Guides

How to Find the Value of a Savings Bond

Savings bonds were first created to finance World War 1. Originally called liberty bonds, they are now sold as series EE and Series I savings bonds. Financial institutions stopped selling paper based savings bonds on January 1st, 2012.

value of a savings bond

Series EE

Series EE bonds reach maturity after 20 years from the date of issue. They are usually liquidated at twice the face value and make for great investment vehicles. They can however continue to earn interest for a total of 30 years. The interest on Series EE bonds is calculated monthly and is paid when the holder cashes the bond. For bonds that were issued before May 2005, the rate of interest is usually computed after six months and is calculated at 90% of the average 5 year treasury yield set from the preceding six months.

For bonds that were issued after May 2005, pay a fixed interest rate of 0.20%, based on the life of the bond. At the rate of .20%, a bond that costs $100 at face value would be worth $105 just before 20 years and would be adjusted to $200 at exactly 20 years, giving it an effective rate of 3.5%. The bond would then continue to earn the fixed interest rate for another 10 years after maturity.

Within 10 years, the interest rate for new bonds in 2009 dropped by over 5% to settle at 0.7% for new bonds.

EE paper bonds were issued with a face value of double their purchase price. A $100 bond could be bought for $50 but would be worth $100 at maturity.

Series I Bonds

On the other hand, Series I binds have a variable interest rate that is based on the rate of inflation. Series I binds have a variable yield based on Inflation and is based on two components. The first is usually a fixed rate that remains constant during the lifetime of the bond. The second part of the bond is usually reset every six months through the lifetime of the bond to take into account the current inflation rate.

The new rates are usually published very 1st of May and 1st of November of every year. The fixed rate which is usually determined by the Treasury department remains at 0% from 1st of November 2012. The variable interest rate for the Series I bonds is usually calculated based on the consumer price index or CPU-I.

How Do I Get Credit

For the average job-holding, nine-to-five adult, the biggest question when it comes to credit is “Is mine good or bad?” But for many college students, the more pressing question is “Where do I even start?”

credit cards

The scene: Jason, a fresh-faced recent college graduate gets a new job and decides he probably will need a car to get to work. He finds an affordable, reliable vehicle but has to finance it because he does not have enough money saved to pay for it outright.

The problem: He’s rejected for financing not because he has bad credit, but because he has no credit.

This scenario plays out all too often for college students and many other young people taking their first few wobbly steps to financial independence, but there are several ways to prevent it.

Step 1: Know Where You Stand

Just because Jason had no credit doesn’t mean that every college student is stuck in the same conundrum. Many students may be making credit histories without even knowing it.

Ever had a student loan? The many college graduates drowning in student loan debt might have more credit to their names then the lucky few who graduate debt free. Basically, anything that requires monthly payments could build credit. Think back to loans, gym memberships, rent checks, and the like.

Everyone is granted one free credit report per year. Take advantage of this service by using a reputable credit-reporting bureau, such as Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

Step 2: Get a Credit Card

This part can be tricky. The credit conundrum can prevent people like Jason from getting credit cards simply because they have no credit. So how are they ever supposed to build their credit?

Most banks offer secured lines of credit to their customers. This means that account funds are used as collateral should credit holders fail to make payments.

Store credit cards often have more lenient requirements and lower credit limits, so they are also a good first step to establishing credit—as long as they’re handled responsibly!

Step 3: Take No-Interest Offers in Stores

Ever seen the “same as cash for 90 days” in-store offers on big-ticket items? It’s easy for them to sound like scams, but they’re not. Just be sure that you have the right amount of money, and sign up. This is, in essence a loan, and, if you make good, regular payments, it’s a no-extra-cost way to establish some credit.

Many of these offers have time limits set before you will have to start paying interest, so be sure to read the fine print with any of these offers to avoid getting in over your head.

Tips on Saving Money

Saving money can be much simpler than you think. If you are planning to save more money this year, here are some guides and tips for you to follow. You do not have to follow each one of these tips to the letter, instead treat them just as guides to help you to save extra money on your day to day purchases. You will be surprised at the amount of money you can save just by making a few small changes. Here are some of the best tips on saving money.

tips on saving money

MAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE

Everyone is regularly buying coffee at restaurants nowadays. It would actually save you more money if you skip your latte or macchiato from your favorite restaurant and make it instead. This tip does not mean that you have to entirely stop drinking coffee or totally remove coffee in your life. Instead, just go to your kitchen and make your own coffee. Many of your favorite coffee houses also sell their unique blends and machines to make coffee in your own home so that you can duplicate their results in your kitchen. This can be more cost effective over a year than purchasing an expensive cup of coffee every day.

HAVE YOUR CHECKLIST WHILE SHOPPING

Keep a mantra as you are shopping. Stop the impulsive buying. Some people are experiencing the hardest time when they are in a mall or a supermarket and they are being tempted to buy something that they really want but do not need. If you shop without a checklist, there are tendencies that you are going to buy some things that you do not actually need. What’s worse is, you might forget the things that you have to buy and become lured in with the things that look more exciting to purchase than necessities. This is how you can start losing money quickly.

Additionally, with a checklist, you will only buy all the things that you need to buy in just one trip to the department store or grocery store, instead of having to go back for forgotten items.

DON’T BUY BOOKS. BORROW.

If you like reading, skip buying the books that you like reading and instead go to the nearest library and locate a book that might be of interest to you. It is always free to go to the library and borrow some books. Why would you buy a book when you can have it for free? If you know someone with a collection of books you can also offer trades or swaps for your own collection so that you can both enjoy reading new books without having to buy them.

BRING YOUR OWN WATER

Drinking water is good for our body, but you do not have to buy bottled water every now and then just to quench your thirst. Instead, bring your own bottled water in your office or whenever you go out. When you bring your own water, you will not only save your money, you will also be saved from thirst when you are working or out shopping.

