Debt Collection Agencies: Don’t Let Credit Cards and Debts Rule Your Life

Agencies

Finance companies attempt to get payment from defaulting customers, but regularly fail to achieve this. Customers may have gone missing, moved house or are just being difficult. They all present a problem and become uneconomical to collect. The debt is sold on and the remainder is simply written off against taxes.

How Do Debt Collection Agencies Make Money?

This uncollectible debt is purchased for 10-20% of the loan value by debt management companies. A £10,000 loan will often be bought for as little as £1,500 and they will then pursue you relentlessly for full repayment. What you pay is their profit.

How Can You Utilise This Knowledge?

If you have savings or can borrow money you have an excellent chance of being able to reach a full and final settlement with the debt collection agency. It is possible that you could settle your loan for 35% of the remaining sum. If you have access to cash, ask them for a settlement figure.

The Threat of Debt Collectors

You will receive countless threatening letters from debt collection agencies advising you that if you don’t pay the balance in full a debt collector will be paying a visit. What they don’t say is that the person is only allowed into your home if you let them in.

How Do You Deal with Them?

Unless a debt collector has a court order they are not allowed to force entry to your home. If you don’t open the door or leave easily accessible windows open they can’t get in. If you open the door, they may put their foot there and by then it is too late.

If a debt collector is able to gain entry they can make a list of items of value in your home and can arrange to sell them if you don’t make payment. If you don’t let them in they cannot do this.

Debt Solutions

If you have at least £100 per month to offer your creditors, you may wish to consider a Debt Management Plan. You would no longer have to deal with the creditors directly. There is also a strong possibility that interest and any charges will be frozen.

If you have multiple creditors and your debt levels are high you should talk to a debt advisor to see whether bankruptcy or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement are the right option. Both of these methods do provide light at the end of the tunnel.

How To Build An Emergency Fund: Saving and Making Money to Survive Economic Hardship and Job Loss

Job Loss

An emergency fund is money put aside for the worst case scenario such as job loss, major repairs or medical bills. How much money should be in an emergency fund? This varies according to a family’s risk tolerance and expenses. Some people might be comfortable with $1000, while others might want a year’s worth of expenses. In tough financial times, how is it possible to find $1000, let alone several months’ worth of living expenses?

Put Away a Dollar a Day, No Matter What

A dollar a day doesn’t seem like a lot of money. Over a year, a dollar a day in a savings account turns into $365, plus interest. Do nothing more than a dollar a day, and in less than three years there will be $1000 in the emergency fund. Set an achievable goal to begin the pattern of saving for tough economic times.

Create an Automatic Savings Plan

It is easy to spend money that is in a bank account. It is much harder to spend money that is in a different savings account, online savings account, or a flexible term deposit. Create an automatic savings plan that withdraws money every paycheque and deposits it in another account that is difficult to access. This money will become the basis of an emergency fund.

Create a Budget and An Allowance

Track spending over a week and a month to see where the family budget goes. Then examine areas that could be reduced. Send the found money to the emergency fund. Remember to add a small allowance so that each person in the family can spend a small amount of money freely. Just like dieting, spending a small amount of money on fun can prevent binge spending later on.

Save Money By Listing Wants and Needs

Find money by evaluating wants and needs. Running to the store for milk? Instead, place the item on a list of household needs. Once a week, evaluate the list. Does the family actually need the items? Delete items that are no longer really necessary, and go shopping for the rest.

Choose Hobbies That Make or Save Money

Many hobbies are well worth the money, but when times are difficult it is best to choose free or money-making hobbies. Instead of a gym membership, commute by bike and take the scenic route. Make extra money by writing online, for local magazines, or for community newspapers. Use thrift store craft supplies to create homemade items to use as gifts or to sell at craft fairs. Place any money saved or made into the emergency fund.

