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Find a Good Local Contractor with Angie’s List

If you are looking for a doctor, dentist, contractor, roofer, electrician, landscaper, plumber, etc. and want an unbiased opinion about their service then you should consider using Angie's List. Angie's List was started by Angie Hicks in 1995 with 1,000 members in Columbus, OH because she was frustrated at how difficult it was to find […]

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Citi Homeowner Unemployment Assist Program

March 12, 2009 | Mortgage Loans | Videos | No Comments

Citi has released an informational video called "Facing Foreclosure" showcasing how Citi is working with outreach programs across the country to help stem the tide of foreclosure and keep people in their homes.

Video: Facing Foreclosure by Citi

Citi has also announced the "Homeowner Unemployment Assist" program, which is the latest program offered under Citi Homeowner Assistance, their multi-faceted program to help people avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. Citi understands that unemployment is a major concern facing the American economy right now, and it especially worries mortgage holders. Homeowner Unemployment Assist will help recently unemployed, delinquent CitiMortgage customers stay in their homes by paying a reduced monthly mortgage payment for three months.

Below is a Question and Answer from Citi about the program:

How does this program work?

CitiMortgage customers meeting certain criteria who have recently lost their jobs will be eligible to participate in the Homeowner Unemployment Assist program. Often when families lose their homes, they are forced to downsize to a one- to two-bedroom rental residence. Under the Homeowner Unemployment Assist program, Citi will lower required monthly mortgage payments for the majority of qualifying customers to an average of $500 for three months. $500 is below the cost of the nationwide average rent for a one-bedroom residence.

How to I know if I qualify for this program?

If you make payments to CitiMortgage, are more than 60 days delinquent or in foreclosure and have a first mortgage loan that is for your principal residence, please contact CitiMortgage at 1-800-283-7918 and our mortgage professionals will look up your loan file to understand if you qualify for this program. At this time, this program is only available to customers who have a first mortgage owned and serviced by CitiMortgage and does not apply to second mortgages or home equity loans.

What kind of documentation is required in order to be eligible this program?

You must:

  • Provide proof of unemployment
  • Be actively seeking work as verified through State Unemployment benefits receipt, letter, etc.
  • Be involuntarily unemployed for under six months

How are the payments determined and will the payment go towards my principal or my interest? What about escrow or insurance and taxes?

  • Customers with a monthly escrow account payment of $500 or less with their CitiMortgage loan will pay a lowered monthly amount of $500.
  • Customers whose monthly escrow amount exceeds $500 will be asked to pay the amount necessary to cover the monthly escrow.
  • Customers who do not have an escrow account with their CitiMortgage loan, but who pay their own property taxes and other real estate costs directly, will pay a monthly amount of $300. Payments will first be applied to escrow, taxes and insurance. Any remainder will go towards paying off the principal with no interest accrued.

Can I be Self Employed?

If you have been involuntarily unemployed for under six months and are actively seeking work as verified through State Unemployment benefits receipt, letter, etc. you can qualify for the program.

What if I find a job prior to the payment ending period?

Borrowers who find employment during the payment relief period must resume their original monthly payments, or if eligible, receive a long-term loan modification under Citi’s streamlined program adopted from the FDIC.

What if I can’t find a job by the end of the payment relief period?

Citi will work with customers on a case-by-case basis to explore the best solutions for the customer.

Are other Citi businesses, such as CitiFinancial, Citibank, Primerica, taking part in this program?

At this time, the program is only available to CitiMortgage customers with a first mortgage loan.

Do you expect the other Citi businesses to launch similar programs for their mortgage and other customers in the future?

Citi continues to evaluate the best ways to help its customers and run its business safely and soundly in this challenging economic environment.

For more information visit CitiGroup.com or call 1.866.915.9417.

ING Direct Orange Mortgage Offering 4.50% ARM

March 12, 2009 | Mortgage Loans | No Comments

ingdirect-mortgage1

If you are in the market for a mortgage to purchase a new home or looking to refinance your existing home, then you should seriously consider ING DIRECT Orange Mortgage.   While other banks offer lower rates they cover these usually with much higher closing costs.  An ING DIRECT mortgage comes with no points and very low closing costs, usually only an appraisal and the title search.

You can get a free locked in rate for 60 days when buying a home or 30 days when refinancing with a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with an interest rate 4.5% and a 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with an interest rate 4.75%.

The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage after five years adjusts annually to reflect current market rates or you can pay $750 to modify your loan and lock in the going rate for another five years.  So you can get this rate for 10 years.

The 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgage after seven years adjusts annually to reflect current market rates or you can pay $750 to modify your loan and lock in the going rate for another seven years.  So you can get this rate for 14 years.
 
For loans with values of $500,000 the 5/1 adjustable-rate is 4.841% and the 7/1 adjustable-rate is 4.996%.  A down payment of at least 25% to buy a home, or 25% equity to refinance.

For more information visit INGDirect.com.

How I Made $125K in Commission via Affiliate Marketing

March 9, 2009 | Affiliate Marketing | My Ramblings | 8 Comments

make-money-online-affiliate-marketing
If you are looking to make money on the side with the Internet, then consider Affiliate Marketing.  I kept hearing about people making a killing with Affiliate Marketing so I decided to do some research and I soon became an Affiliate Marketer.   Affiliate Marketing is promoting products/services that you don’t own or provide for a commission.  You register with an Affiliate Company to get an account, which gives you access to hyper-links (via text or banners) to products/services.  You take the link and place it out in the Internet world (via e-mail, website / landing page, paid advertising) to send traffic to your affiliate.  When an action is taken (sale or lead generation), you get a commission.   Some of the top affiliate companies include Commission Junction (CJ), AzoogleAds, ClickBank, PepperJam Network and Sharesale.  There are many others, but these are the ones I use the most. There are a few Blogs run by Affiliate Marketers with articles on how they make money with Affiliate Marketing.   I registered with a few of them to get their email updates  and learned a ton.  After a while, I realized that most of the information was the same.   At first, I tried marketing a few items but I was not successful.  I didn't lose too much money, but  I never gave up and just kept trying to promote different items.   Then my luck turned and I promoted 2 items that generated $125,052 in commission in 10 months (last year - 2008).  I spent $52,086.15 advertising the items on Google, $15,492.96 on Yahoo and $856.74 on Microsoft AdCenter and was able to net $56,616.15 (before taxes) in profit.  See screen shots below, keeping in mind the numbers do not match exactly with the numbers I've stated due to a variety of reasons.

