Stop Wasting Money at CVS Right Now

There is a CVS drugstore a block away from my house, so it is convenient when you need an item or two stopping on the way home from work, but I consistently see people doing their shopping there, as if they have great deals, or they are completely unaware of how much money they are wasting.  Not only is it a rip-off, but if you have ever tried standing in line it always seems to take forever to get through.  I am not sure if it is their slow system causing delays, or if since it is typically a place where senior citizens frequent, or the fact that there always seems to be one cashier working for the lineup of people, I always seem to lose my patience waiting in line.  My wife just stopped at CVS to pick up cold medicine and ended up spending $50 on medicine and cards, so this fueled the fire a little more.

The pharmacy is the main feature of the store, so if you are getting prescriptions filled, I have had better luck on prices at other stores such as Kroger, Target, or even direct at the hospital’s pharmacy.  My biggest gripe is the cost of items in the rest of the store.  All of their food is ridiculously overpriced.  Not that I would expect to go grocery shopping there, but they do have a large amount of items, so if you are in the store and need items you could be tempted, but it is not worth it.  Any personal care item is high, such as shampoos, deodorants, and paper towels.  If you are looking to pick up medicine, you can expect to pay inflated prices, as items are rarely on sale, unless you have a CVS rewards card, which still does not make much of a difference.

With stores such as Target and Kroger as prominent in the area as they are it is amazing that stores such as CVS and Walgreens are still in business.  I am not promoting pushing the “little guy” out, which is why I do not even mention Walmart.  You can find all items you need at Target and Kroger, it has its own pharmacy, and I promise you will come out of there spending far less money than you would if you purchased the same items at CVS.

Saving money, even a little each time you shop, will incrementally add up over the years. Make sure you start investing in binary options with Banc De Binary, they offer several options for moderate risk investor.

Why Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

If you are looking for ways to better afford your student loan payments, you may come across the option to refinance. Before you actually jump in with both feet, make sure that you have considered all options. Below, we will go over some of the reasons why you may want to refinance your student loans.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is a process where a private banking institution or lender will take your loan and provide you with a new interest rate. The idea behind refinancing is to help make your payments more affordable and allow you to better manage your payments.

Benefits of Refinancing

When it comes down to it, you do not want to refinance your student loans if it is not going to benefit you in any way. It is important to understand just what it does offer, so that you can decide if it is something you want to proceed with.

Benefit 1: Lower Interest Rate

When you refinance your student loans, you will receive a lower interest rate than the one you are paying. Many students who have a variable interest rate will choose to refinance, so that they can receive a fixed rate.

Unlike Federal Direct Consolidation, which just takes a weighted average of your loans, refinancing gives you a completely new, unrelated interest rate that is usually much lower and can save tons of money.

Benefit 2: Shorter Repayment Terms

Though you may have a higher monthly payment, you can refinance to shorten the length of your loan. Instead of being on a 10-year repayment plan, you could switch to a 5-year plan, for example, to pay your loans off faster. If you have the finances to do it and it makes sense, it is a great option.

Benefit 3: Lower Your Monthly Payment

Though it won’t usually save you money, you can lengthen the loan by an additional year or two, which means that your payment will be lower from month to month. When you lengthen your repayment term, however, more interest will accrue over time and you will end up spending more over the life of the loan.

Benefit 4: Improves Your Credit

When you do refinance your student loans, you can build up your credit score by making monthly payments on time. It is important to make sure that you are always making the minimum payment to maintain and uphold your score anyways.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes time to refinance your loan, there are some things that you need to keep in mind. First, you need to have a good credit score and a decent amount of income to be able to refinance with a private lender. If you do not, you will likely not qualify for this option or you may need a cosigner to sign for you, which would require them to meet the qualifications.

Another thing to take into account is that there is not much protection for you in the event that you do lose your job or run into a financial snag. Your payments will still be due and there is no hold button to place them on the backburner while you catch up.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you are eligible for a loan forgiveness program. If you are, then you may find that when you refinance, you lose the qualification under the forgiveness program. If you are absolutely sure that you may qualify for a forgiveness program, it may be worth it to wait it out and continue paying your federal student loan payments.  The reason behind this is because you usually need to make 120 payments before forgiveness kicks in and if you refinance, it will start those payments over.

Final Thoughts

Be sure that you are checking all of your options and making sure that you qualify to do so before refinancing your student loans. If you find that you do not, there are other options to keep you from defaulting on your loans.

Lastly, if you do plan to apply for refinancing, you need to make sure that you continue to make your student loan payments until you receive the letter that your refinancing has kicked in, otherwise, you may end up defaulting on your loan.

Finding The Best Forex Broker In Australia

Forex trading in Australia is very popular and with the growth of competition, the number of Forex brokers in Australia is also continuously increasing. If you are a beginner in the field of Forex trading in Australia, you would be looking for the best Forex broker in Australia to start with. Choosing a good broker in Australia is not an easy task as there is a big list of brokers there. Every broker will try to attract you with a number of new and attractive features like bonuses, rewards etc. but the selection of the best one depends upon a predefined set of rules. You have to follow certain important considerations before you select the best Forex broker in Australia for your trading needs. Let us have a look on the set of considerations.

Checking whether the broker is registered

The first and the most important thing which every Forex trader needs to check is that the whether the potential broker is registered with the reputed regulating institution in Australia or not. The reputed authority in Australia for regulating brokers is Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the brokers registered with it are highly regulated to preserve the interests of the traders connected with them.

The best Forex broker in Australia has good reviews

Another important thing to check about the best Forex broker in Australia is its reputation on web. A good Forex broker has good reviews on the Forex review sites and you can discover the complaints and other issues by the reviewers if the broker is not good. The review sites and forums also provide a list of the fraudulent Forex brokers which you need to be aware of. But always keep a check of the fake reviews provided by some websites in order to increase the rankings of some brokers. Trust the reviews of genuine websites and that will help you in getting the information about the best Forex broker Australia.

Check for the customer care services

Your best Forex broker in Australia provides the best customer care services to the traders using their services. In order to check the services of the broker, call on the customer care number provided in their websites and check the quality of the support they provide. Check commissions and charges and the policies and clear everything before you open a Forex trading account with the broker.

Open a demo account to know the services of the broker

In order to test the services provided by a Forex broker, open a Forex trading account with the broker and play with demo money. In this way you can come to know about the services provided by the broker and also text the trading platform provided by the broker which is also very important.

Ways To Dwindle Down Your Debt

Debt is something that plagues many people and it is quite difficult to get out of debt. There are some tricks that help you reduce your debt that you can use though. Not all people are aware of these tricks so they just fall deeper and deeper into debt. Some tweaks in your lifestyle might not be the most comfortable but being is debt is much worse. The following are some ways you can save money and pay off your debt more efficiently.

When you have to spend money make sure you check out sites like Groupon that have stores like Office Depot if you are shopping for school supplies. Always checking these sites is important as there are new deals every single day. If you are in debt and absolutely need to buy something make sure you can get the item at the lowest cost possible. Stores often advertise sales on their mailing lists as well so signing up for these might be beneficial.

Getting rid of your cable might seem awful but having internet gives you the ability to use Netflix and other streaming providers. Cable TV is extremely important and most homes are hooked up for basic cable anyway. There are plenty of cable or satellite providers who ramp up the costs during the later years of a contract.

Going out to eat is a huge expense and should be avoided at all costs by those in debt. Many times a person could cook a week’s worth of food for the same cost that it took to go out to dinner just once. When you do go out for dinner you should drinking alcohol if possible as this is marked up immensely. Each meal that you eat in instead of out knocks just a little bit more off of your debt.

Talking to the people you owe money to whether it be a credit card company or otherwise can actually help. They could be willing to modify payments or renegotiate deals in order to help you out of debt.

Whatever you do to get out of debt do not pay off debt with another credit card. This is a vicious cycle that could leave you in debt for life. Save a few extra dollars a day and get out of debt faster.

You Need to Automate Your Savings

Behavioral finance scholars Shlomo Benartzi of UCLA and Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago have done some fascinating research in the area of 401(k)s. Several years ago they noticed that a growing number of companies, concerned that too few workers were taking advantage of company- sponsored retirement plans, were experimenting with “automatic enrollment” 401(k)s. In a regular 401(k), it’s up to workers to decide whether they want to participate in the savings plan. Employees who want to join are required to fill out enrollment papers. They have to decide how much they want to contribute to their 401(k)s and how they want to invest the money. In other words, it’s up to the worker to opt in to the system.