Make Extra Money: Get a Micro Job

To make extra money for an emergency fund, try a micro job. These jobs are small, but by placing the extra money directly into an emergency fund, families can build one quite quickly. Micro jobs include:

  • Delivering newspapers
  • Walking dogs
  • Tutoring
  • Landscaping and shoveling snow
  • Casual child care
  • Collecting used items and selling them for a profit

With some ingenuity and frugal common sense, it is quite possible for individuals and families to create a substantial emergency fund. An emergency fund provides a sense of security during an economic downturn, and it also provides a source of backup funds for emergencies such as vehicle breakdowns. By developing an emergency fund, families will have more financial security and will need to rely less on credit during challenging economic times.

How to be Financially Secure: What Every Family Should Know about Financial Security

Family

Every family dreams of being financially secure. It means gaining the freedom to live without worrying about job cuts, redundancies or salary reductions. As bleak as it seems now, it is possible to build financial security.

According to Australian financial expert and author of The Seven Ages of Money (Choice Books), Tim Blue, financial security is built on time, discipline, knowledge and strategy. Here is some useful information he reveals in the book.

Give Time to Build Wealth

Time will help families build wealth through compounding – the effect of reinvesting earnings from investments. Although the return may not be very significant in the beginning, over time it will grow faster and faster.

“This principle works only if you allow enough time,” writes Blue, adding that the longer it works, the more it will benefit investors.

Be Disciplined in Money Matters

Discipline is crucial in money management. Start with saving early and regularly. Pick up some household budgeting tips to make sure there is money to spend and to save. When there is a decent amount to put into investments, resist greed and impatience, warns Blue.

He says that people invest in shares, bonds and managed funds because the value of the investment goes up over time, usually faster than inflation. However, many make the mistake of expecting a big return too soon, especially when they see friends and families making a lot more money in short periods of time.

Greed and impatience often step in here, causing many investors to abandon their well-thought financial strategies. Avoid doing that. Those who really want to be become financially secure need to remain disciplined and follow strategies that were already planned for their families, not listening to somebody else’s hot tips to get rich quickly.

Have Knowledge on Tax, Insurance and Investments

Tax-related matters often seem confusing to many people. But ample knowledge on tax will save the family a lot of trouble. Know the tax breaks and make use of them. Find out what the best tax deduction is for the family. See how income splitting can allow couples to enjoy lower income tax rates.

There should also be adequate insurance for the family. Adequate life insurance, income protection insurance and private health insurance are crucial, especially for families with young children and other dependents.

Before investing, do thorough research on prospective investments, if possible through a registered financial planner. Expect six to12 months before making the first investments. Also, learn to recognize financial cycles – a continuous process that can change suddenly, for better or for worse.

Device Firm yet Flexible Financial Strategies

Building financial security and wealth also requires firm strategies that can be revised when there is real need for it, Blue points out.

He says, “Educating yourself about money should be the core of your strategy. You might start with the finance pages of the daily newspaper.” Financial magazines, financial programs on TV and analyst reports are good sources of reference too.

Financial security is something attainable for every family. To make it happen, allow time to build wealth and be disciplined about saving money and sticking to a well-planned financial strategy. Families should also educate themselves about tax, insurance and investments as well as read up as much as they can about money and finance.

Mortgage Insurance – Useful Tips Before Buying: Help for Buyers of Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance or MPPI

The following is a guest post from Houston, Texas real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles.

Mortgage insurance or MPPI normally pays out after a period of 30 to 60 days, thus ensuring that mortgage payments can be made. Mortgage income protection insurance helps prevent debt problems and can stop repossession.

Trawl the Market for the Best Mortgage Insurance Quote

Most people buy their mortgage insurance directly from their bank. The purchase is normally made at the time of getting the remortgage. Money Week Editor-in-chief Merryn Somerset Webb stated that The High Street banks charge up to five times as much in premiums as the few independent providers.”

Using an online mortgage payment protection insurance price checker ensures that the market is trawled for the best price. Alternatively, consult an independent financial advisor (IFA) as they can fulfil the same function, as well as advising on the small print of any policy.

Use MPPI to Cover More than Simply the Mortgage Payments

Whilst paying the mortgage is the main priority, help will still be needed with other bills. It is still necessary to pay for council tax, food etc. Most mortgage lenders will only quote sufficient insurance to cover what is owed to them. Don’t fall into this trap.

Don’t Waste Money on Mortgage Insurance when in Casual Employment

Taking out mortgage payment protection insurance may provide peace of mind when doing seasonal work, but it won’t provide any mortgage cover. The T&Cs of the MPPI policy will seek to exclude cover. It’s pointless taking out mortgage cover in this instance so don’t waste money doing so.

Cheap Mortgage Insurance Isn’t Always the Best

Whilst it is always advisable to trawl the market for the best priced mortgage insurance, don’t be fooled into thinking that cheapest is always the best. Read through the T&Cs to make sure that cover is provided where it is needed.

Time Needed to Elapse before a Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance Claim

All policies tend to pay out within 60 days, but there are many superior policies that will provide help with mortgage payments after 30 days. If the price of mortgage insurance is cheaper, it is quite probable that the deferred period before receiving help with mortgage payments is greater.

Mortgage insurance is the right move as it helps with mortgage payments during times of personal adversity. Always read through the T&C’s before signing up. If debt problems and mortgage arrears present a problem, consult a qualified debt counsellor to identify an appropriate debt solution.

Always remember that mortgage insurance is only one of a number of potential protection policies. Those with young families or mortgages should also consider a life insurance policy, critical illness cover and payment protection insurance.

IRS Tax Debt Settlement Help: How to Deal with Unpaid Taxes

Tax

Although it can be an isolating feeling, many Americans are in need of IRS tax debt settlement help every year. Unpaid taxes are similar to student loan debt in the sense that they cannot be negotiated with a debt relief program. However, the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) provides different methods to help individuals who are struggling to catch-up with back taxes and money they simply don’t have.

IRS Tax Debt Settlement Help

Whilst there are no guarantees of assistance, it may be possible to get tax debt relief in five different ways. The methods are rather involved so it is normally advisable to seek guidance from a suitably qualified professional. Help with unpaid taxes could come from an offer in compromise, instalment agreement, partial payment instalment agreement, not currently collectible or through filing for bankruptcy.

Full & Partial Installment Agreement – Tax Debt Settlement Through an Installment Plan

Whilst an offer in compromise is preferred, those who are able to make a series of instalments to settle unpaid taxes will not qualify. Instead, it is expected that a suitable repayment plan will be structured to allow the money to be repaid. A partial instalment agreement is similar, except that it involves offering the IRS repayments on a set percentage of the amount owed.

Offer in Compromise – Offer to Pay a Small Percentage of Unpaid Taxes

An offer is made to pay the ‘reasonable collection potential’ and not all unpaid taxes. Whilst this may seem like a panacea, only a small percentage of offers are actually accepted. Should it be possible to clear debt via an instalment plan, this form of IRS tax debt settlement help will not be available. It can be a highly complex area so the majority of people choose to utilise the services of a tax professional.

Currently Not Collectible (CNC) – IRS Tax Debt Settlement Help

Should the individual have unpaid taxes that don’t qualify for an offer in compromise or an instalment agreement, currently not collectible status may be granted. However, that individual’s financial status will be monitored by the IRS. Should their financial status change, they will be expected to make payment.

File for Bankruptcy – Clear Unpaid Taxes

It may be possible to clear tax debts by filing for bankruptcy, but the rules are strict. Tax debts that relate to unfiled returns aren’t dischargeable. An attorney should be consulted in relation to the complex qualifying criteria. Other unsecured debts, such as unpaid credit card debt, can also be cleared by filing.

IRS Tax Debt Settlement Help from a Professional

It is important that tax debt relief is sought from a suitably qualified tax professional or bankruptcy attorney. Devising a repayment plan for unpaid tax can be something of a minefield so an expert opinion will help to ensure that the right option is selected.

Receiving a Check Marked Full & Final Payment: Businesses Struggle Because Customers Do Not Pay in Full on Time

law

A partial payment in full and final settlement is frequently used to settle debts with the written agreement of the creditor, in which case it is legally binding.

