Let Us Help You Spring Clean Your Finances!

By Patrick Redo 

Since spring has sprung we are taking every opportunity to open our windows and let the fresh air in. Most of us start cleaning out the garage, clean off the outdoor furniture and pack up our old clothes to donate to charity. Why should spring cleaning end with your home? This is the perfect time to tidy up your personal finances as well. Consider these recommendations to "clean" up your finances.

Contribute to your 401(k). Make sure you contribute enough to your 401(k) to qualify for maximum matching funds. Your employer is willing to give you this free money so don't leave it on the table.

Open and IRA. If you own your own business or work for a company with no retirement plan, open an IRA. You can get big tax breaks from opening this type of retirement plan. If you don't know which IRA is right for you, you can search "Types of Retirement Plans" at irs.gov.

Rate check your credit cards. The interest rates on your credit cards can have an impact on your balances and have the potential of adding up over time. If your interest rate is increasing your card balances, it's time to shop around to find a lower rate. Other items that are options for rate checks are mortgage loans, auto loans and even your checking and savings accounts. For a real feeling of gratification, pay off the balance that costs you the high interest. If you want to zero our your balance by the end of the year, divide the amount owed by 7 and pay that amount every month. Can't bite off that much every month? Move the balance to another card with an introductory rate and pay it off before the deal runs out. Make sure there are no high transfer fees.

Open a savings account. Follow these three steps when opening your savings account:

1. Set a financial goal and timeline.

2. Decide how much to save each month to help you reach your goal.

3. Setup automatic transfers into your savings plan from your checking account. This way the transfer is done for you and you won't miss the money.

Review your credit report. Make sure your credit reports are free of mistakes. Remember, you are able to order one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can get one free of charge from annualcreditreport.com.

Organize or discard old financial documents. Sort through all your bank statements, invoices, bills and other financial records and keep those that are only necessary. Be aware you need to keep tax returns, canceled checks, receipts and any supporting paperwork for your taxes for at least six years. Make sure you don't just trash your important documents in the trash without shredding them. You don't want them to be picked up by an identity thief.

Set up automatic bill pay. Spring-cleaning just isn't about de-cluttering. It's about making your financial life more efficient. Set up automatic bill pay and link it to your checking account in an effort to eliminate any chance of missing a payment and paying late fees.

Review your budget. Take a close look at your current budget and decide if you need to make any changes.

Pay off as much debt as possible. Spring is a good time to review your outstanding debts and which loans or credit cards you could pay off. If nothing else, develop a stricter payoff plan. Cleaning up your outstanding debt quickly will put you in a much better financial position for the rest of the year.

Record your financial passwords and store all your records in a secure place. Make sure you're not using the same password for all your financial accounts. Protect yourself against identity theft by protecting your passwords and other financial documents in an online secure vault.

Be a community steward. Try and make a difference in your community. Believe it or not, giving of yourself to others will make you feel a lot wealthier.

If all this information makes you feel overwhelmed or not sure how to get started, know that allU.S. is always here for you. Our member representatives would be happy to review your individual financial situation in an effort to see how we can help you reach your financial goals. Whatever you want your financial future to look like, there's a road to help you achieve it. Contact us or stop by our branch
(https://alluscu.com ).

The Real Reason Why Small Businesses Can't Get Approved for a Loan

By Pierre Pinkerton

Oh no, not again. Yes, that's right, I'm not going to go there... at least not for today. There's no shortage of excuses and reasons why small businesses can't get approved for business loans. It never fails to amaze me the coverage this topic gets especially when the national economy goes into recession or when major political races are at stake. Yes, I agree that small business growth and success is the economic back bone of the US and also, that more than 60% of the US workforce are employed by small businesses. But where I get off the group think is when it comes to the lack of financing for a small business with a business loan. In this article, let's explore the REAL REASON that small business don't qualify for loans and the truth may even surprise you.

