher taxes. Someone has to pay the debt.

From a personality point of view, Annastacia Palaszczuk certainly comes across as a far warmer character than Campbell Newman.

But has she got the skill – or team – to run the state?

If Newman is the mean machine of business politics, shes offering a better way built on compassion, particularly for Queenslands growing tsunami of young unemployed.

Despite what the LNP and ALP would have us believe, Queensland politics is not just about two sides.

We can expect to see more independents, Palmer United Party and Katter Australian Party MPs in the next Parliament.

Why? Because many voters have had a gutful of the major parties.

But none of the minor parties appear to offer compelling alternatives.

The Greens will appeal to the growing number of people who have seen big business ride roughshod over local residents and the environment.

Clive Palmers Palmer United Party will attract those who hate the LNP but dont want to vote Labor or Greens.

However, any fair dinkum assessment of Palmers appeal would have to conclude that his party is on the decline, big time.

Far from being the Palmer United Party, it has become the Palmer Divided Party with key players leaving the flock.

So the key many of us face is: who should we vote for?

The simple answer is the best candidate – regardless of their political colours.

Who is going to work hardest for your electorate?

Who is going to go into bat for local issues?

Who is going to get your area results?

And while Mr Newman will argue a simple vote 1 strategy, we should be smarter than that.

Order candidates according to your preferences, not the party line or how to vote card.

If that approach returns a more balanced, less arrogant government, than our votes will count towards a better future.

* Mark Furler, who has been a journalist based on the Sunshine Coast for almost 30 years, is APN Australian Regional Medias group digital editor.

Why Blind Faith in Dave Ramsey and Others Can be Financially Dangerous

Every once in a while someone from one of the personal finance guru camps comes to call me an idiot. It just happened again the other day. And for the record, it seems to be Dave Ramsey believers 9 out of 10 times.

Dave Ramsey is a popular personal finance, faith-based idol who has a loyal following and a popular money-making enterprise.

Now dont get me wrong, a healthy discussion of facts around dealing with debt should be a goal so all can learn. But blind belief in what any personal finance guru says seems more dangerous than beneficial.

The other day the attack against me was over borrowing. You cant borrow your way out of debt, said this fan. Dave seems to give that advice a lot, even on his website. Youre an idiot, was the followup. Now I fully admit Im an idiot at some things but in this case the belief that you cant borrow your way out of debt is just mathematically not true. You can and many successfully do.

Dave seems to treat people as if they are financial sinners who cant think for themselves. Im not the only one to think so.

You can borrow your way out of debt. I even cover how to do it (click here). A loan with better terms that costs less will get you out of debt faster. In fact, some creditors are often willing to accept 50%, or less, of the balance to eliminate some debts and send out proactive offers to do so. You could even pay the settlement with borrowed funds. Crowd-sourced loans are available for that or maybe a loan from a family member will eliminate your debt faster.

So clearly not only can a bad loan be replaced with a better loan but debt can be eliminated faster with a loan. And the result of doing this, you can get back to saving and living within your budget faster. A month or year delayed in getting back to saving will cost you dearly later in life when you need it most. Dont believe me? Use this calculator to see for yourself.

But the perplexed look on my face does not end with the borrowing issue. Ramseys view of bankruptcy is not logical either. Ramsey appears to have tempered his negative opinion about bankruptcy a bit over the years but his believers still seems to think bankruptcy is bad and sinful. Its not. It is a legal process to allow someone to recover from an unsustainable situation. Some mainstream creditors are even eager to lend again to people immediately after bankruptcy.

I wrote about the incongruity of Ramseys position in Dave Ramseys Hatred of Bankruptcy and Credit Cards Makes No Logical Sense. And others have shared their concerns as well, here and here.

A blind faith in anything can lead to fanatical problems. The world has proven that to us time and time again. The personal consequences in not asking or seeking answers to blanket personal finance beliefs can cause you immense loss. Dont do it. Question authority and discover reality for yourself.

Oh, and on budgeting, I dont need to sell you a book or tape series to get you on track. Just spend less than you make, save a percentage of your income in a savings account and a retirement fund and enjoy life. There is a wealth of free information on there on money saving tips you can use without going to the seminar.

2015 is a great year to expand your business

Financing Sheboygan County business growth in 2015 will prove to be the easiest in nearly a decade, as lenders look to meet the needs of local business expansion now that the economy is rebounding.

This recovery is evidenced in county unemployment now down to 4 percent, with more than 1,000 job openings currently available. In addition, many area companies we talk with continue to have expansion plans.

If your company is among the local businesses needing to grow to meet customer demand, then 2015 may be the year to move ahead with these plans. And with good reason. Interest rates on business financing continue to be low. Recent growth and gains in the US economy are forecasted to continue. For the first time in years, real wages are projected to increase, fueling greater consumer demand for products and services.