When a customer is late in making payment this can affect cash flow and can have consequences for the survival of a small business.

If a cheque arrives when payment is very late it may be tempting to bank it immediately even if it is marked in “Full & Final Settlement” and accompanied with a letter stating something like:

“The enclosed cheque is sent as an offer of Full and Final payment. If you bank this then you are accepting this offer and may not request any further payment.”

The business person obviously has a dilemma, if the cheque is not cashed/banked:

  • the business may get no money if the debtor goes bankrupt;
  • the business may have to wait a very long time to receive another payment;
  • the business may already be out of pocket and into overdraft, in desperate need of cash.

Should the “Full & Final Payment” Cheque be Banked?

If the cheque is cashed in the US then the creditor has agreed to the terms and cannot attempt to obtain further payment (Hudson v Yonkers Fruit Company 258 NY 168); not in the U.K.

In England and Wales, each case is judged on its merits but there is enough case law to support a case for disregarding the written comments, banking the cheque and continuing to pursued the customer for the balance owed. The main reason is that a contract requires “accord”, that is, agreement between both parties.

If the business intends to bank the cheque and continue to seek the balance through the courts they should:

  • bank the cheque as soon as reasonably possible;
  • contact the debtor within a reasonable amount of time.

No time frame has been set by the courts; a week or two might be reasonable but two months is not.

Case Law Regarding Full & Final Cheques

1996 The Commissioners of Inland Revenue v Barbara Jane Fry.

This found that a company is entitled to have a procedure for banking cheques and dealing with any attached correspondence at a later date.

1993 Appeal, Stour Valley Builders v Stuart.

A cheque sent as full & final payment could be considered payment on account and claimant could seek further payment.

1966, DC Builders v Rees.

In this case DC Builders not only banked the cheque for but also issued a receipt which said “in completion of the account”. Even so the court decided that DC Builders was not barred from pursuing the balance of its claim because the “accord” had been obtained by Rees by subjecting DC Builders to economic duress.

Bracken v Billinghurst.

In this case the full and final clause was binding because of the lengthy delay before the creditor informed the debtor that the lower payment was not accepted.

Wall Street Bonuses — A Reality Check: Executive Compensation is More than Just Rewarding Ability

bonous

Is the employee or the employer really the decisive contributor to the money they made?

How much were the resources and vast assets of a brokerage company the basis for its ability to earn large bonuses? What really matters in a time of financial implosions is to distinguish between the value of the institution and the value of the individual when contemplating bonus irrationality. There are two ways to measure contribution: total compensation received or opportunity cost measurement.

How Large Bonuses are Justified

Many who read that Wall Street payouts were generous believe the bonuses were tantamount to theft. What exactly is the value of the contribution persons like the senior management at Merrill Lynch who drove that institution into ruin and to the arms of Bank of America while pocketing over $200 million dollars for less than a year’s work? How is value discerned and derived? The Wall Street paradigm is to pay bonuses on an annual basis for production or net measurable benefit to the firm. The system was written by themselves for themselves. Value to the franchise was undefined but payments to management were nearly tamperproof.

Bonuses Do Not Reflect the True Cost of Business

Merrill Lynch, according to USLaw.com, pays representatives on a sliding scale based on annual production that does not include provisions for lawsuits, nonperformance, or success fee payments. Thus, the performance of the individual is not evaluated with respect to harm caused but not realized during the time in question. Nor is harm caused by the internal credit and security services a cause for payment offsets. The net effect is that aggressive brokerage activities are condoned as a cost of doing business. The implicit assumption was, until recently, these costs could never overwhelm the fantastic profits Merrill Lynch made. Thus, the strategy of the firm was to ride a hot market as long as they and the industry trends were profitable.

The Measure of an Executive’s Value is Opportunity Cost

An executive’s value is different from that of the commission salesforce and support staff. Compensation for the latter is directly related to the added value to the company he or she creates. The cumulation of good judgments provides added value to the franchise in terms of stock valuation, name recognition, and increased penetration and profit opportunities. Thus, the true value of an employee is to measure what contribution they make without the benefit of the previous franchise.

Can an executive who is able to take advantage of great leverage able to reinvent themselves when credit is scarce? Can an executive who finds possible opportunities create measures to exploit new and more profitable circumstances without the presence and strengths of the firm? It is final realizable value, not the year end point in time measurement, that determines an executive’s value. Executive compensation is the difference in real profitability that would be lost were he or she not there. Compensation and value are not always related.

Finding or Keeping a Job in the Financial Sector: Economic Crisis Means Rethink Your Strategy

eco cry

Every industry has been hit with the economic crisis, and at this time of year many dread the feared pink slip or lay off. Stay ahead of the game in the Financial industry by rethinking your strategy.

Adjust Your Expectations

The gravy train was nice while it lasted, but it’s over. Forget the $500k salary for now; it’s not about what your think you’re worth, it’s about what the company is willing to pay. Remember, right now it’s about staying in the game and riding out the economic crisis. You’re the product to sell, so think in terms of future assets. What can you offer the company, and what can they offer you for the future. Yes, it is going backwards a bit, but sometimes you must take a step back to pick up the momentum.

Network, Network, Network

Yes, you know this. In fact, probably the Financial Sector invented this! Now is the time to call all of your cards or favours in – who knows who, what’s going on in the industry at your end of the world, etc. Use all your contacts to network to open up any potential opportunities. And follow up on each and every one. Yes, this takes time and effort. But it will prove to a potential possibility that you really are a “go-getter”, and one that would work well for that company.

Contact a Professional Head Hunter

Often Head Hunters know where the job is before the workers do. Make sure though that the one you choose is discrete and confidential. Be honest with him/her – what are your real talents? What is your real salary range? Be prepared to adjust your salary expectations, but don’t sell yourself too short. A good Head Hunter will know the ranges for the work and/or company.

Think Outside the Box

Don’t just look for work on Bay Street – there’s a whole world out there outside of the stock markets. You most likely have an MBA, which means you can work for any business. Start expanding your horizons and look outside of the Wall Street gang. Businesses have to first exist for a stock market to exist – so be part of the start, not the end.

Use your business acumen to find companies that are weathering the economic crisis, then approach them with how you can help. Don’t forget to create your own business plan for how to weather this storm; being prepared is half the battle. Use your financial sense to think about areas you could work in; or even create your own small business or consulting firm. There are many local and provincial/federal government programs that will help get you started with financial loans/grants.

Bottom Line

By rethinking your strategy and looking outside the box, you’ll find those jobs within the Financial/Business Sector. Don’t forget about creating your own job. It’s tough out there, so adjust your expectations of previous compensation.

Business Culture of Singapore: A Primer on Singaporean Business Etiquette

Singapore

Due to Singapore’s rich cultural history, several distinct ethnic groups including Chinese, Malay, and Indian, combine to shape business culture in Singapore. Business travelers must be familiar with the business etiquette of the specific ethnic heritage of their Singaporean counterparts to make the best impressions, but there are a few cultural characteristics that are shared among all of the groups.

Business Meetings in Singapore

According to singapore.angloinfo.com, business meetings in Singapore should be scheduled well in advance, accompanied by a list of the names and titles of attendees provided for the preparation of hierarchical seating arrangements. While punctuality is not extremely important, it is advisable to arrive promptly to show courtesy to the host. Singaporeans may intentionally arrive late to certain events, however, in an effort to avoid appearing anxious or hasty. As with other Asian cultures, such as the Phillipines, international guests should wait to be seated by their host after arriving to a meeting or event.

When sitting, international businesspeople should keep both feet planted on the floor. According to “International Business Etiquette” by Marie Sabath, crossing one’s legs in front of a host or superior is not appreciated. Travelers should also avoid maintaining direct eye contact when speaking or listening, and should never criticize or disagree with a senior member or their own party in front of their Singaporean counterparts; the Singaporeans themselves will never do these things.