It's Deeper Than Statistics

I love numbers and even better, I love reading financial statements and the notes. The love for numbers did not become a passion for me in the world of small business lending until I came to understand that the financial statements tell the story of a business. Similar to the story behind the financial statements, there's a story behind the statistics stating that small business owners can't get approved for loans especially if they're of a certain ethnic group, gender, and / or industry. I'm not completely washing away the reality that there's a shred of discrimination in our world... hey, we live in a broken society with broken people. However, a large part of this thinking (small business owners can't get a loan because of skin color, gender, etc) is just simply untrue. I've been on both sides of the fence so to speak in the world of small business lending. I've worked for a big bank, and I've worked for a not for profit community development financial institution and it's always the same. The number one reason why small business can't (and don't) get approved for loans is due to the considerably large operating risk that exists in these businesses.

Operating Risk: It All Starts with You

What does operating risk mean? Well, here's a question to bring some clarity. What speaks more to sustainability: a business that's been operating for at least one year or a business that's still in the owner(s) mind? I'd go with the first option. Operating risk means that you have and continue to execute on your business plan(s) and that the business is cash flow positive (i.e. returning a sustainable profit margin to cover costs and make you money). Here's the sad truth: not many small businesses get to this point. Most if any, within two years are still trying to figure things out. OK, granted, there are levels to this particularly when you observe the diversity of businesses. However, I'm speaking to the ones that endeavor to obtain a business loan.

In closing, I offer a couple of ways to minimize your operating risk and increase your chances of getting approved for a loan. (1) Grow tough skin and learn to survive. The game of business is one of survival. Most days, things will not go your way and you just have to stay the course, be adaptable, and stay true to the business mission. (2) Never forget the 3 P's - Production, Processes, and Personnel. Become efficient in the production of what you offer for sale, create and put in place processes to enhance production efficiency and ultimately the customer experience, and finally, hire, train, and invest in people who share your vision for the business.

Jericho Business Advisors provides value added consultation and advisory services for small business owners / operators in the areas of accounting, taxation, and financing.

Please visit http://www.jerichobizfinance.com to learn more.

Best Credit Repair Programs Guide: Learn to Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad Companies

By George Botwin 

If you're tired of getting turned down for credit cards and/or loans, it's probably time to work on repairing your credit report. and you Many people turn to professional services since it can be a difficult process to review the reports, have negative items removed, and to work on repairs. However, not all of these services are worth the time and investment. Some are outright scams. What do the best credit repair programs offer?

Some of the good things to look for include a free consultation, adherence to local laws, longevity, and an association with at least one attorney. The ideal credit repair organization will NOT charge you outright. They will offer you a free consultation and review your report in order to let you know what can and cannot be done. Ask them if they have experience with the type of situation you need resolved, such as huge credit card debt or having an IRS lien removed.

Speaking of attorneys, it's probably for the best that you stick with a program that has attorneys working for it. Law firms are the best credit repair programs since they already know all of the laws regarding the credit agencies, banks, and lenders. Having them on your side is especially helpful if there are any suspicious items on your credit report and you have concerns about attempted fraud.

What are some of the "red flags" you absolutely must look for? How do you know when to turn away from a "credit repair program"?

Features Best Credit Repair Programs Do Not Have

What to AVOID:

• Any company that tries to demand upfront payment.

• A promise of a "fast / easy fix". There are no "fast, easy fixes" when it comes to credit repair.

• Any sort of guarantee or promise that a company will "raise your score"

• Companies that have unresolved complaints against them.

• Any suggestion that you "lie" or create a "parallel identity".

• Make any suggestion or do anything whatsoever that makes you feel uncomfortable.

The fact is that the best credit repair programs never make any promises, aside from the guarantee that they will take a look at your credit reports and give you an analysis of whether there really is any hope for you, and that they will help you in any way they can as long as the methods adhere to both local and federal laws.

Before signing any contract, read all of the disclosures. Do NOT set up an auto-detect payment plan. Familiarize yourself with the "Credit Repair Organizations Act" so that you'll know what exactly a company is forbidden to do. If the program is legitimate, you will only have to begin payments upon receiving proof that they are doing everything they possibly can (legally) to help you.

Now that you know what the best credit repair programs offer, you can get started with your search. Many people recommend Lexington Law, as the company offers a free personalized consultation and access to your TransUnion report summary. There are also a lot of positive Lexington Law reviews online.

To get closer to financial freedom, visit George's website: