How to Pull Up Your Credit Score

Consumer climbs up better credit card scoreThe average U.S. consumer’s Vantage credit rating fell from 750 in 2012 to 681 in 2013, according to Experian’s latest State of Credit report. This correlates to the average rise in debt from $24,890 to $27,887, reflecting an increase in available credit utilization from to 29.49 to 30 percent. Incidence of late payments fell slightly from 0.45 to 0.43, a minimal improvement rounding out an overall picture of Americans living beyond their means and struggling to manage credit debt. If you’re in this position, turn things around and start rebuilding your credit.

Know Your Score

The first step toward rebuilding your credit begins with learning your score. You can obtain a simple score profile from For greater detail, go to, or request your report directly from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

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Six Signs That You are in Good Financial Shape.

Gauging Your Financial Well-Being

Six signs that you are in good shape.

financial healthHow well off do you think you are financially? If your career or life takes an unexpected turn, would your finances hold up? What do you think will become of the money you’ve made and saved when you are gone?

These are major questions, and most people can’t answer them as quickly as they would like. It might help to think about six factors in your financial life. Here is a six-point test you can take to gauge your financial well-being.

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Alternative Approaches to Retirement Planning

Is the conventional wisdom for everyone?

conventional wisdomQuestioning traditional assumptions about retirement planning can be illuminating. Some retirement planners and economists argue that they need to be reexamined.

Does most retirement planning focus on the future at the expense of the present? One noted economist makes that case. Laurence Kotlikoff, the former White House economic advisor who writes for PBS NewsHour, contends that your retirement savings effort should be structured in a way that allows you to protect your standard of living today and tomorrow.

A key question in retirement planning is “How much will you need to spend in the future?” Kotlikoff thinks the appropriate question should be “How should you gradually adjust your household spending as you grow older?” He argues that basing your retirement planning on a projected retirement income target is faulty.

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Tips to Graduate College Debt-Free (or Close to It)

shutterstock_183071588 copyThe average student loan debt for the graduating class of 2012 was $29,400 per student, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. That’s up from $26,600 per borrower in 2011. The burden of debt after graduation isn’t just a source of near-perpetual stress—it can prevent you from getting a mortgage or a car loan. You can get through all four years with little to no debt, however. Three ways to make it happen:

Invest in Precious Metals

One dollar in 2014 was only worth 80 cents in 2004, a 20 percent loss in value due to inflation based on the Consumer Price Index. The price of gold went from about $400 per ounce in 2004 to around $1,300 as of early April, a 225 percent increase. Silver and its price trends were very similar during that same time period.

Freshmen in 2010 could have purchased gold at $1,100 per ounce. Today their investment would be worth $1,300, an 18 percent return in four years. That is far better than what any bank account or stock will do for you. There always has (and always will be) a negative correlation between the value of the dollar and gold; as the former goes down, the latter goes up. That is why investors and financial pundits frequently refer to gold as a “hedge against inflation.”

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Investment Themes & Strategies Podcast Episode 1

Show Notes:

Investment Themes & Strategies: Podcast Episode 1:Untitled design

1.  I want to help you grow, protect, and share your wealth

–       If I help you have more, you can give more and make the world around us a better place

–       We will look at themes & strategies to help you accomplish this

–       Investment ideas, retirement and savings tips, important news that can impact your portfolio, and ways to keep your faith and values central in your finances.

2. Investment Rules to live by: 

–       Keep your faith & values at the center of your life finances included

–       Minimize your investment costs

–       Have a solid game plan – asset allocation, diversification

–       Get good advice from a trusted source

–       do your homework!

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Are You Making These Classic Investment Mistakes?

Classic Investing Mistakes

How many can you prevent yourself from making? 

MistakeYear after year, in bull and bear markets, investors make some all-too-common blunders. They have been written about, talked about, and critiqued at some length – and yet they are still made. You can chalk them up to psychology, human nature, perhaps even a degree of peer pressure. You just don’t want to find yourself making them more than once.

#1: Caving into emotion. The deVere Group, which consults high net worth investors around the world, recently surveyed 880 of its clients and found that even with their experience, some had made the equivalent of a rookie mistake – 20% had let fear or greed prompt them into emotional investment decisions.

Investors use past performance to justify their greed – it did well recently, I better buy more of it – but past performance is merely history and represents a micro factor versus macroeconomic factors influencing sectors and markets. Fear prompts panic selling. How many investors draw on technical analysis or even stop-loss limits when shares suddenly decline? A stop-loss limit is handy for those who don’t want to watch the market every day – it instructs a brokerage to sell a stock if it drops below a specific value, often in the range of 8-10% of the purchase price.

#2: Investing without a strategy. Some people invest with one idea in mind – making money. An outstanding goal to be sure, but it shouldn’t blind them to other priorities such as tax efficiency, managing risk and reviewing asset allocation. Even 22% of the investors in the deVere poll confessed to this.

#3: Not diversifying enough. Have you ever heard the phrase “familiarity bias”? This is when investors develop a “home team” attachment to an investment. Just as sports fans stick by the Celtics and the Cornhuskers and the Cubs through thick and thin, some investors stick with a few core investments for years. Maybe they work for XYZ Company or their mom did, or maybe they like what XYZ Company represents, so having a certain percentage of the portfolio in shares of XYZ Company gives them a good feeling. If XYZ Company craters, they won’t feel so good. You can hold too much of one investment, especially if a company rewards you with its stock.

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Why I Am Buying Volatility


Option Trader

By Chris Kidd, Senior Option Strategist at Wall St. Renegade

As a professional investor and an options trader, I keep a close eye on the markets, look for patterns, and always look for what’s coming next. While it is impossible to be right all the time, it is very possible to see indicators that can give you an idea of what should happen. We are at all-time highs in the stock market, but I believe the waters are about to get rough. That does not mean I think we are going into a bear market necessarily, but I expect volatility to pick up.

The CBOE (Chicago Board of Options Exchange) Volatility Index ($VIX) just hit a 52 week low (11.68), and is not far off its 5 year low (11.05). You have to go back to January 2007 to find the last time the VIX was under 11. This volatility index is sometimes know as a fear indicator. The more fear that comes into the market, the higher the VIX goes. On the reverse side, the more complacency that is in the market, the lower it VIX goes. Investors have now become very complacent (which is a setup for a selloff).

This is why I am buying VIX call options, betting on a jump in volatility. I believe we are in danger of an ugly selloff in the stock market. Whether things get ugly, or we just get a little correction, I expect things to get more volatile. I have a position in SDS, which is a double short ETF against the S&P 500, as a way to hedge my portfolio and make a smooth transition if we get a violent correction or even a bear market. The VIX can be a hedge as well, but in this case I am buying VIX call options in an attempt to profit from a spike in volatility that I believe is coming very soon.

VIX w:marks copy

Over the past three years, the VIX has dropped below 12 seven times, and all of those cases were in the last 16 months. Each time the VIX spiked over 16 within about a month’s time, the longest wait being 35 days. Ten days ago the VIX dipped below 12, then again today, so we are ten days into this cycle without a spike yet. Based on the recent patterns I would assume we will see a spike above 16 within the next 20 days. There’s a saying in the market: “The trend is your friend.” Until this trend changes I intend to buy volatility anytime the VIX drops below 12.

JOIN OPTION TRADER NOW!  Learn how Chris is playing the HUGE potential spike in volatility!


Is the Economy Still Recovering?

The Economy Heads for Normal

economic recovery

A look at the fundamentals affirms the hunch. 

The stock market may be up and down this year, but America’s economic recovery seems to be proceeding at a decent pace. Anyone who wants some evidence of that can find it in some key fundamental indicators.