Business Attire

Conservative formal business attire is preferred in most situations. White long sleeve shirts with dark jackets are common for men, while women tend to have more options, including conservative skirts, blouses, or pant suits. Due to the generally hot and humid weather in Singapore, however, it is acceptable to leave the suit jacket at home on hotter days.

Chinese Business Card Ceremony

International businesspeople attending meetings with Singaporeans of Chinese descent should expect the same importance to be placed on the ritual exchanging of business cards common in Chinese business culture. Business cards will likely be exchanged between all members of both parties at a meeting, and should be given and received with two hands and a slight nod or bow. Taking the time to thoroughly read over each card, and laying the cards respectfully on the table rather than quickly putting them away will be appreciated.

Employee Relations

Singaporean culture places a greater emphasis on respect for seniority in the home and workplace than western businesspeople may be accustomed to. Singaporean employees will stand when a senior manager enters a room, for example, and will avoid showing disagreement with superiors in public.

There is an emphasis on the welfare of the collective over the individual throughout Singaporean culture, and this can effect the way that Singaporean employees view their employment, as well as the expectations they have for their employer.

Business Gifts in Singapore

Gift giving may be one of the most challenging aspects of doing business in Singapore, since individual cultural heritage comes heavily into play when choosing the types, number, and presentation of business gifts. As a general rule, guests should either present gifts to everyone in attendance during the gift giving, in order of seniority, or privately to individuals. Flowers should be avoided for all groups, since these may be associated with funerals.

It is best to gain an understanding of the gift giving etiquette of the specific cultural heritage of international business counterparts, whether Chinese, Indian, Arab, or Malay, to ensure that the proper etiquette is observed.

How to Run a Successful Hair Salon: Ways to Ensure Your Hairdressing Business Makes Money

hair salon

Gill Foster, owner of New Image Salon in Cape Town, has run her successful salon for eighteen years. These are her top tips for making sure that your hairdressing business does well year after year.

An Attractive, Professional Salon is Essential

  • Cleanliness is vital for a beauty salon, not just for health and hygiene reasons, but also to make the clients feel pampered. Set up cleaning rosters so the staff members know what is expected of them.
  • Implement a no smoking rule for staff and clients.
  • Don’t allow staff to eat or drink in the salon.
  • Background music should not be too obtrusive. Aim for something that will appeal to most of the salon’s clients.
  • Make sure that all staff look professional and groomed. A uniform can make a big difference to the way the salon is perceived by customers.
  • Give all staff training in telephone etiquette to ensure happy customers.

A Good Manager Tracks Staff with a Hairdresser’s Business Plan

  • Use track sheets to help track how much each staff member is earning.
  • Use rosters to help avoid conflict between staff members, and between staff members and management.
  • Be respectful to all staff, and insist that they are respectful to one another and to management.
  • Be good to employees. Holding onto good staff is key to maintaining a successful business, so treat them with respect and be empathetic when necessary.

Latest Hair Products and Styles

  • Staff members need to be stimulated and challenged. To keep them up to date with industry trends, take them to shows and provide training in the latest styles, cuts, trends and products. Investing in good staff is never wasted.

Beauty Shop Business Tips for Customer Relations

  • Aim for punctuality at all times. Nothing frustrates customers more than being kept waiting. It’s essential never to overbook appointments.
  • Attend to the client the moment she walks through the door.
  • Chat to the client about her expectations before she heads for the wash basin. Check her head for crowns or cowlicks, and take the time to find out a little about her and her lifestyle.
  • Don’t tell the client about any personal problems, and never get over familiar with clients. Respect the boundaries in the relationship.
  • Don’t do anything too radical with a new customer. Rather let them gain confidence in the salon before suggesting something unfamiliar for them.

Hair Salon Business Tips for Difficult Economic Times

  • Maintain excellent service
  • Don’t put prices up more than absolutely necessary
  • Do whatever it takes to keep good staff

Following these hints and tips will help most hairdressing businesses reach their goals and maintain that success, even in difficult economic times.