Archive for March 2014

Photo of the Week: Financial Literacy Month


Will you make an effort to learn more about finance? In recognition of Financial Literacy Month, April is a great time to start!

Is Mortgage Refinancing Right for You?

by: Jess Hall

These days, it’s hard not to be enticed by the historically low mortgage refinancing rates. Now could be the perfect time to refinance, but is refinancing your loan right for you? Here are a few points to take into consideration if you’re thinking about refinancing your home loan.

The Benefits of Refinancing

Beyond potentially saving you thousands of dollars, refinancing your mortgage can also help you consolidate debt and pay off other bills. Your life has probably changed from the time you first got your home loan. Perhaps you got a better paying job or you have a new baby on the way. You may have new expenses that never existed before, or you may be making more money than when you started. In many cases, refinancing your home loan could save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, money which could be well spent in other areas of your life. Ideally, your mortgage should not be costing you above one third of your total gross income. If you’re dealing with a high interest rate, you’ve been hit with an adjustable rate that has skyrocketed, or you’ve experienced a drop in income for whatever reason, it’s a good idea to consider refinancing and locking in a better rate.

Working with a Trusted Lender

Working with a trusted lender is one of the best decisions you can make when you decide to refinance. Trusted lenders, like Aurora Bank (Equal Housing Lender, member FDIC) for example, understand a multitude of product options and can explain those options to you as well as the costs that are involved in the refinancing process.

Know Your Options

There’s no shortage of lending companies vying for your business. But it pays to do your own research as well.Take advantage of online mortgage calculators and run different scenarios based on your income, property tax, and extra payments you can afford to make.See exactly how much home you can afford and create a spectrum of possibilities for refinancing. Then, speak with a home loan consultant who can help you with your financing needs.You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much money you’ll save by refinancing at today’s low rates. Overall, honest, exceptional service and a dedication to customer satisfaction are what make the best mortgage refinancing lenders stand out.

About The Author

Jess Hall writes out of Jersey City about different personal finance opportunities, including the advantages of refinancing from an online bank like Aurora Bank. Always looking for a trusted financial institution for advice and tips she tends to look up information at more often than not.

The author invites you to visit:

Six Ways to Support Family & Friends


When I attended my godson’s karate class, a 5-year-old asked the Sensei’s wife a question. He asked her, Who is that?” The Sensei’s wife explained: “That is his godmother, and that is his grandmother!” The young karate student replied with awe, “Wow!”

Could he have been referring to my beauty? While his reaction was priceless, I convinced myself that was not it! I actually think he was amazed that my godson had three supporters there. His mother was also there to complete the circle of support.

Typically, his aunt is there to support him too. However, she had another engagement. After thinking more about the child’s reaction, it made me reflect on how important it is to support our loved ones. Life is short; so, I challenge you to be there for your family and friends.

Here are six ways to support your family and friends:

1. Show up! I was extremely tired after work, but I made a sacrifice to assure my godson that whatever he is doing matters to me!

2. Pray for them. We cannot be there all of the time, but God is everywhere all the time at the same time! Our impossibilities are His possibilities!

3. Send them inspirational text messages. “Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower.”-Goethe

4. Call to offer help. We many not know what or when they need something, but we can ask them. If they want or need something, we should make ourselves available to do whatever we are capable of doing.

5. Buy a card. I have cards that people have given me years ago, and I read them from time to time. The card is something tangible that reminds me of the person’s love and support.

6. Invite them to an event so they can relax. I am a workaholic, and my idea of relaxation is usually related to my next goal. I am so focused that it is difficult to simply do nothing! I am grateful for family and friends who continue to invite me to places that I would’ve never gone.

In the past, I’d turn down their invitations. However, I have made the decision to slow down and smell the roses of life. If you know someone like me, don’t give up! Perhaps one day they will realize the importance of sharing themselves and taking breaks to enjoy life.

After a recent incident with his young son, a college coach made a powerful statement. LeVelle Moton said, “Success is nothing without someone to share it with!” I agree with him! Your family and friends need you, and you need them!

Photo of the Week: Obamacare


Clean Your House This Spring with These Tips

by: Mike Cole

As spring gets underway, it is once again time to partake in the annual spring cleaning tradition. Regardless of how you feel about this extensive task, there is no point in putting it off. Here are a few tips to keep your spring cleaning from driving you absolutely crazy.

Before beginning any cleaning, you should first create a plan of action. You do not need to go to the extent of writing down every single chore that needs to be done. However, it is important to have a clear idea of what tasks you want to tackle and the order in which you want to complete them. There is little point in spring cleaning, if you cannot see an improvement when you are finished. You want to know ahead of time what rooms and areas of your home, such as the attic or garage, you plan to focus your attention on.

Spring cleaning is a great time to get the entire family involved. Getting your entire family to pitch in is essential to the spring cleaning process while bringing the family together for an all around bonding experience. Delegating jobs will help prevent everyone from attempting to tackle the same task, and can speed up the entire process. Let everyone know what tasks they have and what changes you would like to accomplish. This will prevent arguments as well. More often than not if you have children, they have completely contradicting opinions than you on what it means to be clean. Be careful, and try not to delegate any tasks that you know they will be unable to accomplish, or tasks that you are particular about.

If you have younger children that are eager to help you out, you can turn your spring cleaning into a game that will get them helping and keep them happy at the same time! You can play music and your family can dance and sing together while making improvements to your cluttered living area. You can also try to race to see who can finish their task first, awarding the winner with a prize. Treat your family and yourself to a special lunch or dinner to thank them for their hard work. The idea is to get your family to have pleasant memories of your spring cleaning and good times together. This will also make it easier to get them to pitch in the following year.

During your spring cleaning separate items that can be sold, donated, or trashed into separate boxes or piles. The overall goal of spring cleaning is to ultimately decrease the clutter in your home. Getting rid of some stuff is vital. Do not let emotions and sentiment keep you surrounded by twenty years worth of your children’s clothes that will never be used again. Instead, donate those clothes to a charity helping children and families in need.

After giving away unneeded items, look for better ways to organize the stuff that you plan to keep. See what items can be stored away in trunks, totes, or chests. Understand that putting everything back where it was prior to your cleaning will detract from all of the cleaning that you have done. Better organization does not always mean storing items away. You may find a better way to display stored items such as pictures, trophies, and figurines. For instance, a shelf kit could give a stylish and affordable way to display smaller items that you have not had the opportunity to enjoy in years.

It is important to try and clean your floors last. This may go unsaid often, but cleaning your floors last will keep you from having to clean your floors over and over again. As you and your family clean, you will pull out items onto your floor repeatedly. Not to mention the fact that, dust, dirt, and mud tracked in from cleaning the yard, garage, and basement areas often keep floors pretty dirty throughout the day.

Another good tip is to remember that spring cleaning may take longer than a day to complete. Getting your house to this point took your family months or years and cleaning will take some time as well, especially if you are including major cleaning projects such as attics, garages, and basements. When you realize that it may take you longer than a day to clean, start to look for good stopping points. Reaching a good stopping point before you decide to call it a day, will help you quickly assess what tasks are left while hopefully keeping your home from looking like a disaster area in the mean time.

Spring cleaning will probably never be as exciting as a family vacation, but hopefully if you follow these tips you can get through it with help and maybe even a laugh or two.

About the Author

Mike Cole is a freelance writer who writes about home remodeling and maintenance, often discussing a specific topic like home organization.

7 Ways to be a Lifelong Learner


While shopping one day, I heard this older lady having a discussion with her adult daughter. She told her daughter, “I don’t know how to use this thing! It’s too hard; I think it’s too late for me to learn how to use a smartphone!” That was a teachable moment for this educator! I felt like I had to intervene and attempt to help her.

I shared with them that my father is a senior citizen in his 70’s who tackles the latest technology! My father taught himself how to use a smartphone and an iPad! I am extremely proud of him, and I challenged her to do the same thing! The formerly frustrated lady was encouraged by Dad’s story!

I told her to never say, “Never!” All of us should strive to be lifelong learners! Information is too valuable and too accessible! There are plenty of excuses; however, we don’t have any valid reasons for not learning in this Information Age. So, I challenge everyone to learn as much as you can while you can!

Here are 7 ways to be a lifelong learner:

1. Visit your local library. There are numerous resources available, including computers with Internet access. It won’t cost you anything!

2. Read newspapers. The late Nelson Mandela, who was very wise, was known to be an avid reader of newspapers. I read more than 3 newspapers, magazines, and numerous web posts per day. As a result, I have a good grasp on many topics. I am seldom stumped for words to add to any discussion.

3. Watch the news. Although reporting can be biased, it is still a good idea to know about current events.

4. View TED Talks, which are free videos presented by experts on various topics.

5. Visit museums. The fee is often minimum, but the rewards are maximum! Learning about history keeps you grounded, and it can spark new ideas.

6. Improve your vocabulary by completing word search puzzles, playing word games, defining words when you read, and using a thesaurus.

7. Enroll in a course taught online, offered at a college/university, or provided by the local community. Many courses are offered for free.

Please share what you are doing to ensure that you remain a lifelong learner.

Photo of the Week: Make Money!


Video of the Week: Appreciate Life!


At this early stage in the year, several people that I know have already died! Despite the loss of friends and loved ones, I realize that there is a time for everything! Like the first day of spring that is nearly upon us, there are seasons to life. To enjoy our summers, sometimes we must endure harsh winters. We shouldn’t let anything deter us. If we fall, we should always believe that we can spring forward!

After Nelson Mandela’s death last year, I wrote a post about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Life.” Since that time, I have been reflecting on additional ways I can continue to improve my life. I also watched a video recently that made me appreciate life more and commit to enjoying it while I have an opportunity. After you view the video, I challenge you to do the same. Please enjoy the video.

4 Extraordinary Reasons to Buy Black


Why should we need a “Buy Black Initiative”? Unfortunately, the reason is similar to other initiatives. Initiatives are often started in areas where there are deficiencies. An initiative is defined as “an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something.” We need innovative ideas and plans to address our problem. I am grateful that Buy Black Economics is sponsoring this initiative to change our situation.

If you are not familiar with our situation, Google “Black buying power.” Research shows that we spend more than other races, and most of that money is not spent within our own communities. James Clingman, Jr., noted that 90% of $850 billion that moves through black consumers’ hands each year is spent in businesses that are not black-owned. Clearly, the Black community needs help to rectify our situation.

Britni Danielle shared the following information from an NAACP report: “Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to black owned businesses.”

These statistics are alarming! Many of us see what is going on, including those who invest in Black-owned businesses. It seems that we are handicapped by inaction and/or apathy. Inaction will not help our situation, and apathy about the situation only worsens our communities. All of us can complain, but that won’t change anything. Everyone can make a difference! How can you help? Support Black-owned businesses! Here’s why:

Four Reasons to Buy Black:
1. It reduces the black unemployment rate. After the government, black-owned businesses are the largest employers of Blacks.

2. It improves our communities by reducing many of the societal issues, like crime, that plague them.

3. It has the potential of increasing black political power. At the very least, it can help build our visibility and improve our voice.

4. It translates to more buying power in our communities. Jeffrey M. Humphreys noted, “Several critical factors account for the gains in Black buying power. Beyond population growth and inflation, one of the most important and enduring forces is the increasing number of Blacks starting and expanding their own businesses.”

Will you support the Buy Black Initiative this month? Please comment.

Photo of the Week: Avoid Tax Mistakes!


Tax season is nearly over, but some of us have not filed our income tax returns. Remember that it is easy to make mistakes. Have you ever made a mistake on your income tax returns? Please share your income tax filing experiences.