Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc



Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 10/16/2016

The App Store is saturated with tools for helping you keep track of your budget, spending, income, credit score, and more. However, each app is different, offering varying levels of user-friendliness, security, and helpful features. We've built a list of the most useful apps for keeping track of your finances--from budgeting and paying bills, to learning about investing and credit, these apps have you covered.

Mint

Mint is the juggernaut of budgeting apps. You can securely sync all of your bank accounts, loan accounts (credit card, student loans, etc.) and even income accounts like PayPal. Once you've logged in, Mint does most of the work for you. In fact, just yesterday I got a notification from Mint that I was charged extra for my gym membership. In the app or from the website you can design your own personalized budget that includes things like food, shopping, groceries, gas, etc. When you make a purchase with one of your linked cards, Mint automatically sorts the purchase into the correct category. Aside from budgets, Mint also helps you set up a timeline for paying your debts. It shows you how long it will take at your current monthly payment amount and tells you how much you would save in interest by paying it off faster.

PocketGuard

PocketGuard is like a sleek, minimal version of Mint. However, its main strength, as the name suggests, is security. It boasts several barriers to identity theft and complicated and technical security measures that we won't get into here (we're talking 128-BIT SSL encryption). PocketGuard is also simpler than Mint, both in terms of content and display. Plus, you won't see as many advertisements for credit cards that Mint so slyly sneaks into just about every screen you view.

Home Budget with Sync

The name's a little awkward, we know. But they added that "with Sync" in there for a reason. Home Budget's most redeeming feature is that it allows you to sync up with other budgets in your household (your spouse, roommate, etc.). This makes it much easier for couples who are splitting bills to keep track of their expenses and savings. One piece of advice is to choose what you share wisely. Not everyone wants to share all of their personal finance information with others.

You Need a Budget

You Need a budget, or as its many happy customers call it, YNAB, is a whole lot more than just a way to keep track of your money. It boasts several learning resources that empowers you with financial knowledge. Where other apps just let you plug in numbers, YNAB teaches you what all of those numbers mean and helps you make more informed decisions with your money. YNAB is created with the intention of reducing your financial stress. It has simple videos, instructables, and more to help you learn the ins and outs of budgeting. Then it helps you build your own budget and stick to it with many of the same features as Mint or PocketGuard.

Personal Capital

If you're ready for the big leagues of finance and want to start investing and tracking your assets, Personal Capital will help you get there. This app is designed for managing and analyzing assets. The app's main features are broken into categories: cashflow, retirement, investing, and net worth. The outstanding feature here is investing. It simplifies investing, checks up on your investments, and gives you useful tips that will help you get your toes wet in the investment world.




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 9/11/2016

The first step in home buying is getting a mortgage. Many home owners also find themselves in a maze when they start the refinance process. Navigating the mortgage process can be confusing. There is so much to know between rates, types of mortgages and payment schedules. Avoiding making a mistake in the mortgage process can save you a lot of money and headaches. Here is a list of the biggest mortgage mistakes that potential borrowers make. 1. No or Low Down Payment Buying a home with no or a low down payment is not a good idea. A large down payment increases the amount of equity the borrower has in the home. It also reduces the bank’s liability on the home. Research has shown that borrowers that place down a large down payment are much more likely to make their mortgage payments. If they do not they will also lose money. Borrowers who put little to nothing down on their homes find themselves upside down on their mortgage and end up just walking away. They owe more money than the home is worth. The more a borrower owes, the more likely they are to walk away and be subject to credit damaging foreclosure. 2. Adjustable Rate Mortgages or ARMs Adjustable rate mortgages or ARMs sound too good to be true and they can be. The loan starts off with a low interest rate for the first two to five years. This allows the borrower to buy a larger house than they can normally qualify for. After two to five years the low adjustable rate expires and the interest rate resets to a higher market rate. Now the borrowers can no longer make the higher payment not can they refinance to a lower rate because they often do not have the equity in the home to qualify for a refinance. Many borrowers end up with high mortgage payments that are two to three times their original payments. 3. No Documentation Loans No documentation loans or sometimes called “liar loans” were very popular prior to the subprime meltdown. These loans requires little to no documentation. They do not require verification of the borrower's income, assets and/or expenses. Unfortunately borrowers have a tendency to inflate their income so that they can buy a larger house. The problems start once the mortgage payment is due. Because the borrower does not have the income they are unable to make mortgage payments and often end up face bankruptcy and foreclosure. 4. Reverse Mortgages You have seen the commercials and even infomercials devoted to advocating reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage is a loan available to borrowers age 62 and up. It uses the equity from the borrower’s home. The available equity is paid out in a steady stream of payments or in a lump sum like an annuity. Reverse mortgage have can be dangerous and have many drawbacks. There are many fees associated with reverse mortgages. These includes origination fees, mortgage insurance, title insurance, appraisal fees, attorney fees and many other miscellaneous fees that can quickly eat at the home’s equity. Another drawback; the borrower loses full ownership of their home and the bank now owns the home Avoiding the pitfalls of the mortgage maze will hopefully help you keep in good financial health as a home can be your best investment. .




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 6/29/2015

Is there really a secret to saving money? It may seem as though it is mystery how your bank account ends up empty every month but there is no mystery to it. While it may be no secret there are three important tips you can follow to help you put more money in your pocket. The challenge is to follow the tips in order to be successful at saving money. The rest is up to you.

1. Create a Budget

You need to know where your money is going. Once you have established where you spend your money you will be able to find places to make cuts. The first thing to do is figure out how much is being spent on housing, utilities, groceries, debt, and entertainment. Once you know where the money is going you will be able to set limits for problem areas. This is the money that you will apply to secret #2.

2. Pay Yourself First

This is a huge secret, pay yourself first. Yes, before you dole out money for bills as soon as your paycheck hits your account; deposit a specified amount into savings. It doesn't matter how small the amount is, at least you are saving. Even better , create an automatic savings plan that will automatically deposit money into your savings account before you even have a chance to spend it. This can be done right through your employer’s direct deposit or with a recurring transfer with your bank.

3. Spend Less Than You Earn

If you don't learn to obey this rule you will never be able to save money. You simply have to spend less money than you earn and there’s no way around that. If you are spending more than you earn you are borrowing money and thus putting yourself into debt.  




Categories: Money Saving Tips  


Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 9/30/2012

If you are looking for ways save money, cutting back on grocery expenses is often an easy way to reduce your spending. Here are ten tips to master frugal grocery shopping. A little planning can save you some big bucks over the long term. 1. Make a list. Before you head out to the store, prepare a list of everything you need, making sure you have everything needed for your weekly menu. Before you leave, check to make sure you don't have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Stick to that list and don't buy anything else. 2. Plan a menu. Plan a weekly menu for each week. This way you will know exactly what to buy. Be sure to plan a leftovers night. 3. Don't shop hungry. When you're hungry, everything looks good. When you shop hungry you'll end up spending a lot more. Eat first and then you will be able to stick to your list. 4. Set a budget. When you go to the store, know exactly how much you can spend. Then try your best to stick within that limit. Keep a running tally as you shop to ensure that you're within your budget. 5. Create a grocery spreadsheet. Keep your grocery receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price and comparison list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal. 6. Cook and freeze. Plan to cook a big amount of food and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week's (or even a month's) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once. 7. Shop for specials. Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store. Don't buy things you don't use just because they are on sale; make sure you will use the items. 8. Buy store brands. Brand names are often no better than generic, and you're paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won't notice a difference. 9. No "one-item" trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. 10. Stock up. Sale items can be a great deal. If it's an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.





Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 4/8/2012

Ok, so you didn't win Mega Millions but just in case Bankrate.com has some tips on how to spend a hefty windfall. It's everyone's favorite fantasy: a nice, huge windfall. Maybe that scratch-off lottery ticket pays off big, or that dusty vase in the attic turns out to be a collector's item, or that stock you've been hoarding turns out to be worth a bundle. Suddenly you're sitting on a nice mid-five-figure gift that you weren't expecting, and that's after taxes. Now what? Facing this envious dilemma, you might want some savvy guidance. With that objective, Bankrate.com asked several financial experts for their advice for managing a hefty windfall. Karen Altfest, executive vice president of L.J. Altfest & Co., a financial planning firm in New York, says to concentrate on three strategies. "What you're going to do is think of it as pockets," she says. "You've got three pockets, divide the money in thirds. Take the first pocket and use it to pay down anything that you think should be paid down: your child's education, your debt, your mortgage. Get rid of something and make your life a little easier. "Then, save for something in your future -- your next car, your vacation, your old age. Third is that you're a good person. Do something nice for yourself now. A vacation or something special you've always wanted," Altfest says. Sandy Shore, counseling supervisor of Novadebt, a nonprofit, credit counseling agency in Freehold, N.J., says start or supplement your emergency fund. But how do you determine how much to save? "You have to look at your individual situation," Shore says. "Is there another income? If one of you became unemployed, how much of a hole would that leave? How secure is your job? If you're one step away from being unemployed, I would say look at how long you think it would take you to get a job. "Six months is a pretty good ballpark for most people," she says. Add up your monthly bills and obligations (including taxes), and subtract any unemployment you'd receive. Then bank at least that amount. And if you already have some saved, use the windfall to take that savings to your goal amount. Dave Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies in Fairfax, Va., recommends socking away at least $10,000 into a savings account if you have debts but no savings. Then spend the rest to eliminate or pay down your debts, concentrating on your highest interest rate obligations first. If you have savings and no debt, you could consider low-risk investments, such as a money market fund or other "balanced low-risk fund," Jones says. Almost as important is what to avoid: "impulsive spending on inane perishables," he says. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of "Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom," says the best solution is to tackle the problem in a series of steps. "Get professional financial help. Find a qualified adviser to help you set a budget and do long-term financial planning," Khalfani-Cox says. "And give yourself time. Resist the urge to do something -- anything -- immediately. Don't feel like you have to do anything at all with the money right away," she says. If you decide to invest, plan beforehand. "Be strategic about making any big moves," Khalfani-Cox says. "Don't just give in and start buying stocks, bonds or mutual funds without a plan." Create a plan to deal with money requests, she says. It takes away the guilt when you want or need to say "no." "The idea is to create a buffer between you and all the friends and family who will ask for money," she says. "Consider using an intermediary -- either an individual or an institution -- to handle the requests." Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Silver Spring, Md., advises people to approach a windfall by first looking at areas where you are financially weakest. Then, use your windfall to strengthen your position. Behind on the mortgage? "The best use might be to catch up," she says. "This will eliminate late fees, which only add to the balance." Paying only the minimums on credit cards? "A good use could be to put the money toward the debt with the highest balance," she says. Or, pay off a small bill. "This feeling of accomplishment often encourages a person to keep knocking off bills," Cunningham says. If you're financially stable but without savings, you're "really on a slippery slope," she says. Using your windfall to start or augment your savings account could create a safety net for emergencies. If you're stable financially, consider splitting the money between one of the above and a personal reward. "Treating yourself to a reward for responsibly handling your money can be an incentive to continuing this behavior," Cunningham says. Larry Winget, author of "The Idiot Factor: The 10 Ways We Sabotage Our Life, Money, and Business," says "Don't buy anything." "It's an opportunity, a real opportunity to fix everything you haven't been doing right," he says. First, pay off your high-interest rate credit card. Then, stash your windfall away. Consumers should create a savings equal to at least three months' worth of household expenses. Put the rest away for retirement. "That would be the top three things that I would say to do," Winget says. "But whatever you do, don't buy something that's going to immediately depreciate when you write the check: cars, clothes, food, vacation," he says. Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of Realtors, says consumers should pay down their credit card debt. "Simplify your ongoing financial responsibilities. Make life easier. Reduce your overhead," he says. After that, look after your No. 1 investment. Focus on needed home repairs or equity-generating improvements, he says. Or, reduce an ongoing expense like your monthly utility bill by installing energy-efficient appliances. After that, "I'd probably say if it were truly a windfall, I'd find something I'd like to do that I'd enjoy: an arbor, a garden or a spa/whirlpool," he says. If your house and your credit card accounts are in good shape, consider buying a rental property. "The goal would be to take that money and leverage it," Phipps says. If your finances are healthy and this is truly extra money, then remember the 80/20 rule. "Save 80 percent, spend 20 percent," says Wayne Bogosian, co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to 401(k) Plans." "Follow the 80/20 rule and you won't have any regrets." How do you spend it? "Any way you want," he says. Buy things that last or do some philanthropic giving, he says. For the savings? Aim to max out IRA and 401k contributions for you and your spouse over the coming years, he says. "If your income is outside the Roth IRA limits, open a nondeductible IRA and immediately convert it to a Roth IRA," he says. Your objective over the next eight to 10 years should be to deposit all or most of your 80 percent into a Roth IRA and then into a 401(k).