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Do You Know These 7 Things About Life Insurance?

The circle of life has been designed by a divine hand and at some point, it indicates that our paths have to cross over to the next spiritual realm as our souls have transcended this world. What happens to our loved ones once we pass on? It is a natural worry, especially if you are the primary bread earner in your household. This also implies that you probably have given a lot of thought of how to cover expenses after your retirement as well as once you move on. Just a little tip: your financial planning is not complete if you have not factored in the cost and benefits of owning a life insurance policy

Given that statement, how about you test your general knowledge and check if you know the following seven characteristics of life insurance? Okay, we are only teasing as we are more than happy to share the following information which was provided by this life insurance attorney in Houston .

  1. It is an Agreement

You may have heard this countless times and allow us to confirm it: a life insurance policy is actually a contract between an entity (someone who has a personal stake in the fiscal livelihood of someone) and an insurance service provider. The former submits a monthly payment to the insurance company that grows over time. Once the person in question passes away, the service provider makes a lump sum payment to the assigned beneficiary. This is called a death benefit. The latter earns a profit from the variation by raking in premiums and the amount paid out.

  1. Your Family Needs It

If only we could remain single for our whole lives! We are only kidding as we believe in the beauty of companionship and family. Life insurance will be the best gift you can leave your partner and children behind upon your passing. Not only that, you may need it regardless if you are a child of parents who depend on you financially, the brother or sister of a dependent sibling, an employee, a business partner or someone’s ex-spouse. However, if you are one of the lucky ones who has not only set himself but yet his family or dependent ones too for life-then life insurance may not be as obligatory a tool. Of course, you could always invest in it for future saving purposes.

  1. Alleviate Your Risk

Yes, it is true that certain categories of life insurance plans come with a tax benefit. However, there are more effective methodologies that could assist you in achieving the percentage of tax alleviation that you are aiming for. Strive to maintain some level of liquidity with cash, you never know when an unanticipated emergency may arise. If you have ensured that your dependent children have funds for college, paid of all debts, arranged for your mortgage needs and put away money for any high-level purchase decisions in the future, then you are good to go. You will not require life insurance policies that consist of an investment trait.

  1. Four Actors Exist

There are four principal stakeholders in the world of life insurance: primarily the policyholder, the policy provider, the beneficiary and the insured entity. The insured entity is the one who’s name you are taking out the policy on (whose life is insured). The policyholder is accountable for submitting monthly premium payments to the policy provider. The latter (policy provider) plays the role of the bank in this scenario as he releases a payment upon the death of the insured entity. It is given to the beneficiary: this can be an individual or an entity (such as a trust) who will receive the funds.

  1. Life is Priceless

One important thing you must know is that life insurance does not assign a price tag on someone’s life. It is meant to be an instrument of relief and lower any economical dilemmas that may come up upon the passing of a family member. It can facilitate funeral expenses, medical bills and any other forms of debt. If you are a grieving member of the family, you will already be facing an emotional rollercoaster at the loss of life. Knowing that you do not have to worry about financial issues such as rent, mortgage payments, college tuition fees and such will help lift the burden a little.

  1. Prices May Vary

A lot of people are under the impression that all forms of life insurance are expensive. Did you know that depending on your requirements and final choice, you can select where to operate on the payment spectrum? A simple, straightforward life insurance policy has reasonable premiums that may not make a huge dent in your wallet. For instance, a healthy 25-year-old man who doesn’t smoke could dish out an annual payment of less than €500 on a twenty-year policy that could pay out up to a million euros. However, that very same person, if unhealthy and a consumer of tobacco, could have to pay up to ten times that amount in his monthly premiums.

  1. Two Types Exist

Do you know how many types of life insurance policies are available? There are two general classifications: term and permanent. Term life insurance is the simplest and cheapest alternative you will find in the market. Under this, the life insurance firm assumes that the person will pass away in an estimated time frame (can range up to thirty years) and premiums are submitted on a monthly basis till the policy expires or the insured passes away. The latter (permanent life insurance) gives out protection over an entire lifetime of an individual. It allows you to gather and save money with tax advantages. This kind of policy does not expire and will remain valid as long as the premiums keep coming in to the firm’s pocket. It possesses a cash surrender characteristic as you are building up a pool of cash that will be your asset only. It is not a loan, but your own personal money. There will be no credit check required nor any interest rate to be fulfilled.

 

Struggling With Debt – These Tips Can Help!

Struggling with debt is very stressful for obverse reasons but many people who are struggling are also very embarrassed and ashamed. This means they often won’t seek out help and instead try to do everything themselves.

This can be a vicious circle because rather than solve their problems it can just make them much worse, especially if they can’t tackle the issue or issues that caused them to get into debt in the first place. Misconceptions about debt are very widespread and people can fall into debt for all kinds of reasons.

Getting into debt can be frighteningly easy and figuring out how to get out of it is usually much harder. Below we’ve outlined some tips that can help people who are struggling with debt get out, in many cases, it will be a long process (depending on the level of debt) but these tips can help you get out of the red and back into the black.

Seek Help If You Can’t Do It Alone

Because many people feel ashamed and embarrassed about being in debt they often won’t tell people even close friends and family about their situation. Or at least not the full extent of it, likewise this mindset carries over when it comes to organisation and groups who can help you.

Citizens Advice and other specialist groups like National Debtline are just two names everyone can turn to for free advice. There are many more groups out there who will be able to help so if you’re struggling with the pressure there are people out there who can help you.

Talk To Your Creditors

People are rarely in debt to just one creditor, it might start out that way, but things can quickly spiral out of control. But one mistake many people make is that don’t talk to their creditors about their problems when in many cases it would be in their best interests to do so.

If you talk to your creditors you might be able to get your interest frozen for a period of time, this will help make paying off your debts much easier. Or they may agree to reduce your payment amounts and remember the groups we mentioned in the first tip can help you with this.

You might also be able to set up an individual voluntary arrangement, commonly known as an IVA this agreement will be set up with your creditors. With an IVA any payments will be made to an insolvency practitioner who will then pay your creditors equally this process will continue until the whole debt is cleared. For more information about IVA’s click here 

Avoid Pay Day Loans

Payday loans have certainly made a name for themselves, there are a lot more of them about nowadays and they can be very tempting for people who are struggling with debt. But payday loans are a temporary and very short-term solution to a bigger problem and I would strongly advise against using one.

They might have flashy adverts and might seem like a great way to get out of debt, but they have incredibly height interest rates and will usually have tight deadlines for repayment. With a payday loan, you’re solving one problem but making a much bigger one in the process.

They might be tempting and seem like they’re offering you a way to get out of debt but in the vast majority of circumstances, they are simply not worth pursuing.

Plan A Budget

Getting out of debt means you’re going to have to save money and if you want to succeed in doing this (especially over a long period of time) then you should draw up a budget as soon as possible. A budget will help you ensure you save money and cut any non-essential spending.

You can cut costs in a number of ways and it will all depend on your own individual circumstances, if you eat out a lot for your lunch at work then it’s time to start bringing a packed lunch. Do you buy new clothes every week? If so, then you’re going to have to make some tough changes and avoid frivolous spending.

In some cases, this could mean some very drastic lifestyle changes so make sure you are prepared for it. To work out your budget calculate your monthly earnings with your average expenses and then work out what can be saved. Once you’ve got a plan in place the difficult part will be sticking to it, old habits can be hard to break but with a budget, you’ll be on your way to getting out of debt.

Find A Way To Make Some Extra Income

Yes, I know this is something much easier said than done but there are now many ways you can go about making extra income. Thanks to the internet selling goods and services is much easier than you might think and there are a lot of ways you can make some extra money.

If you have a lot of goods that you don’t need or can afford to sell, then you could easily make some extra money on websites like eBay or Gumtree. Things like clothes, video games, electronics, furniture and much more can all make decent money by being sold online.

If you have the skills you might also want to pursue working in a freelance capacity things like copywriting, proofreading, translation, photography, video editing and much more are all marketable skills and there is a number of freelancing platforms available online.

And of course, if you’re able to you can always search for another job, even if it’s only a temporary short-term contract it could easily help you make some extra money. It all really depends on your individual circumstances, but you’d be surprised how easy it can sometimes be to make some extra income.

So, that’s our tips for dealing with debt, remember you don’t have to struggle alone everyone as someone they can turn to. Whether it’s a friend, family member of a professional organisation like Citizens Advice there is someone out there who can help.

How fintech is disrupting the banking industry

Let’s face it – we just don’t our trust banks anymore

The finance and banking industries are undergoing massive changes. They have been for quite some time now and due to the introduction of technology into the financial sector there have been so many huge changes that if the conventional banks don’t sit up and take notice, and follow suit, then it’s not going to be much longer until they’re far less relevant in our daily lives, if not obsolete even further down the line, and what do we say? Good riddance. Especially when the alternative is looking so attractive, so much cheaper and so much easier to use.

From every time the banking sector has hit the mainstream media it has given consumers another reason to despair of how the banks and the government are failing to provide a system we can believe in – and it’s not just the regular consumer, those working inside the industry also see that the banks are in danger with the introduction of so many trustworthy alternative options, there are so many new alternative ways to control your finances, to buy and spend, and all without needing a bank at all.

The disruption is not only coming, it’s already here. Fintech companies are making their mark everywhere and huge profits too in this industry where the banks have had life too easy now for far too long.

In the past few years fintech has changed the face of banking and finance dramatically. The basic elements of blockchain, AI and big data alone have given consumers faster, safer and more efficient ways to buy and spend and in turn financial products and services are becoming less expensive and more affordable to everyone.

Disruption

Now the disruption has firmly begun the bank executives have been forced to accept where the industry is heading and either change with the times or be swept by the wayside. If they don’t invest in fintech too they know they’re going to get left behind, and with thousands of fintech start-ups and established companies with billions being invested into their growth they’re already moving forward at a terrific rate the banks are already playing catch-up.

Who have been influential in the disruption of traditional banking so far?

Automated payment efficiency

A real growth area in the finance and technology market is the automation of payment. Automated payments means less human labour and cuts costs dramatically. Currencycloud and Autobooks are both big players utilising APIs that users can customise to their own specific needs including such options as group and advanced payments. Currencycloud specialise in international transactions due to the globalisation the internet is bringing to supply and demand and Autobooks is finding better ways to interact with smaller bank clients and gathering data as it does in order to identify new realistic and healthy lending opportunities.

AI advisors

Not the only fintech company operating in this area but certainly one of the most impressive so far is Kasisto who have developed an artificial intelligence system that interacts with its consumers via messaging and mobile apps, it then provides its investors with specific industry recommendations.

The blockchain

Where bitcoin digital currencies were once topics of speculation in how they might affect how we control our finances they are now a reality. The blockchain has created a transparent secure system, one with little or no costs to spending online and which is also becoming a reality in the real world too; your bitcoin wallet software easily being utilised by bitcoin friendly vendors with the technology to make the exchange. New and futuristic ways to pay are being brought into the mainstream due to developments in blockchain technology by companies such as Digibyte and BanQu, all providing a new and healthy option to traditional currency and banking.

And who might make a big impact in 2018?

Fintech start-ups across the board are just as likely to make big impressions in the coming year, the following are just a small handful who have already begun to make their mark and look set for becoming more successful in changing how we look at traditional banking and finance solutions through the following year.

Cambr 

Cambr offers a new digital banking platform that is driving innovation. Its been created for developers in mind and wants to change the banking industry. The plantorm allow you to create and managed DDA and savings account, isses and process physical and virtual debt card seamlessly and also offer rapid and efficient payments via ACH and even P2P.

Xendit

Xendit have developed payment-processing systems including transfers, card payments, organising invoicing, payroll and P2P loans while constantly working on detecting fraudulent operations throughout the process. By improving the efficiency and with a fast growing reputation for their impressive product they’re definitely a name to watch this coming year.

N26

German fintech company N26 have been dubbed as ‘banking by design’. A new customer can open an account in minutes, take control of all of its features via their phone and spend in the real world using their N26 Mastercard with none of the usual Mastercard charges.

You can lock your Mastercard at the click of a button, check your payments, set limits, organise your security and receive personal spending reports and real-time notifications, all from your phone. They’re currently rolling out this system through most of Europe and will be heading into the United Kingdom and the US very soon.

Wyre

Offering an international foreign exchange system that offers cross-border payments in under six hours, it is significantly faster than both existing SWIFT or bank wire transfers. Wyre has assisted hundreds of asset management and liquidity providers in saving valuable time.

Simple

Simple is an FDIC-insured US checking account designed to help you save and consider how you spend with smart tools to help you budget. It is a fee-free branchless mobile bank system. You set your goals of the things you want to save for and Simple will help you not only cover your bills and expenses from your income but then organise what’s left and how much to put aside each day to save for your bills, boat, holiday or house! And from the balance it will tell you what you can safely allow yourself to spend each day without heeding your saving progress.

Simple are now a big player and getting bigger – they processed $1.7billion in a single year and 2018 is looking like they should be doing more than ever.

Xero

This cloud-based accounting software provides its users with cash flow process insights, payments accounting, invoices and the range of accounting services SMBs will require. With its sophisticated range of desktop and mobile apps plus a range of third party support Xero is looking very big for 2018.

Earnest

Using automation, clever design and the science of data handling Earnest is giving its users the ability to manage their existing finances while creating new opportunities for better interest rates and favourable banking options which suit their own personal financial position and activity. It considers the clients credit score and looks for ways to refinance loans with better payment options and charges. With over $100million in funding they’re moving into the industry under high expectations.

Moving House – A Guide To Getting Ready

It’s going to be stressful. You can pretty much guarantee it. The positive to understanding and accepting this is that you can do something about it and limit the amount of stress you’re going to be under. Those who love the challenge of organising an event will embrace the challenge – the rest of us? We’ll feel lucky to survive it in one piece.

We recently reached out to a few experts in the filed including AMC Removals who provide removal services in Edinburgh who were kind enough to share some their top tips to making it out of the other end alive. Good luck!

What’s the best type of move for you?

Realistically you have two options. You can do the DIY move by hiring a van and doing all the work yourself or you can bite the bullet and pay someone who knows what they’re doing to save you not just time but all that stress we were talking about too.

DIY

The DIY option should really only be for the smallest of moves. A single bedroom flat or apartment, a bedsit, an office or moving from a room in a shared house; all relatively low on belongings and furniture, all should hopefully fit in the back of a Ford Transit or even a Luton. Rent a van, fill it up, drive to your new abode and unload. Job done. It sounds easy but without meticulous planning you’ll still hit plenty of problems that will extend your day and your nerves as you go.

Professional Removal Services

A professional service will not only cover all the anomalies you will fail to spot but will accurately estimate how those belongings will fit into whichever size vehicle they’ll need, how to get them in, how long it will take to do it and a hundred other things along the way. They’ll even help you pack if you want them to. This is your option for anything bigger than a one-bed move or a very small two-bed flat where the occupants have very few belongings and a minimal amount of furniture.

Go professional if you can. You’ll be glad you did.

Essentials

Gather plenty of advice

People you know will have done this before you and will all have their input to make. They’ll recommend local movers, they could offer to help you pack or make your move, and they might even have a van!

Make lists

If you write it down you can’t forget it and forget it you will. There’s way too much to remember so your lists are your backup brain. Having a countdown to the day list is a must. A list of things to do on the day is too. Write lists, and cross off each item when it’s been taken care of.

Choose your movers carefully

Whatever your instinct is telling you to do don’t pick purely on price. Get three quotes from different companies, ask them all the same questions and ask them to visit you for a consultation in order to view all of your belongings and furniture. This way each quote will be based on the same details and you’ll also have the chance to weigh up each business for how they operate. Their professionalism is important, and how well they communicate with you. Be honest and give them as much information as they need, if items of furniture were trouble to get into the house or up the stairs tell them so they can make accommodations for getting them out again. Create a full inventory of all of your items for them; this will be a must for both them and you the further into the process you get.

Never move on a Friday

It may seem like the best day for your move but due to a few simple reasons it’s better avoided if possible. Your movers already know this is the movers preferred day and will often charge a premium for it if only to move customers into the less popular slots. Another reason is if there are any hold-ups or problems then the weekend isn’t the best time to resolve them. Banks are closed if you need financial clearance and a lot of other services will only be in operation Monday to Friday in the event of that unforeseen emergency.

Declutter

This is a must. Why on earth would you pay to move items you’re only going to throw away when you get there? Use separate boxes for KEEP – THROW AWAY – SELL – GIVE AWAY; the items you can sell will help towards the overall cost of the move so get your unwanteds on ebay or book a car boot sale. When giving things away consider recycling or charity donations. That’s always better than feeding a landfill.

It’s a good idea to do this before the movers call to assess you. Even if you tell them you’re throwing things out or getting rid of them they’ll often make accommodations for the fact that their customers too often don’t get around to it. If you don’t want it going on your quote get rid of it in advance.

Everything must go!

Don’t assume your movers are mind readers, if they can see it they’ll pack it. Anything in a black bag is property and not rubbish in their eyes. Be prepared for them and make their life easy. If it’s rubbish, throw it away. If it isn’t, label it.

Packing

Start as soon as possible

It’s never too early. You’ll be amazed how much more you own than you thought – you’ll probably still be packing the night before however well organised you’ve been.

Pack directly from the cupboard, why make extra work for yourself and use up important clear space in the process?

Use your inventory

Once you’ve made your inventory make sure you pack everything into its relevant box and label it accordingly. This is a must for unloading. Your movers will need to know what’s going where and this is their key. Your inventory will help you choose how many boxes you need for each room and all your items.

Gather materials

Use double walled boxes wherever you can. Use strong tape; standard sellotape is useless against the needs of bursting boxes full of your treasured belongings. You’re going to need marker pens, a notepad, packing paper, newspaper, bubblewrap and of course your boxes. Have them all ready before you start.

You can even get wardrobe boxes. These will help you avoid ironing and folding, and will save you a lot of time. Check with your removal company if they offer them as part of the service.

Boxes

Fill all boxes to the top. This will stop them collapsing when stacked on top of each other.

Keep an eye on their weight; put heavy items on the bottom and when they’re starting to feel heavy top them up with lighter items.

Keep all same room items in the same boxes and label them for that room. When labelling write on the tape. The movers will know that these are your instructions if the boxes have been previously written on. It also makes the boxes reusable for any future moves.

You can use bedding to wrap delicate items and don’t be afraid to use a lot of packing material; paper, newspaper and bubblewrap are cheap – replacing your items isn’t.

Your removal company will provide all sizes of boxes. Check with them beforehand about what they have available, what will be included in your quote and if they come at an additional cost then compare prices to boxes you can buy online – you could save yourself some money.

Important items

Never pack your most important documents. Keep them safe and in your personal bag for easy access and safety’s sake. Other documents such as birth and wedding certificates, insurance documents, vehicle documents, passports etc., pack them all together. Keep them all safe.

And above all – never pack your keys. You’re going to need them to get into your new house!

When should you remortgage? Our top tips!

If you are looking to remortgaging your home, even if you are remortgaging with bad credit, it is going to matter when you do it. Ideally you should be aiming to remortgage your home when the introductory rate on your agreement is about to end, not before.

Most mortgages have an introductory offer and these will normally for the first 2 or 5 years of the mortgage. Once this period is over, the rate will go back to the lender’s standard rate. This SVR (standard variable rate) will nearly always be higher than the one currently being paid.

Compare remortgage lender options

Introductory rate offers are there on remortgaging products in order to lure homeowners away from their current providers, much in the same way that banks will try to entice current account holders away from other banks by offering cash incentives to switch. These offers can be a great opportunity to save, potentially, hundreds of pounds every month for the next 2 to 5 years.

However, that being said, there are drawbacks to remortgaging such as some potentially large fees which could mean the whole thing ends up being more expensive – especially if you are remortgaging with bad credit. This is why it is important to do your homework. Mortgage brokers can advise you too, so make use of their expertise if you need to.

Why would you remortgage?

The why, and the when, of remortgaging is going to depend on a lot of things, and they will vary depending on the individual. As a rough guide though you should start looking around for deals roughly 3 months before your current agreement is set to come to an end. This will give you time to compare a good selection of offers. Also,  remember that the transition takes around a month.

If the BoE (Bank of England) level of interest rate has lowered since taking out your fixed rate mortgage, you may not want to remortgage at all unless you can get a great variable rate deal somewhere else.

If, however, the rate has gone up during your fixed rate term then you will most likely be after a another fixed rate deal which may keep you on a low rate.

Essentially, the main idea behind remortgaging is to keep paying at the introductory rate for as long as you can which can save you a lot of money of the life of the deal. Obviously, this is not going to apply if you need to remortgage with bad credit but you may still be able to get a reasonable deal under those circumstances, all things considered.

How long does remortgaging take?

Switching over to a new lender can take around a month but sometimes it can take upto 2. For instance, if you are staying with your current lender and you’re just switching products then it should only take about a month. With that in mind you should start looking around when you have roughly just 3 months left – this will provide you with plenty of time to calculate costs and consider your options.

Should you remortgage before the the current deal is over?

Generally speaking, the best answer here is a resounding no. The reason for saying this is that you may be charged fees for early repayment,  and these fees can take quite the chunk out of any gains you would have made. Lenders do want to draw you in with attractive offers, but they also want to tie you to into them.

Go over the terms and conditions of your current agreement before paying it off and see if there’s mention of early exit fees. The goal though, ultimately, is to leave one deal at its natural conclusion, right as the new one starts.

Remortgaging: Is it worth it?

Well, unless you remortgaging with bad credit, it can save you thousands. In the end, it only takes your current interest rates to rise by 1% and you can end up paying hundreds more each month. Bank rates themselves can be volatile too, so remortgaging at a discounted or fixed rate can provide some peace of mind.

Bank rates can go down too though, which can make switching to a new agreement entirely pointless. As an example, let’s say you are currently on a fixed rate deal of 4%. Now imagine that the bank rate has gone down and now your current lender’s rate is 4.5%.

You will need to figure out how much, if anything, you are going to save by switching products / lenders on a similar deal. There are almost certainly going to be fees to consider also, and once you have added everything up you may find yourself in no better a position than you are in right now. Even if you do end up saving money, the fees will mean that you may not actually see this for months, possibly even years.

Should you stay with your existing lender or switch to a new one?

Sticking with your existing lender is usually easier and cheaper (if you are remortgaging with bad credit you may have no choice but to go elsewhere) because generally less paperwork to get through.

The whole process is usually faster too and can be done in under a month, your current lender might also place discounts on some remortgaging fees. That being said, a new lender can sometimes offer even better deals. Banks are competing with one another constantly, vying for new customers attention. They want your business and are very often willing to offer great deals, especially with mortgages, to get it.

It is always a good idea, important even, to look around and see what other lenders are willing to give you even if your current lender is already offering a good all round deal.

Whatever you decide to do, shop around and compare deals from a good selection of lenders. Try to use the information that you gather to your advantage to get the best deal possible for you, and for your bank account.

7 expert tips for trading beginners

The idea of trading can be exciting, whether you’re looking at stocks and shares, forex or even cryptocurrencies – but the reality is, jumping in at the deep end more often results in catastrophic sinking rather than natural swimming.

With that in mind, we’ve talked to dozens of seasoned traders such as the team at Neowave who specialise in the Elliot Wave Theory and asked what advice they’d give to someone just starting out. The following advice may be the difference between making it as a trader – or going back to the day job with a bruised wallet and ego…

  1. Understand the terminology

When you start exploring the world of trading you’re going to come across dozens – if not hundreds – of terms and acronyms that seem to defy simple contextual explanation.

Rather than point you toward a comprehensive list – virtually every expert we talked to suggested going away and Googling the term. Depending on how relevant the term seems when compared to your trading plans or hopes should dictate your next step – does a quick overview suffice? Or would it be helpful to dig a little deeper and read some articles or books on that specific subject?

Make notes and be prepared to revisit your list of new knowledge frequently to check your understanding as your reading grows.

  1. Read some recommended books

Like most industries or pursuits, there are some cornerstone books that should occupy every potential trader’s bookshelf.

Believe us, if you’ve got an idea – no matter how humble or how grand, someone’s had it before and they’ve talked about it in some depth. Read – and always have critical eyes – whether it’s your opinion or someone else’s, nothing should be taken as gospel until you’ve gone on to gather further knowledge of how it pans out.

Start with ‘How to Make Money in Stocks’ by William O’Neil – it’s a classic – and a great guide for people new to trading an investing.

  1. Dig into authority websites

While specialist trading book sales are still booming – it’s important to understand how the internet has changed the world. For every modern Warren Buffet writing a book, there’s another 10 who are blogging or writing online about their experiences and handing out exceptional advice.

Content marketing is now acknowledged as being as close to a sure-thing as is possible in the world of marketing – and content marketing in the trading world means there are high level traders putting pen to paper about what works and what doesn’t.

Again, critical eyes are vital. Some content marketing is just a thin cover over an attempt to sell you something – so be careful – but with time invested in reading the most reputable blogs, you’ll see trends in trading advice develop.

  1. Explore forums and groups

The wonderful thing about trading is that sharing information on a small scale doesn’t impact your investment – so, tell a friend or colleague about a stock you like the look of and they’re not going to whip the opportunity out from under your nose or send its price through the roof.

The same is true of forums and social media groups. If you want to get involved and ask questions then great – but if you just want to treat the groups like a virtual bar or café and quietly sit and listen to what other people are talking about – you can do that to. Again, there’s no one who’s going to give you all the answers, but you’ll start seeing interesting information about how other people work, the resources they’re using the results they’re seeing…

  1. Start following your chosen market

Think you’re going to get your head around currency trading with no idea of what’s happening the world’s socio-economic news? Think again!

Trading isn’t about a quick glance at figures then running with a hunch – some of the best traders make the world’s economy their job – with trading the small part of the day in which their knowledge is monetised.

Find good news sources, read good blogs, understand the world of business – it’s all going to have an impact on what you’re doing, so you’re going to need to be ahead of the game. There’s no finite amount of information that’s enough – so instead of consuming market news 24/7 – start paring your media down to the stuff that’s really valuable.

  1. Find courses and classes

This tip comes with a hefty caveat – so make sure you read to the end.

Enrolling on courses, lectures or seminars with great trading minds can be a good idea. There’s a core of valuable deep information that virtually no master trader is going to give away for free – so signing up to get this information could be worth it’s weight in gold.

Here’s the caveat though:

Reviews and recommendations are absolutely vital here. Anyone could put together a site, a course or a master ‘scheme’ to get rich, charge you a fortune – and deliver nothing more than recycled nonsense. While this might just seem like a waste of money – it could actually be more dangerous than that – bad advice dressed up as a good advice can lead to massive losses.

Talk to people who’ve been on the course. Read reviews. Believe the hype when you’ve seen how it’s played out for others.

  1. Make yourself at home and practice

Signing up to an online trading/stock broker account is a good step – even if you’re not ready to invest just yet.

It’s useful to get a feel for how everything looks and functions before you punch your card details in and start running with real money. In fact, a number of broker platforms offer virtual trading that means you can get started with no real money going in.

Understand that you don’t have to have an extensive portfolio from the word go – in fact, most traders, when asked how they would invest their money today, say that they would make a few trades and sit on the largest part of their capital until they got a feel for what was performing on the day and into the immediate future.

Starting out is an important step in the trading process. Passing your driving test and jumping into a Lamborghini is likely to be a recipe for disaster – in the same way jumping into trading with a huge chunk of capital and no idea is. Build your knowledge slowly, it might be the most important investment you’ll ever make.

Bitcoin debit cards – what are they and how do they work?

The world of Bitcoin can be a bit abstract at times.

For example, you’re likely to be met with blank looks if you get to the supermarket check-out and ask which cryptocurrencies they accept – and although there are some online merchants that accept Bitcoin – they’re still few and far between.

This is where Bitcoin debit cards come in and fill a gap. We’ll explain what they, how they work – and look at the best card issuers to work out who offers the best bitcoin debit card.

What is a Bitcoin debit card?

Effectively, a Bitcoin debit card is card that is loaded with Bitcoin and allows you to exchange the coin for your local currency by simply using the card.

For you, this takes an enormous amount of effort out of spending your Bitcoin. Rather than having to transmit security keys, wait for the transaction to authorise and hope for the best with your merchant – you’ve got real spending power that’s instantly credited to your chosen retailer’s system, meaning it’s perfectly reasonable to think you can spend your Bitcoin in high street shops.

How does a Bitcoin debit card work?

Now, in reality, you’re not spending Bitcoin with your chosen merchant, you’re actually spending the currency everyone else is – but the debit card creates a bridge between cryptocurrency and the more mainstream world.

So, when you load your card with Bitcoin you’re effectively pre-authorising a Visa debit card. You pre-load it so it can access however much Bitcoin you’ve loaded – and you’ve got whatever the current the cash equivalent of that to spend in a shop of your choice.

Typical card features

Not all Bitcoin debit cards are the same – but generally they’ll offer a range of features similar to one another. They include:

Virtual and physical cards

It’s not always necessary to have the physical card when you’re spending money – especially when you’re shopping online. Therefore, a virtual card means you’re supplied just with the card numbers that are required for transactions – generally, the long 16-digit card number – along with the expiry date and parts of the billing address.

Virtual cards are general issued instantly – whereas their physical counterparts take a little longer to be produced and sent to you, a process that normally takes between 1-4 weeks, depending on your location.

Several traditional currencies available

Most card issuers are happy to issue a card in the currency you desire – with almost all issuing GBP, EUR and USD cards.

This opens an interesting avenue for you explore when you’re making overseas purchases – or even going on holiday, as the exchange rate between currencies could be favourable versus traditional currency exchange services. If you’ve got a little bit of time to invest comparing rates, you could save some money.

Many digital currencies available

Although this is about Bitcoin cards – most card issuers will load their debit cards with a number of cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin is universally accepted – with most others accepting the big altcoins, such as Dash, Ethereum, LiteCoin – and so forth. Dig a little deeper into different card providers and you’ll find some of the less well-known currencies can be loaded onto the card too.

Instant loading

You’re probably aware that Bitcoin transactions in particular can take some time to be authorised – owing mostly to the verification process and international transfers of traditional currencies. This can make using Bitcoin for quick transactions somewhat preventative.

However, as many card issuers actually hold your currency in one of their online wallet systems, this delay is removed – meaning you can access the funds that are associated with your BTC balance as quickly as is required.

Low card fees

Generally, card issuers aren’t looking to make a great deal of money from you when it comes to creating and issuing the card, so getting a BTC card can usually be done cheaply. Costs vary a little, but a rarely much more than 10 GBP/14 USD/12 EUR – and more commonly around 6 GBP/9 USD/8 EUR.

Zero loading fees

Again, to remove barriers to your spending – loading currency (or its equivalent) onto the card is generally free of any charge.

Who offers Bitcoin/crypto debit cards?

There are a host of card providers out there – we’ll run you through some of the best known:

  • Spectrocoin

Spectrocoin offer prepaid Visa cards and they can be used at any ATM or shop – in exactly the same way you would use an ordinary Visa or MasterCard debit card. As an added bonus, the Spectrocoin card allows you to link a PayPal account – or a host of other online wallets – so keeping your spending power up is no problem, no matter when you’re money’s flowing in to.

  • Uquid

Uquid offer a Visa debit card that supports an impressive host of currencies – from Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, Monera and DASH – to 76 less widely known others.

Uquid say they’ll provide their card to anyone in over 170 countries with no delivery charge – and since they don’t require ID or credit checks, it means you can spend your funds without unnecessary hassle or delay.

  • Shift/Coinbase

For those of you who’ve opted for the extremely popular Coinbase platform to make your crypto trades, there’s a card dedicated to you and your wallet.

The Shift card connects to your Coinbase account and withdraws the correct amount based on the current exchange rate. It’s free to use and doesn’t cost much to set up – although there could be transaction fees introduced going forward.

  • Xapo

Xapo were actually the very first provider to introduce a debit card linked to their online wallets – and while most others concentrate on the US market – Xapo is only available in Europe.

Delivery time is perhaps a little longer than some of the others on this list – at around 10-25 days – but assuming you’re not in a rush, it’s a great card backed up by a reliable wallet system from Xapo. Once again, you benefit from all the perks of having a Visa debit card – meaning it can be used exactly as you would a mainstream bank linked debit card – virtually all around the world.

7 life hacks that’ll save you some serious money

Money – however much you’ve got, it would always be useful to have a little more.

For many people, that means working harder, putting in longer hours – or even having a second job to bolster your income.

But, before you go making life more difficult and sacrificing more sleep – you should consider whether or not you can save money in any aspect of life. The result is the same – more money in your pocket – although when you’re saving, it’s generally a lot less hard work…

We’ll take you through 7 financial life hacks that’ll make sure your money stays in your pocket.

  1. Consolidating loans

Sometimes, the financially simpler option is the key to saving a lot of money.

If you’ve got a lot of lines of credit currently open, consolidating them into one place can do wonders for the amount of interest you pay. Generally, companies who lend smaller sums charge higher levels of interest – so, putting these smaller sums together can bring the interest rate you’re paying down significantly.

Talk to your bank or a loan provider about products that might fit your need – and if you’d like to know more, the website Face the Red has some great info in its article ‘How does consolidating loans work?’

  1. Buy clothes in the wrong season

There’s a huge amount of money to be saved if you’re willing to buy your clothes and keep them in your wardrobe for a few months.

Last year, retailer H&M sold winter coats with discounts of up to 90% when spring came around and temperatures started to rise – and other retailers do exactly the same each time seasons alter. The key is knowing when sales are about to begin – and jumping on the opportunity.

To stay on top – follow your favourite shops and brands on social media, pounce when the sales begin – and feel smug and better off when next summer comes around!

  1. Ask for discounts

As a nation we’re extremely polite – and while we might make a lower offer if we’re buying a car or a house, we tend to save haggling for those big-ticket items.

We’re here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case – a small fortune can be saved if you’re willing to ask for a discount in your favourite stores. Be bold, ask to talk to managers for the best discounts – and offer bribes! A letter to a company’s head office or a glowing review on social media is probably worth more to the outlet than the 10% discount they’ve agreed to give you.

  1. Clear your saved card details

Here’s a tech hack that’ll save you a small fortune.

Isn’t it great that companies save our card details so we don’t have to go to the trouble of re-entering them every time we want to make a purchase with them?

Here’s a reality pill. The only reason a website saves your card details is to make it easier for you to spend money with them. Physically reaching into your purse or wallet puts a small barrier in the way between browsing and checking-out.

