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Top Ten Movies About Money and Finance

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Did you watch the Golden Globes last Sunday? They are my favorite way to kick off the awards season, and they help me determine if I need to head to the movie theater to see something amazing. I already know that I want to see American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks, but Leonardo DiCaprio’s win for Wolf of Wall Street made me wonder if I should add that movie to the list. So this Friday, in honor of the latest movie about money and finance, I thought I would highlight my Top 10 Movies about money and finance.

10) The Secret of My Success – I was a HUGE Michael J. Fox fan growing up, and I loved the idea of Brantly working his way to the top from the mailroom.

9) Trading Places – This is not only a funny movie, but a great “David vs. Goliath” tale. I had a client once who was a commodities trader and I asked him if a day in his life was anything like this movie, and he said that some days it could be.

8) The Sting – One of my all-time favorite movies. I will never forget how shocked I felt at the end the first time I saw it. Plus, Robert Redford and Paul Newman really do make an awesomely sexy team.

7) The Money Pit – Although it does not take place on a trading floor or in a bank, I love this movie as a cautionary tale on the lessons of poor planning when it comes to home buying.

6) Quicksilver – I love this movie about Kevin Bacon losing his successful trading job and becoming forced to earn a living as a bike messenger.

5) Rogue Trader – This movie is a great reminder on how people on Wall Street will never learn. Despite the fact that this person took down a bank in 1995, we have had similar situations since at JP Morgan, UBS and others.

4) Too Big to Fail – As someone who was working for Bank of America when these activities were taking place, it felt like watching a documentary when watching this movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqYTQB6lrQQ

3) Working Girl – I remember watching this movie in high school and not really having a concept of what it was about, I just knew that I wanted Tess to prove everyone wrong in the end. Then I started working on a trading floor and helped finance mergers and acquisitions, and I had a whole new respect for Tess. Many M&A transactions started out with just an idea like Tess had and then spiraled into something more.

2) Boiler Room – Even though this movie was a fictionalized tale of a “chop shop,” what is frightening to know is that this is not a farfetched concept and I am sure that there are a number of boiler rooms around the country still. Buyer beware!

1) Wall Street – Even though I hate the idea of the tagline “Greed is Good,” Wall Street is filled with people who believe this. I know, I worked with many of them. Hence, the reason I left Wall Street.

Financial Fitness Series – Benefits of Good Credit

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Top Four Benefits of Good Credit

Yesterday I shared an infographic that illustrated the basics of a credit score. Today, I wanted to highlight the financial benefits of having excellent credit. I know that most people know that good credit helps you secure credit cards or other loans, but I don’t think that people realize the actual cost benefits of good credit. The major benefits that I see include:

  1. Lower costs to borrow – Below are two screen shots thanks to MyFico.com that illustrate the cost difference between a poor or fair credit score and a good or excellent score. In the case of a car, it could cost you up to $1,920 a year in additional interest costs and a total of $9,600 over a 5 year loan. As far as mortgages, it could cost you up to $3,480 in additional interest per year to have a lower credit score and over a 30 year mortgage, it would represent $104,400 in additional interest costs just by your credit score alone.

    loan comparisons (1)

  2. Access to more credit – If you have a credit spending problem, then access to more is not necessarily a good thing, but if you use your credit responsibly, having access to more credit allows you to become more strategic with your financial life. I have clients who utilize 0% or low financing options to free up their cash to invest or earn more money over a period of time.
  3. Financial flexibility – If you have poor credit, you will likely have to pay for cash more often than not, which ties up your options depending on your cash on hand at any given time. I have a client who needed a new car, but had such poor credit that she could not get approved for any type of financing and had to pay cash for the car. Because she did not have a substantial amount of cash, she had to get a car that was in poor condition which ultimately led to more cash outlays for service.
  4. Points and Rewards – Many credit cards offer points and rewards depending on the amount of money you spend. There are a number of cards that give you significant points when you sign up and charge a minimum amount of money. There are a few personal finance bloggers that I have seen that maximize this strategy and reap rewards from free vacations to significant money back. If you are spending money anyway, it makes sense to get rewarded while you are doing it.

How do you get started?

If you are just beginning to build your credit or thinking about building your credit, here are four steps to take to get on the right path.

  1. Check your credit score – There are plenty of sites that will give you this information. You are actually allowed by federal law to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three reporting companies. I personally like the website Credit Karma. They not only provide you a free report, but they give you a report card with tips and tools for how to improve your score.
  2. Plan for improvements – Once you know your score and determine what you need to do to make it better, commit to making this a priority this year. It takes time to build your credit score and the sooner you start, the better you will be down the road.
  3. Set calendar reminders to review – There are a number of reporting sites that will charge you to monitor your credit score. I think an easier (and cheaper) approach is to schedule a monthly calendar reminder to login and review your score. Make sure there are no negative changes to your score and that everything looks “normal” to you.
  4. Look before you leap – Before you make a financial choice that may impact your credit (i.e. applying for an auto loan, a new credit card, moving, changing jobs, etc), determine what type of impact it may have. Credit Karma has a tool that allows you to model “what-if” scenarios to determine the impact it will have on your credit score.

Good luck on your road to credit excellence!

 

Financial Fitness Series – What’s In a Credit Score?

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Understanding Credit

As a financial trainer, I work with my clients in all aspects of their financial lives to make sure they are tone and buff and prepared to deal with any financial obstacles that they will face in life. An important step we take in getting them financially fit, is a focus on credit. Before they meet with me, most of my clients fall in one of two categories. The first is that they do not know what their credit score is, and they have no idea how to improve it or what it even means to them. The second category are those people who have made poor decisions where credit is concerned and have found themselves in credit trouble.

So this week I wanted to focus on the former category and help bring a greater awareness to your credit score and educate you so that you do not become the latter. In a few weeks I will blog about what you should do if you have already created a credit problem in your life.

Infographics are awesome!

I wrote a detailed post about the basics of your credit score, and then I was looking for an image for my blog, and came across this awesome infographic on the Bank of America website. It does a great job of breaking down all of the basics, and shows in pictures what I wanted to say. Tomorrow, I will share more about the importance of a healthy credit score in your life.

answering-credit-score-questions

Music Mondays – Royals

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Music – Inspiration for financial change

I love music. Since I was a little girl listening to Casey Kasem on my clock radio every Sunday, I have loved music. For me, it is the one medium that has the ability to make me laugh, cry, hurt, empathize, learn or inspire. I began this weekly series using music as my financial inspiration because I have frequently found that clients are different and not everyone can grasp the financial jargon I share; however, many can understand me through song. As part of the financial training I do with clients, all of them are given a music playlist to help inspire their road to financial fitness. The playlist is unique to that client and his or her particular financial challenges.

Most of us will not be royalsand that’s okay

I recently added this song to a client’s playlist because he had a spending problem that was putting him into credit card debt. His primary issue was that he lived in New York City and although he made a good salary, he didn’t feel as though it was enough to impress his friends. He was spending to keep up with the friends he assumes make better money than him. The irony is that the way they are all spending, none of them could possibly be financially healthy unless their salaries are in the high six digits. So I added this song for my client to remind him that he is not a royal and he will not live a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t live a great life. The fact is, most people won’t live that life and remain financially healthy.

This week I am focused on credit as part of your financial health and if you have a spending problem because you are trying to live a certain way, download this song and let it inspire you and remind you that you are not a “Royal” but you can find a different kind of buzz to crave. If you have a shopping/label issue, try a different store. If you have a make-up issue, try a different approach. If you have a going out issue, opt for happy hours or cooking in. Learn to feel like a “royal” within your budget and you won’t find yourself in a credit crisis.

 

Weekly Round Up

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Weekly Roundup

Happy Saturday everyone!

For most of us, it was our first full week back after the Christmas/New Year holidays, and for most of us, it was a cold one. The cold weather here in New York definitely inspired my blog series for the week. I started out with a song from the movie, Frozen, discussing the importance of letting go of the past and making smarter financial choices going forward. Then I encouraged a personal “hibernation” to either help you catch up from poor holiday spending or save up for the goals you have for 2014. On Thursday I discussed the potential need for a financial tune up in the New Year to reset your personal finances. And yesterday, I shared another meal for 4 for under $15, and it pairs well with cold weather.

I enjoyed a number of blogs this week, but here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Matt at Mom and Dad Money provided an incredibly well thought out and compelling argument in the ongoing question of Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA.
  • Holly at Club Thrifty reviewed Republic wireless for anyone interested in trying to save money on cell phone bills.
  • David at Young Adult Money shared a three part series focused on 15 ways to improve your finances. I found many of the tips useful, and I have already implemented some.
  • Laurie from Frugal Farmer shared ways to save money on groceries on Frugal Rules. This subject is near and dear to my heart as food consumes a larger portion of my client’s budgets, but it is also one of the “easiest” areas to control.
  • J. Money at Budgets are Sexy shared five different ways to save. Hopefully, you can find the best one that works for you!

 

Next week, I am going to be discussing credit, why it’s important, how to improve yours and the financial benefits of excellent credit. Enjoy your weekend!

 

 

Top Ten Golden Globe Moments

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Ever since I was a little girl I have enjoyed watching the Golden Globes because the celebrities always seem to be having so much fun. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but I realize now that the celebrities are having so much fun because they are served alcohol throughout the entire ceremony. Who wouldn’t have fun with a huge bottle of champagne sitting on your table? Since this Sunday is the 2014 Golden Globes, I am highlighting my Top 10 favorite moments.

10) Emma Thompson accepting as Jane Austen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLJndzO48x4

9) Christine Lahti wins for Chicago Hope, but she was in the bathroom when they announced her category.

8) Ving Rhames wins for Don King but gives his award to Jack Lemmon

7) The opening monologue of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQdpW_hZfik

6) Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech for Sherlock Holmes

5) Tina Fey’s acceptance speech for 30 Rock

4) Jack Nicholson winning for As Good As It Gets

3) Modern Family’s win for best comedy tv show

2) Bill Crystal and Steve Martin at the loser’s table

1) Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig presenting in 2013

 

FB Foodie Friday – Beef Stew

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The cold weather this week certainly inspired my blog, and I thought I would highlight a dinner that is perfect for the cold weather – beef stew. Below is my hubby’s post on beef stew and his recipe for beef stew which is out of this planet!

Beef Stew + Cold Weather = Awesome!

At some point, here in New York, the cold weather eventually sets in. There is no avoiding it. Every year when it really starts to get cold, Shannon requests that her FB Hubby make beef stew. Let’s face it, beef stew is made for cold weather. There is something so warm and comforting about beef stew.

As I was making it recently, Shannon asked me how I learned to make it. It is odd to sometimes try to think of how you first learned to do many things. I have made so many things over the years, that I had to think about this one. I believe it began as a Joy of Cooking recipe. Back when I left home for college, I was either given a Joy of Cooking cookbook or I found it gathering dust on my Mom’s shelf and took it. I do know that the way I dredge the beef chunks in flour comes from that recipe. After that, I have added and subtracted until it became what it is today.

Some mistakes are gifts 

I have to tell one story about making this beef stew. We were living in Florida, so it usually did not get cold enough to feel like beef stew weather. One night it did drop down to the 40’s. When it drops below 50 in Florida people there feel the way we do when it drops below 0 here. Anyway, it was beef stew time. So I was making it, and as I got towards the end (it is a 90 minute process) I went to add some extra pepper. Well, the top came off and most of the pepper in the shaker went right into the stew. I was standing there staring at it when Shannon walked in and, being the upbeat woman that she is, she promptly laughed her butt off. I was having a little more trouble finding the humor in the situation. I tried to sift out as much pepper as I could, but what we ended up with was a very peppery beef stew. To avoid making dinner a complete disaster, we decided to have it with a nice bottle of Merlot we had been saving. Turns out, it tasted great. Peppery, but great with the wine. Sometimes you have to laugh at what looks like a disaster of a meal, then add some alcohol. (If you know your chemistry, then you will know that alcohol is in fact, a solution).

It also turns out you can easily make a pot of beef stew for under $15 with enough to feed four people. So in the never-ending quest to meet the $15 dinner challenge, here is my beef stew. Enjoy.

Beef Stew Recipe

beef stew ingredients

Ingredients

1 lb stew meat, (I prefer chuck meat over round, it holds up better)

½ cup all purpose flour

3 Tbls olive oil or canola oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

½ shallot, minced

3 cups beef broth

2 carrots, chopped

2 potatoes, cubed (don’t peel and cut until halfway through meat cooking)

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

½ cup sliced mushrooms

Salt

Pepper

Place the flour in a large Ziploc bag with some salt and pepper. Put a few pieces of stew meat in the bag, close and shake. Add a few more and repeat until all the meat is in the bag and covered in flour.