CONTROL YOUR USE OF ELECTRICITY

When you are not using appliances like your televisions, radios, microwaves, etc. it is best that you completely unplug them, rather than simply just turn them off. An appliance still uses your electricity for some small processes as long as it is plugged in.

AVOID BEING WITH FRIENDS WHO IMPULSE SHOP

If you have friends who regularly impulse shop and invite you to come with them to lavish restaurants and more it is important to remember, you are saving your money for necessities. Hanging with people who have lavish lifestyles may make you spend more than your means.
Remember; these are just mere guides for you to save your money. Just pick one of these tips that suits you best. If you can use these tips to save money, you can help to plan for a healthier retirement as well as have savings in case emergencies may arise.

Best Finance and Investing Apps

Now we can stay in touch with our day-to-day financial investment activities anywhere and anytime because of our powerful feature oriented smartphones. It is seen that investors use smartphones to take care of their investments time-to-time due to availability of information on mobile devices, especially the valuable information found in finance and investment applications. These investment apps are very handy to use for both novice and experienced investors.

investingapps

By working on these apps, you can draw stock charts, maintain virtual portfolio and get necessary live stock prices on your smartphones or tablets at a click. Many of these finance and investment apps can be downloaded for free but for some you may have to shed a little money. Some of the apps are listed here that may help you to manage your finances efficiently and effectively.

  • ChartIQ Practice Trading Simulator:This app is available on iPad and costs around $1.99. By using this app you can choose a market scenario like a trending market and can analysis several charts which can make you accustom in the different trading environments.
  • FRED Economic Data: – This app which is downloaded from app stores for free is available on iPhone, iPad and Android. It is very useful for those customers who are unaware of Federal Reserve Economic Data.
  • Chaikin Power Tools: – This app is available on iPhone for trading and market watching. Marc Chaikin, a stock market expert, developed this app which aims at providing all the necessary financial information needed by an investor for buying and selling of stocks. Both stock as well as options trading is supported on this app with relevant real time alerts of various news stories.
  • ABUKAI Expenses: – ABUKAI is a great app which helps you to track and manage all your expenses for a financial venture. This app can be downloaded from Android market, Apple’s app store and Blackberry’s AppWorld.
  • PageOnce Money & Bills: – PageOnce, another famous app, provides finance services to the investors on mobile. According to market trends the demand for this app has increased by 300% in the last one year. It helps you to manage your finance account on your phone in one location by delivering a complete overview of cash, investment, due payment and credit card transactions.
  • WikInvest Portfolio Manager: – This app is available on a number of platforms like iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 and can be downloaded for free from various app stores. By using this app you can pull your account related information from anywhere and can manage your portfolio’s performance with time.
  • CNBC Real-Time: – This app can be downloaded for iPhone, iPad and Android for free. This app make you visualize the real-time data and provide you with live quotes for future market.
  • uValue: – Aswath Damodaran, stern valuation guru, designed this app for valuation modeling on iPad.

This represents a very short list of apps. There are many more available in the market which you can consider to enhance your investment options.

TurboTax Review

With tax season upon us confusion and questions reign about what to do and how to do it. What does e-filing mean? What is a W4? When do I need to do this by and when is my refund showing up? As well if you are like me it is time to stop asking dad or the family accountant to do it for you. It really is that sad last stage of knowing you are a grown up. But it doesn’t really have to be sad since with taxes come tax refunds and you may be owed back a substantial chunk of change. The question becomes which tax software or tool is best for me. The most popular and used choice is TurboTax, with its easy to use interface and low price point it is an obvious choice for many people.

turbotaxreviewlogo

To use TurboTax simply go to Turbotax.com. TurboTax is made by Intuit the same company which also owns Mint.com so they are known for easy to ease and solid finance products.

You can start your tax return on TurboTax for free. But if you want added features and options it will cost you. Due to a glitch in their system there is no way to “downgrade from an option” once it has been selected so we recommend starting with the cheapest “Free Edition” to begin with. They also have a Deluxe edition for $29.99 a Premier edition for $49.99 and a Home & Business edition for $74.99.

turbotaxoptions

That one penny off really makes all of the options are bargain but we would say that the Deluxe option is really all that most of you will need.

After you hit start the interface is very straightforward simply copy over the information from your prior received W4’s and 1099’s and you are good to go. The software as you go pretends to do some voodoo and magically eek you out the biggest return possible but it is all rather normal math functions to determine your actual return. Heck if you wanted to you could do this all yourself just the e-filing features that TurboTax offer allows for it to really save you time and convenience.

We were honestly curious if the return was different between the same person filing with the Basic Free version and the Deluxe edition. We actually had mixed results. On one of our tests the results were the same but on the case where the individual had moved to NYC and had only lived there for half the year the Deluxe option actually gave them a giant return.

In the case above the Basic edition had pegged the individual for owing an additional $500 in city taxes but in reality the user hadn’t lived in the city for the full year so they were actually owed a $500 a refund. This led to a NET $1,000 difference in tax outcome for this user when testing out the two products. The Deluxe version with it’s more thorough questioning was able to pick up on this while the basic version had overlooked it. For this reason we do recommend the Deluxe edition.

After completing all the form inputting it should only take about 10 minutes. The software does one last check and you are ready to e-file. You will most likely be charged a fee for filing your state return some where in the $20 to $30 range, but your federal taxes will be filed for free. The total cost for you will be in the realm of $50 and total time from start to finish should only be about 30 minutes, you can even finish it in 10 minutes or less. Doing your taxes has never been easier. Also be sure to save your TurboTax account so you can just use it again for next year and save even more time.