Pessimists may counter: didn’t the economy grow just 0.1% in the first quarter? Indeed, that was the federal government’s initial estimate – but the initial estimate of quarterly GDP is twice revised, and often drastically so. Other key indicators point to a healthier economy, and some suggest that March and April were better than presumed.1

Jobless claims reached a 7-year low this month. They decreased to pre-recession levels at last, with a seasonally-adjusted 297,000 applications received in the week of May 3-10, the fewest in any week since May 2007. Economists Reuters polled thought 320,000 claims would appear.

Hiring has picked up. April saw employers hire 288,000 people with gains in the manufacturing, construction, and professional/technical sectors. Even state and local governments hired.

From November to April, non-farm payrolls grew by an average of 203,000 jobs per month. From January through April, the gain averaged 214,000 jobs per month. That is the kind of steady growth that pulls an economy out of the doldrums.

Yes, the jobless rate hit a 5½-year low in April partly due to fewer jobseekers – but when fewer people look for work, it often translates to an indirect benefit for those in the hunt. That benefit is higher pay. Analysts think noticeable wage growth might be the next step in the labor market recovery.

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6 Steps to Get Out of Debt

6 Steps to Take NOW!

debt relief 

Why not plan to lighten your financial burden?


Positive moves to counteract negative cash flow. The financial analysis website keeps track of the various debts common to the U.S. household. As of April 2014, they’ve found an average mortgage debt of $154,365. They have also discovered an average household has $7,087 in debt from credit cards, but when the numbers are revised to only look at American households already in debt, the average more than doubles to $15,191. When you add this to the average student loan debt of $33,607, it paints a rather bleak picture.

Every day, people draw on money they don’t actually have – via credit cards, various loans, home equity lines of credit, and even their 401(k)s. Many of them end up making minimum payments on these high-interest loans – a sure way to stay indebted forever.

If this is your situation, you may be wondering: how do I get out of debt? Here are some ideas.

*Make a budget. “Where does all the money go?” If you are asking that question, here is where you learn the answer. You might find that you’re spending $80 a month on gourmet coffee, or $100 a week on lousy movies. Cable, eating out, buying retail – costs like these can really eat at your finances. Set a budget, and you can stop frivolous expenses and redirect the money you save to pay down debt.

*Get another job. I know, this doesn’t sound like fun. But having more money will aid you to reduce debt more quickly. A family member who isn’t working can work to help reduce a shared family problem.

*Sell stuff. The Internet has proven that everything is worth something. Go to eBay, craigslist or some other online marketplace – you’ll be amazed at the market (and the asking prices) for this and that. What people collect, want and buy may surprise you. Don’t be surprised if you have a few hundred dollars – or more – sitting around your house or in your garage. You might be able to pay off a couple of credit cards – or even a loan – with what you sell.

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Thinking of Retiring? One Important Thing to Consider

Retirement Planning With Health Care Expenses in Mind

It is only wise to consider what Medicare won’t cover in the future.

health costs As you save for retirement, you also recognize the possibility of having to pay major health care costs in the future. Is there some way to plan for these expenses years in advance?

Just how great might those expenses be? There’s no rote answer, of course, but recent surveys from AARP and Fidelity Investments reveal that too many baby boomers might be taking this subject too lightly.

For the last eight years, Fidelity has projected average retirement health care expenses for a couple (assuming that retirement begins at age 65 and that one spouse or partner lives about seven years longer than the other). In 2013, Fidelity estimated that a couple retiring at age 65 would require about $220,000 to absorb those future costs.

When it asked Americans aged 55-64 how much money they thought they would spend on health care in retirement, 48% of the respondents figured they would need about $50,000 apiece, or about $100,000 per couple. That pales next to Fidelity’s projection and it also falls short of the estimates made back in 2010 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI figured that a couple with median prescription drug expenses would pay $151,000 of their own retirement health care costs.

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