In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and shallot. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add some salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the Ziploc bag and add to the pot, reserving the remaining flour. Brown and stir the meat until brown on all sides, about 3 minutes.

Add enough beef broth to cover all the stew meat along with some salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, peel and cut the potatoes (this is so they don’t sit around and get brown), and then add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and peas to the pot. Cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 45 minutes, if the stew looks watery, sprinkle in some of the reserved flour until it thickens and serve.

Beef Stew final

 

New Year – Time for a financial tune up

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Financial Fitness is just like Physical Fitness

Almost three years ago I started Weight Watchers as I had about 50 pounds of extra “baby weight” I needed to lose. Granted my “baby” was in kindergarten at this point, but at least I finally “saw the light” and committed to getting myself physically fit. Needless to say, it was not an easy process. In fact, it seemed like I would never reach my goal weight when I was only losing a pound or less a week. Despite the struggles, though, I stuck with the plan and ultimately reached my goal weight within nine months of starting the program. I then went into what they call “maintenance” time. During this period, you are allotted more points and given more freedoms as your goal is now to just maintain the weight you have reached. I lived comfortably in maintenance mode for about a year. But then life got crazy, I got sick and couldn’t work out for a few weeks, then we had the holidays and before I knew it, I had gained back about eight pounds. I still thought I looked fine, so I didn’t stress, but then I recently hit the ten-pound mark and started stressing. So this brings me to today where I have just re-joined Weight Watchers in an attempt to get rid of these ten pounds and maybe another five if I can stay committed.

Sometimes a tune up is in order

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I see many similarities in achieving and maintaining physical fitness as I do in achieving and maintaining financial fitness. I frequently see clients hit a point where they know they have to focus on their financial fitness and they put in the hard work and get their financial house in order. However, just as I experienced with my weight, life is always full of surprises and people experience financial “surprises” as well. These surprises could include a new job, a move, a child, etc. Sometimes we do not realize that this surprise has thrown us off and made us financially unhealthy until we are in a bad place. This is why it makes sense to CONSTANTLY monitor your financial picture. Just as it will be easier for me to lose these 10-15 pounds over 50 pounds, it is easier to deal with $1,000-2,000 of extra debt than it is for $1,000’s of dollars of extra debt. So what are good things to do to give yourself a financial tune up?

1) Get Your Financial Information in One Place

The New Year is a great time to re-focus on your financial priorities. Find a web-based program or app that makes it easy for you to monitor your assets and your debts in one place. When you have your financial information in too many places, it is difficult to assess it on an ongoing basis. I have found that when my clients have more than three logins, they don’t log into everything and they primarily just review their main bank information if they review anything at all. Think about this check in as your weigh in. You should do this at the very least weekly, but I would advise you to do it a few times a week.

2) Schedule Weekly Check-Ins

Are you avoiding this check in because you don’t like what you see? I used to do this with the weigh in. I did not weigh myself for years because I didn’t want to see the number staring back at me. If you feel this way about your finances, then it is probably time for you to do something with them. Just like the scale, numbers don’t lie and if yours aren’t pretty, it is so much easier to deal with them now then later when it gets more difficult to manage. Put this time in your calendar and use it wisely.

3) Make SAM goals for your finances

I give my clients what I call “SAM” goals. These are Specific, Achievable and Measurable.

  • Specific – Don’t just say, “I want to save more” or “I want to spend less.” Say, “I want to save $20 a week” or “I want to have five hibernating days a month.”
  • Achievable – I needed to lose 50 pounds, but I could not try to lose it in two weeks. This would not have been an achievable goal and would have set me up for failure. So, make sure your financial goals are achievable. The best way to do this is to start small and push yourself to work harder (i.e. start by saving $5 a week, then $6, then $7, etc.) I did not lose 50 pounds overnight, but I did over 9 months.
  • Measurable – During your weekly or regular financial check ins, measure your progress to goal. If you struggled one week, can you work harder the next week to make up for it?

4) Celebrate Your Success

As I lost every 5 pounds, I would give myself a little reward like an extra glass of wine. The rewards helped keep me focused on my goals, and made it seem fun along the way. As you hit your financial goals, give yourself little rewards to help keep you motivated and have fun along the way. Financial fitness and financial tune ups are difficult, but important. Despite the hard work, you want to make sure that you enjoy the journey, so you will be more likely to stay on it.

Do you need a financial tune up? What are you going to do to make it successful? What works for you?