In automatic-enrollment 401(k)s it’s just the opposite. A new employee is automatically swept into the plan upon joining the firm. The only people who have to do anything are those who want to opt out of participating. “These plans are remarkably successful in increasing enrollment,” Benartzi and Thaler say. Indeed, when companies switch to automatic enrollment plans, the participation rate in those 401(k)s can jump from below 50 percent to more than 80 percent. In some cases, 9 out of 10 workers end up participating.

The lesson: automate your savings regimen wherever you can. Save small amounts of money each week or month like you do in a 401(k). And make inertia work for you. This is simple to do. Most brokerages and mutual fund companies allow customers to set up automatic investment programs. Money can be automatically deducted from your checking account into a money market, bond, or stock fund each month. At places like T. Rowe Price and Fidelity you can set up a savings program for as little as $50 or $100 a month. The appeal of these plans is that, once set in motion, they allow individuals to set aside a small amount each month without having to make a conscious decision to save. If you want to quit, you have to fill out the paperwork. This way, inertia is working for you.

Today, only a minority of savers and investors take advantage of such plans. Yet the majority recognizes that automatic plans are useful tools toward building up savings. In a recent survey, 68 percent of Americans said that saving automatically each month would be somewhat or very useful in building their own savings accounts. In general, 79 percent think that setting aside a fixed amount of money each month would be useful in overcoming the inertia that hinders so many savers. Benartzi and Thaler cite one problem with automatic 401(k)s: “The very inertia that helps increase participation rates also can lower the savings rates of those who do participate.” They note that many investors in automatic 401(k)s never increase their payroll deductions into the plans. In such plans, companies often establish a default rate of contribution, typically 3 percent of a worker’s salary. Benartzi and Thaler found that workers tend to stick with those default rates, even if they eventually can afford to contribute more.


Thinking of Purchasing a Home?

One of President Obama’s priorities in 2015 was to kickstart the housing boom once again and, as the Federal Housing Administration lowered mortgage insurance premiums today, first-time home buyers got an excellent reason to buy a home this year.

Last week Friday the report from the National Association of Realtors showed that, while existing home sales were up, they were lower than expectations and in fact, with a 3.1% fall in 2014, it was the first time in four years that there was a year-over-year drop in home sales.

There was a bit more unfortunate news in the report as well, coming from Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. He said that “Housing costs, both rents and home prices, continue to outpace wages and are burdensome for potential buyers trying to save for a down payment while looking for available homes in their price range.”

In other words, the cost of renting as well as the cost of a new home are both beyond the means of the average American. In fact, in 2014, fewer than 30% of existing home sales were first time buyers. One of the reasons is that prices for many consumer goods keep rising but wages aren’t. “Right now a lot of young adults are still living with their parents,” says Jed Kolko, Chief Economics at Trulia, adding that “When they move out, they will rent first before they buy.”

New rates put in place by the FHA have reduced insurance premiums by half a percentage point, something that should save $900 a year for FHA borrowers. The mandatory annual mortgage insurance rate for people who take out a 30 year mortgage and put down less than 5% has dropped from 1.35% to .85%. For those who put down 5% or more on their FHA insured loan, they’ll get a rate of .80% instead of the former 1.30%.

Joining the FHA are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who both announce that new guidelines would be adopted for down payments, including offering qualified buyers the opportunity to get a mortgage loan with a 3% down payment.

The question remains however whether these programs are going to be enough to really give the housing market a kick in the pants. Kolko says that “The housing market isn’t quite yet back to normal,” adding that “Sales prices are getting closer to normal, but there are some parts of the housing recovery but still have a ways to go.” He was quick to note that, while housing is definitely important to the overall economy of the United States, as of yet it wasn’t doing its part to give back to our overall economic growth.

In other words America, get out there and buy a home if you love your country (or something along those lines).

Is it possible to invest in too many mutual funds?

One of the hallmarks of investing is diversification.  Having a portfolio that’s sufficiently diversified means having a wide mix of different assets so that, if some are not doing well, the ones that are will support it, This basically means spreading your money around in different assets and investments so that, should one of them fail, the others will be there to protect your wealth.

On the other hand, some consumers and investors actually spread their money a bit too much, and end up with a portfolio that, rather than being a coherent whole, is a jumbled mess.

The reason that diversification works so well is that, in the long run, it gives your portfolio the ability to generate much higher return with a much lower risk. That being said, there’s no need to get extremely fancy with your portfolio’s assets because it’s quite easy to cover all of the major sectors of the stock market and bond market with only 2 or 3 ETF’s or broad index funds.

For example, you could get a total stock market index fund that covers the US, or do the same thing but make it international stocks. You can even get a target date retirement fund and completely diversify your portfolio in one fell swoop.

That’s not to say that adding some funds, ETF’s, a real estate commodity or even some Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) is a bad idea, especially if you want to protect your portfolio from inflation. If you’d like to protect yourself against rising interest rates you could also get a short-term bond fund or, for a little bit of tax-free income, a municipal bond fund.

Want income that’s more assured than what Social Security can provide? Throw an immediate annuity into your portfolio and you’ll be all set.

The point being is simply this; once you have a nicely diversified portfolio, filled with a smattering of asset classes, there’s really no sense to keep piling on more. The first thing it does is make managing your portfolio a lot more difficult and, if you need to rebalance it, a big hassle. Depending on the type of investments that you choose you might also find that your fees go up sharply, bringing down the performance of any assets you have.

If you’re not sure about the health of your portfolio, you can always get MorningStar’s Portfolio Manager. Once you put in the names and/or ticker symbols of all of the funds that you own, you’ll get a great overall view of your portfolio and the different asset classes that you have. You’ll also see what type of expenses you’re paying and possibly where some of your funds might be overlapping.

The best thing is that, when you’re done, you’ll have a much better idea of whether your portfolio is as diversified as it needs to be and also if it falls in place with the risk tolerance that you have. If it does, there’s really no need to do more.

New to Investing? Here are some of the Basics you Need to Know

Today’s blog is for anyone who is new to investing, and will go into some of the most basic terms and tips. The old adage about every journey beginning with a first step begins, if you’re a new investor, right now. Enjoy.

First, when it comes to stocks, over the long haul they have historically outperformed almost every other type of investment. In fact they outperformed practically every other asset class with 10% returns, which is nearly double the next best-performing asset class, long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, at 5%.

However, in the short term, stocks can be very risky. Just ask anyone who was around on October 19, 1987, when the stock market lost 22.6% in one day. In 2009 they lost a heart attack inducing 37%!  In other words, stocks are something that you purchase for the long term and hold onto for many years.

When it comes to risk, the higher the risk an investment has, the more it will return (generally speaking). Stocks have a higher risk than bonds, for example, and tend to return more than bonds as well. Of course, as we talked about in the last paragraph, occasionally those risky stocks end up collapsing and you lose everything. That’s why financial advisors always tell their customers to diversify their portfolios.

Speaking of the long term, when it comes to stock prices, the single most important factor is earnings. If you focus on what stock prices do every day you might just drive yourself crazy because they fluctuate all the time.

When it comes to bonds, rising interest rates have a very negative effect on them. The reason is simply because bond buyers don’t want to pay as much for an existing bond that has, for example, a fixed interest rate of 5%, because the fixed interest rate on a new bond, since rates have gone up, will pay more.

When it comes to a “sure thing”, the only asset that qualifies are U.S. Treasury bonds. The American economy has historically been very strong and, when need be, the government always has the ability to print more money. Add that to the fact that the US government is very unlikely to default on its bonds, and you have what is as close to a sure thing as an investor could possibly get.

We mentioned a diversified portfolio above and, in almost every respect, it’s better to have more diversification than less. While it’s true that a diversified portfolio more than likely will not outperform the market by a very big margin, it will definitely protect your assets much better.

Finally, if you have the choice between mutual funds and actively managed funds, you should probably choose the former because they almost always outperform the latter. In fact, it’s a rare actively managed fund that can consistently outperform the market enough to cover their higher expenses.

Still Drowning in Debt From the Holidays?

Are you the type of couple of starts arguing over holiday spending even before the tree goes up and don’t stop until sometime around the end of March (or maybe longer) when that last credit card payment is finally made?  If you are, then today’s blog is going to show you a couple of ways that you can finally dig out from under that debt without killing each other (or making the other cry). Enjoy.