Screenshot of Affiliate Account

affiliate-report1

Screenshot of Advertising Accounts

google-adwords-screenshot  yahoo-marketing-screenshot  microsoft-adcenter-advertising The great thing about pay-per-click marketing is that you can try marketing a product or service fairly quickly and cheaply.   No need to build a website or spam people with e-mail marketing.  Let’s say you want to market diet pills.  You can go to Google and write an ad for diet pills.  Many Affiliate Marketers will build an advertising page (called a landing page) to pre-sell the item while others will link directly to the affiliate’s website.  Now to get people to find your ad, you bid on specific keyword phrases.  The beauty of this is only people looking for diet pills using the specific keyword phrases will find your ad.   Someone going to Google looking for auto insurance will not be presented with your ad.   Someone going to Google looking for diet pills, or maybe a specific type of diet pill will be presented with your ad.  Now if you create appealing ads, with a good landing page to pre-sell the visitor and good keyword phrases, you will be able to send converting customers (customer who will buy or sign up) to your affiliate.   Now the numbers have to make sense.  Lets say it costs you $100 to send 200 visitors to your affiliate who will pay you $50 per sale.  If your conversion rate is 2%, meaning 2% of the 200 visitors buy, then you’ll generate $200 in commission.  Minus the $100 you spent on advertising you’ll profit $100.  Now when you see that your promotion is working, you then want to scale the campaign by spending more on advertising and advertising on Yahoo and Microsoft AdCenter, where you now spend $1,000 per day for advertising generating you $2,000 per day in commissions with a nice $1,000 per day in profits.   Affiliate Marketing takes some risk, hard work, money and a little luck.  It’s a trial and error system.  Try a bunch of stuff; learn from your mistakes and hopefully, eventually you will make money.  Maybe not the type of money you want, but you will make money.  I would imagine the majority of people don’t make a lot of money, but there are people doing it full time making over $1,000 per day and are labeled as “Super Affiliates”.  These people spend all day before their computers promoting products and services via mostly by pay-per-click advertising and it’s making them rich! I’m always on the hunt for another big moneymaker, however, I do make some money with embedded affiliate links on my websites.  To find out more about affiliate marketing, I recommend using Google to find a ton websites and Blogs that will give you free information.  No need to pay for any training or buy e-books.  There are tons of people trying to sell you these items, when all the information is already free on the Internet.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s all about learning the basics, then trying it, learning from your mistakes, having discipline, hard work and never giving up.  That’s how I started!

Quick Tips to Avoid Home Foreclosure

March 9, 2009 | Quick Tips | 2 Comments

If you are worried about your home going into foreclosure or you’re in foreclosure already, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers the following tips:

  1. Do not ignore the problem by letting things get worst.  The more you fall behind the harder it will be to catch up.
  2. Be sure to contact your lender ASAP because lenders want to work with you and avoid foreclosure.  Many lenders have options to help homeowners.
  3. Do not ignore warning of foreclosure.  Respond immediately to all mail and communications from your lender.  Ignoring the problem will not cause it to go away.  Most notices you receive by mail will have options to prevent foreclosure. Not reading your mail can cost you dearly.
  4. Know your rights by reading your loan documents and know what your lender will do to foreclose your home.  Also, know the foreclosure laws in your state.

For more information visit http://www.hud.gov/foreclosure.

Video: How the FDIC Takes Over a Failed Bank

March 9, 2009 | Banking | Videos | 1 Comment

Last night on 60 Minutes was a very interesting segment on how the FDIC takes over failed banks.  The video below shows how a team of FDIC agents prepared to seize Heritage Community Bank outside Chicago. The team checks into a hotel under a fictitious name, CB and Associates, to prevent a run on the bank by depositors. The FDIC didn't want anyone to know who they were or why they were in town.

Video: How the FDIC Takes Over a Failed Bank

Video: World’s Worst Credit Card

March 8, 2009 | Credit Cards | Videos | No Comments

Below is an interesting video of the world's worst credit card ever by Continental Finance issued by First Bank of Delaware.  It's interesting how people with bad credit get penalized with outrageous interest rates and fees.  These people already have no money and are being asked to pay more.  While the responsible people with good credit pay less.  It definitely pays to have good credit!

Video:  World's Worst Credit Card Ever

5 Reasons Why I Lost Over $300,000 in the Stock Market

March 6, 2009 | Financial Tips | My Ramblings | Stocks | 5 Comments

moneyfire
In the late 1990s to early 2000’s when Internet stocks were blowing up, I went along for the ride and was exhilarated like most other investors.  Those were the good old days when everyone was making money.   You didn’t have to know anything about investing in the stock market - just purchase some Internet stocks and you were almost guaranteed to make money.  Never mind if a company had no earnings, just buy it and watch your money double within days or weeks!  It was that simple.   In the 3 years I spent investing in Internet stocks I invested about $40,000 and watched my portfolio (taxable and IRA) balloon to about $365,000 when the NASDAQ hit 5,000.   With my margin account, I had over $477,000 in stocks and felt my portfolio could hit $1 million in a matter of months.  Looking back, when the NASDAQ hit 5,000 (in March 2000) I should have sold everything because that was the beginning of the end of the ride! 

See screenshots of my stock statements before the downturn

waterhouse-account-1  waterhouse-account-2

Unfortunately, I ended up losing most of that money for 5 main reasons listed below:   Reason one - I got greedy and started borrowing money to invest, using a margin account.  When the market started tanking, the value of my portfolio dropped faster with the margin account and I ended up having to sell fearing a margin call.  A margin call is when the value of your portfolio drops to a certain point to where the brokerage house wants their money back ASAP.  If you don’t sell your stocks to pay back the money or deposit extra funds in your account, the brokerage house will liquidate your stocks for you. Reason two - I listened to the so-called experts and company executives in the news and on CNBC telling investors to hold on and to ride it out.   They all ended up being wrong. Looking back, many of the company executives pretty much lied so you wouldn’t sell their company stock.  They would paint a rosy picture of their company’s future, but many of them ended up bankrupt or were sold off. Reason three – I got emotionally attached to my stocks.  There were many times I looked at my portfolio and thought about dumping all my stocks, but just couldn’t.  I liked my companies and I rationalized that it was just a market correction and soon the good old days would come back.   Reason four – I didn’t want to send Uncle Sam a big tax check.  If I sold about $326,000 in profit, I would get killed with taxes.  I didn’t want to pay at least 40% (or $130,000) to Uncle Sam.  That would have been one hard check to write.  Looking back, I should have happily paid the money. Reason five - Nothing goes up in a straight line forever.  A good friend of mine kept warning me that the Internet bubble would eventually burst and I should take some money out the market.   I wish I had taken his advice. To this day, I’m still amazed that I rode the market all the way up and rode it all the way down, losing most of the money.  For a few years when I think about it, I would get this warm tingly feeling all over my body of anger at myself.  But today I’m over it. I’ve learned from my mistakes and hopefully I will not repeat them in the future. The lessons I’ve learned about investing in the stock market are: It’s never a profit until you sell - If you invest in the stock market, whether it’s in individual stocks or mutual funds, it’s never a profit until you sell.  Looking at your portfolio and feeling happy that it’s worth a certain amount is great, but remember until it becomes cash by you selling, the money can vaporize almost overnight. Have an entrance and an exit strategy - It’s easy to buy a stock, but for many people it’s hard to sell.  If a stock goes up and makes you money, you may hold on hoping it goes up further.  If a stock goes down, you may not want to sell at a loss and you might want to wait for a recovery that may never come.   Set Stop Orders – In your brokerage account it’s a good idea to set Stop Orders to automatically sell a stock if it falls below a certain point.  This will protect your money from substantial losses. Don’t be greedy - If you purchase a stock looking for a 30% return and you get it, sell it and be happy.  Why risk losing your nice profit? Don’t become emotional, it’s all about business - Money is very emotional.  If you lose it, you will be unhappy, if you gain it, you will be happy.  Develop an investing strategy and stick to it no matter what.  If your strategy is to sell a stock that falls 15% below the purchase price, then stick to that strategy no matter what.  If you strategy is to sell if you earn a 30% return, then stick to it no matter what.  Don’t get emotional and deviate from your strategies. Buy the best stocks - Many amateur investors look for cheap stocks or stocks that have been beaten up (i.e., the current auto stocks).  They figure they can get a lot of shares for cheap.  This is backwards thinking.  The fact is, you should look for stocks that are going up with great financial performance and don’t worry about share price or number of shares you can purchase.  Worry about the return on your investment.  (See Related Article: Find the Best Stocks Using Investors.com Screening Tools) Never put all your eggs in one basket – Diversify your portfolio.  Never put all your money in one thing.  I’ve heard countless stories of people putting all their 401K money in their employer stock (Lucent comes to mind) and for years enjoyed watching their portfolio balloon, and then all of a sudden it’s wiped out, leaving them penniless. (i.e., the current Bernard Madoff story also comes to mind).