To finance this long-awaited growth, many banks are now removing borrower restrictions and several lenders are boasting quick approval processes for business loans under $300,000.

Seeking to expand your business in 2015? There are a host of tools to help finance this expansion. Among these, loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) are a good bet. If youre a US Military Veteran, take note: there are extremely favorable loans available for less than $150,000.

The SBA 7(a) Loan Program is the most common and the SBAs flagship program. It includes financial assistance for businesses that dont have a lot of assets, such as newer businesses and some startups. These loans can be used for a host of purposes including working capital, equipment purchases and more. As of September 30, 2014, SBA had approved 52,044 7(a) loans for nearly $20 billion — 12 percent more loans than in 2013.

The SBA CDC/504 Loan Program is for companies with a tangible net worth less than $15 million and an average net income less than $5 million after taxes for the preceding two years. It provides financing of millions of dollars with only 10 percent down payment. This program is perfect for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate, and can also be used by an employee to purchase a business from its owner.

Microloan Programs provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses (and certain not-for-profit childcare centers) start up or expand. These are available from a variety of sources, but often require business plans.

Sheboygan County has several top SBA lenders with financial institutions able to match needs large and small. Even several municipalities with the county have loan funds available for those seeking to create jobs.

Before you seek financing, make sure your business plan is solid and up-to-date, as this is usually required before lending institutions will consider your application. Need assistance in writing or revising your business plan? The Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) can help. We contract with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) located at UW-Green Bay to provide guidance and assistance in creating business plans. Contact SCEDCs Jim Schuessler at 920-452-2479 to schedule an appointment.

If youre looking for neutral, third-party input on business financing options, SCEDC provides consultation services that include advising you on:

o All available financing programs your business qualifies for, including background on program type, requirements, application process and contact information

o Where to find and how to tap into business financing options

o How to tie your business growth into federal, state and local financial and non-financial incentive programs

The bottom line? SCEDC is here to help make 2015 the year to grow your business — and your success. Our board members, staff and I are optimistic and excited to see what will transpire this year, as Sheboygan County continues its upswing. Warm best wishes for a year filled with good things for our communities and citizens.

Dane Checolinski is director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp.

OnDeck Opens Small-Business Loan Marketplace to Institutional Investors

Online marketplace lender OnDeck Capital has launched a new platform to better enable institutional investors to buy small business loans OnDeck originates.

The general availability of OnDeck Marketplace comes after a one-year pilot program with a group of inaugural institutional investors, including asset managers, hedge funds and business development companies. To use the platform, each institutional investor opens its own OnDeck Marketplace account, purchases loans on a programmatic basis, and then receives daily principal and interest payments from the loans it owns. OnDeck services the loans institutions purchase.

Institutional investors have been seeking a platform to gain credit exposure to Main Street business loans at scale, Noah Breslow, chief executive officer of the online lending company, said in a release. OnDeck Marketplace is a natural extension of the increased predictive power of our OnDeck Score, and further diversifies the company’s sources of revenue and capital.

The sale of small business loans to institutions is one of the tactics online marketplace lenders have discussed growing their business. OnDeck also recently began securitizing its non-Small Business Administration loans.

OnDeck will use Score, the small business credit reports it generates from collected data, to set prices for loans in the Marketplace platform. 

OnDecks new platform launch follows last months successful initial public offering, and the increased pressure for steady growth that comes with it. OnDeck ended its first day of public trading valued close to $1.8 billion.

Posted in Business Loans | Tagged | Comments Off on OnDeck Opens Small-Business Loan Marketplace to Institutional Investors

Improved help for people struggling with problem debt

Jan 15 2015
Plans to enable easier access to debt relief for financially vulnerable people have been announced by Business Minister Jo Swinson.

The changes will allow approximately 3,600 more people a year with problem debt to enter into a Debt Relief Order (DRO) a low cost alternative to bankruptcy for those with very low assets and income and debt which they are unable to pay. The maximum amount of debt that can be covered by these plans will increase from pound;15,000 to pound;20,000.

The government is also increasing the minimum level of debt for which someone owed money can force a person into bankruptcy from pound;750 to pound;5,000. The limits were last revised in 1986.

The changes come against a background of falling insolvency numbers since 2010.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

Struggling with unresolvable debt can cause immense stress for families. These changes will ensure that our debt relief schemes are updated so that they still meet their original goal of providing access to those who need them. They also ensure that bankruptcy, which has the most significant consequences, is reserved for those with sizeable debts.

As always, it is important for people struggling with their debts to seek early advice from National Debtline (0808 808 4000) or other advisors. The changes announced today give them a better chance of escaping from the spiral of indebtedness so they can rebuild their lives.

The Insolvency Service sought views from industry, debt charities and other interested parties on the operation of DROs and bankruptcy debt threshold last year.

Evidence showed that DROs help some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society make a new start and improve their mental well being. The new changes will allow more people to get resolution when faced with debts they cannot pay.

The changes will not disadvantage those owed money because eligibility for a DRO will continue to be restricted to those with very low realisable assets and therefore no realistic ability to repay their debts.

Respondents also thought that the debt that can trigger bankruptcy through the courts were disproportionate, as people can be put through the most serious of debt recovery action for a debt as small as pound;750. There are also other ways for those owed money to recover their debts such as action in the small claims court or attachment to salaries.

Changes announced today include:

Bankruptcy creditor petition level to be increased to pound;5,000 from pound;750
DRO limits raised to pound;20,000 enabling some 3,600 more people with low level debt to use DROs instead of the more expensive and onerous bankruptcy process
DRO asset limits raised to pound;1,000, plus a vehicle (worth not more than pound;1,000)
The maximum surplus income a person can have to qualify for a DRO will remain at pound;50 per month
A light touch monitoring of the intermediaries to maintain consistency.
The changes come as a survey of DRO users showed 96% would have been unable to deal with their debts without DROs, and 79% said the process had a positive impact on their mental health.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline said:

We are pleased that these new changes will enable us to help more people who are struggling with problem debt. Increases in the debt and asset thresholds for Debt Relief Orders are a welcome step in the right direction, and we are particularly pleased to see more protection from bankruptcy for people with smaller debts.

This announcement also gives us a good opportunity to raise the profile of Debt Relief Orders and to encourage more people who are struggling to cope with debt to seek the free advice they need.

At the Money Advice Trust we hope that this will come to be seen as a good first step towards the wider review of debt solutions that we have been calling for. We have to ensure that a viable debt solution is made available to every single person struggling to repay what they owe, and that no-one is allowed to fall through the cracks of a system that has evolved organically over several decades.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

Today’s changes will help people who are in serious, unmanageable debt to find a way out. Raising the bankruptcy debt threshold and the debt relief order limit will increase options for people who would previously have had no choice but to declare themselves bankrupt.

Citizens Advice has called for both of these changes in order to protect people who might otherwise have been forced into losing their home, car, business or job over debts worth as little as pound;750. Under the new rules, creditors cannot begin bankruptcy proceedings until the amounts owed are much higher. More people will be able to make a fresh start by getting a DRO instead of having to file for bankruptcy, which is often more expensive way of dealing with debt.

Matt Barlow CEO of debt charity Christians Against Poverty said:

Currently, more than a third of our clients, many of whom are vulnerable, are too poor to go bankrupt. They have too much debt to access a debt relief order and they have too little money to afford bankruptcy fees. They are stuck – literally too poor to go bankrupt, which struck us as a real injustice.

The limit of pound;15,000 of debt was set in 2009 so we’re delighted the Insolvency Service have brought this bang up-to-date and we’re pleased to hear it will be reviewed again in 2017. We had campaigned for the limit to rise to pound;30,000 which would have seen more than half of our clients able to afford this debt solution. However, the line had to be drawn somewhere and pound;20,000 is a good start.

Giles Frampton, president of R3, the insolvency trade body, said:

We are really pleased the Government has listened to the concerns of the insolvency profession and others about Debt Relief Orders and bankruptcy.

Insolvency solutions can often be a suitable way for heavily indebted individuals to deal with their debts but it is important that people are in the type of debt solution most appropriate for their situation. The changes will make it much easier for indebted individuals to deal with their debts effectively.

The rise in the creditor bankruptcy petition threshold is welcome, although pound;5,000 is far higher than expected. It is right that the petition be increased: pound;750 was an entirely inappropriate level and the protection it offered debtors had been steadily eroded by inflation over the last three decades.

The rise in the petition threshold will require creditors to look at other options for the pursuit of low value debts. While a bankruptcy petition is not always the most proportionate tool for this, it’s very important that the insolvency regime maintains a balance between protecting the interests of both debtors and creditors. How the new threshold works in practice should be monitored closely.

The changes will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny before coming into force in October 2015.

Radio Shack heading for bankruptcy

ATLANTA, Ga. (CNN) Radio Shack could be filing for bankruptcy as soon as next month.

The Wall Street Journal reports the struggling electronics retailer is considering that option.

The company has not responded to the report.

Meantime, radio shack has until Thursday to come up with $1 hundred million in cash and available credit. Otherwise, its creditors can pull its long-term financing with the company.

The retailer, which employed 24,000 people late last year, has made clear it is running dangerously low on cash after posting losses in each of the last 11 quarters.

Radio Shack has more than 5,000 stores. There are 12 in the immediate area with dozens more across Ohio.

Cuyahoga County helps buy snow plow trucks for cash-strapped East Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County helped broker a deal for East Cleveland to buy a pair of snow plow trucks after the cash-strapped suburbs financing initially fell through, County Executive Armond Budish announced on Monday.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton called the county over the weekend after losing support from an unspecified lender to buy the trucks, worth $256,390.

The city was to have been reimbursed for the purchase by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. But without the up-front money, East Cleveland wouldnt have been able to buy the trucks.

Budish called Huntington Bank and convinced the bank to lend the money to East Cleveland, the county announced in a press release Monday evening. The county is backing the loan using East Clevelands 2015 share of state Local Government Funding, which the county helps distribute.

Collaboration and partnership with all 59 county communities is a top priority of my Administration, Budish said in a written statement. We are excited to provide a creative solution to an urgent public safety concern for East Cleveland. Id also like to thank Huntington Bank, and their Regional President Dan Walsh, for their openness and timely assistance in moving this project forward expeditiously.

In a statement, Norton praised Budish for his innovative leadership.

The deal is subject to approval by East Cleveland City Council. The long-struggling suburb is considering filing for bankruptcy or merging with Cleveland, and struggled to make payroll for its final pay period of 2014.

How smartphone separation anxiety could be affecting your health

Studies show people see their smartphones as part of themselves. Photo via Shutterstock

Losing your iPhone isn’t as bad as losing a limb, but it can feel that way, suggests new research from the University of Missouri, published this week.

In a paper titled “The Extended iSelf,” researchers built on the theory that people see their cell phones as part of themselves. Phone separation anxiety — something other researchers have called “NoMoPhobia,” or no-mobile phobia — leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, and decreased performance at mental tasks. It also stoked anxiety in study subjects, and a feeling that an important part of themselves was missing.

The study also confirms research I helped direct at Carnegie Mellon University, showing the negative impact of distraction via technology on cognitive abilities. In that experiment, which we reported on in our book The Plateau Effect and in the New York Times Sunday Review, interruption by a single instant message led to test score results declining nearly 20 percent.

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In the Missouri study, 40 carefully-selected subjects were told they were helping research a new kind of blood pressure monitoring device and asked to take a standard cognitive test. Then were then told their iPhone was interfering with the monitor and asked to move the phone across the room. During a second test, the phone rang, but subjects could not answer. Subjects heart rates rose an average of 4 beats per minute after the phone rang. The blood pressure rose also, which their test performance suffered.

The study also suggests a kind of security blanket effect that phones have on their owners — giving the iPhone back to study subjects resulted in an 11 beats per minute heart rate drop. Only iPhone users were included in the research, so it’s not scientifically valid to apply the study to owners of other kinds of smartphones, though it’s certainly logical.

Being separate from your phone makes your dumber, and raises your heart rate and blood pressure. That’s why I think smartphone, and technology in general, are a major contributing factor to the kind of restlessness I’m chronicling in The Restless Project.

Missouri study author Russell B. Clayton wrote that he believes the results support the “Extended Self Theory,” which holds that people can see external objects as an extension of themselves, and feel somehow incomplete without them. The theory that objects can become so familiar to people that they feel like parts of their body will not sound new to musicians or athletes who use tools like a baseball glove. The process has been called “embodiment.”

“External objects become viewed as part of self when we are able to exercise power or control over them, just as we might control an arm or leg,” Clayton writes. “The point is that when we are able to exercise power or control over our possessions, the more closely allied with the self the object becomes.”

It’s no surprise that an experienced carpenter would eventually feel that their hammer is an extension of their hand. In fact, that can be seen as a healthy, and even beautiful, manifestation of practicing an art craft. And maybe you feel like your phone is that important to your daily work.

It seems more likely, however, that this is a bad thing. Phone attachment sounds more like a compulsion that an art to me. Users in the study reported being on their phones 3.5 hours each day. That helps them stay “constantly connected to the world and therefore feel less alone.” That doesn’t sound healthy.

Most likely, it’s both good and bad. Either way, a study of 40 people can’t be used to draw such dramatic conclusions. It does build on an ever-growing body of research which should make you think about the role your smartphone plays in your life. If it’s raising your blood pressure, it’s probably not good. It’s probably making you more restless.

Independent Journalist Bob Sullivan is the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! He worked for News for nearly 20 years, much of them creating and writing the popular consumer/tech blog The Red Tape Chronicles. Follow him at, subscribe to his free email newsletter, and follow his ongoing series, The Restless Project.

FTC Using Comics to Warn Latino Community About Debt Collection Scams

The Federal Trade Commission Tuesday announced the publication of a short graphic novel intended to help Spanish-speaking consumers know their rights when dealing with debt collectors. The publication describes the rules debt collectors must follow, and what consumers should do if they don’t.