The first is to simply stop blaming each other and accept responsibility for your debt together. No matter which one of you actually swiped the credit card, the blame falls on both of you for either not discussing your holiday budget or putting the responsibility for purchasing all the holiday gifts on the other’s shoulders. The fact is, that debt isn’t going away and yelling or arguing about it isn’t going to make it go away either. So stop arguing and instead start figuring out what to do to pay it off as quickly as possible. (And make a note to discuss holiday spending in more depth this year.)

Next is to figure out exactly what you can do to pay off that debt and make a plan to do it. One thing you can do, which we mentioned in a recent blog, is get a Chase Slate credit card and transfer all of your debt onto it because, with a 0% interest rate for 15 months and no transfer fee in the first 60 days, it will help you to pay a lot less in interest fees and give you a little bit more time (if you truly need it) to pay off those debts. Just make sure that you get them all paid off before the 15 month period ends.

Another way to pay off that debt is to cut expenses independently and use the extra money to pay it down. What we mean is that, rather than trying to put $200 or $300 aside from the family budget every month, each of you take half of that out of your own personal expenses, in any way that you wish, so that you don’t feel like you’re being bullied into cutting back on things that you want most.

Finally, you can both agree to pick up extra work wherever possible and use that extra money to pay down the debt more quickly. In fact, some couples have made a tradition of working a little bit more just before the holidays start in order to have the extra money they need to purchase gifts for loved ones and friends.

The point being is to work together, rather than against each other, to solve your holiday debt dilemma. You never know, if you do it right you might even end up with a stronger, happier relationship.

Looking for a Store Credit Card? Don’t Look Here

Store credit cards can sometimes seem like the bargain of the month, especially when you’re standing at the cash register, ready to check out, and the pretty cashier tells you that, if you “sign-up today”, you’ll get an extra 10, 15 or 20% off of your total purchase.

While that discount certainly will lower your cost at the register, the fact is that if, you don’t pay it off directly at the end of the month, there’s a good chance you’re going to pay through the nose for those purchases because most credit cards that you get from retail outlets have APR interest rates that are insane.

According to credit card comparison website, in a survey that they recently performed including 61 major retail credit cards, those cards are coming with increasingly high APR rates. In fact, they averaged 23.23% as opposed to a 15.03% for all credit cards in general, which is up over 21% since 2010.

If that doesn’t alarm you, maybe these numbers will; if a consumer spends $1000 on a retail store credit card and only makes the minimum payments, it would take them six years to pay off that $1000 and, by the end of that six-year period, they will have paid $1840 for that item, an 84% markup!

A number of things have brought about this increase in retail credit card interest rates, including the Credit Card Act of 2009,  which put into effect much stricter rules on the fees that retail credit cards can charge their consumers. The industry immediately began looking for ways to make back some of the money that they lost, and even more money that they lost during the recession. Analysts also believe that, as the Federal Reserve rates continue to rise, retail credit card rates will rise with them.

Charles Tran, the founder of, a credit card comparison website, says that “a good retail credit card is hard to find,” adding that “many store credit cards are skimpy on the benefits and loaded with high interest rates.”

Now, to be honest, some retail credit cards do have some benefits to consumers who shop at their store often. Perks like discounts, rewards and special sales for cardholders, and introductory interest rate of 0%, make them very appealing.

The catch however is when you don’t pay your retail credit bill in full at the end of every month or if you happen to miss a payment. As noted in the example above, the interest rates you’ll pay on your typical retail credit card are phenomenally high and, if you miss a payment, you can expect severe penalties.

According to, the 5 retail credit cards with the worst APRs are, in alphabetical order;

  1. My Best Buy Preferred. Between 25.24 and 27.99%, depending on your particular credit score
  2. My Best Buy. The same as #1
  3. Office Depot personal credit. 27.99%
  4. Staples Personal Account. 27.99%
  5. Zales. 28.99%

Unless you’re a consumer pays off your retail credit card balance in full every month, a retail credit card is simply a bad idea. Unless you shop at the store very often and get a lot of different perks and discounts, their interest rates are so high that it makes any discount you might get negligible. Also, even if you do pay your balance in full and on time every month, it might make more sense to use a cash back card instead.