Use your browser’s settings options to clear your card details – that way, you’ll have to go to some effort to buy your chosen item – and sometimes, a few more seconds is all you need to ask yourself if you really need what you’re spending on…

  1. Use real money

Credit and debit cards make money quite an abstract concept.

Rather than having a pocket full of change or some notes in your wallet – money is just a series of numbers on a screen, never actually passing through your hand. This makes it very easy to spend – as there’s no emotional connection to numbers on a screen – while there is to a fifty or a twenty that’s in your hand!

Experts suggest withdrawing a day, week or month’s worth of money and actually dealing with it in real coins and notes. Studies show that when we do, we’re far less likely to ‘break into’ those bigger notes for the series of smaller transactions we can often mindlessly make.

  1. Stand up for your rights

Consumer groups report that throughout 2017, customers have been due billions in refunds that they never pursued.

Modern retail is geared towards items being more disposable – lower cost stores often trade on the basis that if something is cheap enough, people will either settle for a lower quality or they’ll neglect to bring it back should it fail in some way.

Sadly for our bank balances – they’re right. We’re more likely to throw away a cheap pair of jeans when they split than we are to take them back.

In reality, consumer law states that any item bought has to be ‘fit for purpose’ – so, if your t-shirt shrinks, your Bluetooth speaker sounds distorted or you’re a child’s toy doesn’t stand up to normal levels of play – you’ve got a legitimate right to return it and ask for a new one.

If you face any resistance, ask a shop to define what ‘normal use’ is for the product that’s failed – and don’t be afraid to take your complaint to the next level if you’re not getting the help you deserve.

  1. Think about savings differently

This next hack is more of a ‘brain hack’ than a financial one!

Saving money is great. Statistics show that around 75% of us will have some large, unexpected outgoing that we’re not expecting every year – and unless you’re going to get expensive credit to facilitate finding your way out of that issue – you’re going to need some savings to fall back on.

For many people, ‘saving’ is what’s done with money that’s left at the end of the month. Well, I’m here to tell you – that attitude doesn’t work – especially because most of us report having nothing left in the days the come before payday!

Instead, you need to start looking at saving as a monthly outgoing. When you’re paid, allocate a small amount to be transferred into a savings account.

That’s right – we said ‘a small amount’. If you’re planning on suddenly putting away half your salary – it’s just not going to be sustainable. The very best saving is done with a ‘constant drip’ attitude – small amounts that add up over the long term. Reframe your thoughts on saving – and you’ll start to see the money stacking up.

Life Insurance Policies: All You Need to Know

Having life insurance in place is very important these days, particularly for those with families that rely on them financially. While none of us want to dwell on our demise, it is important to plan for the future. If something were to happen to you unexpectedly, how would your family cope financially?

This is particularly relevant if you are the main breadwinner in the home. While there is nothing that you can do about the grief that your family would go through in the event of your death, there is something you can do about the financial problems they could face.

A good life insurance policy provides you and your loved ones with peace of mind and protection. Without this sort of protection in place, your loved ones could end up losing everything in the event of your death including the roof from over their heads. Life insurance is designed to help ensure that this does not happen.

Key facts you need to know about life insurance

There are different types of life insurance available, which means that you can find the type of policy and plan that is best suited to your needs, circumstances, and budget. Some of the key facts to bear in mind when it comes to life insurance include:

  • There are two main types of life insurance coverage: The two main types of life insurance coverage are term life insurance and whole of life insurance. The former is a policy that runs for a specified period time such as 15 or 25 years. If you die during the term of the policy then your family will receive the benefit. However, if the policy is no longer active then your family will not receive any benefit.

With the whole of life policy, the premiums are made on an ongoing basis with no specified term. This means that your family will be entitled to receive the policy benefit no matter when you die because the policy lasts for the whole of life. However, you need to ensure that you are on top of your premium payments otherwise it will render the coverage null and void.

  • You are only covered for death: When you take out a basic life insurance policy, you are only covered in the event of your death. There is no benefit payout for a terminal illness diagnosis or disability with life insurance coverage unless otherwise stated. There are some that come with a terminal illness benefit but this is something that you will need to check before you take out the coverage.

While you are covered for death, it is important to check the exclusions because there are some instances where the claim may be deemed invalid such as death by suicide or drug/alcohol related death. Again, make sure you read the small print and exclusions so that you know exactly what is covered and what isn’t.

  • You may need a medical: Another thing to bear in mind is that you may need to have a medical before you are accepted for a life insurance policy. There are certain providers and plans that do offer life insurance without medicals even for older people. For instance, you can find no medical exam life insurance over 70. However, many of the major providers will base their decision with regards to whether a medical is required on your answers to the preliminary questions they ask when you first make your application.

Your lifestyle and age will often determine whether you need to have a medical exam before being accepted for life insurance coverage. This is because insurance companies have to calculate the risks involved when offering life insurance coverage and the medical will provide them with the information that they need to do this.

  • The policy can be invalidated: Like other types of insurance coverage, there are a couple of key factors that could result in your life insurance coverage policy being invalidated. This means that the policy will become null and void so you will no longer be covered. This is something that you have to be mindful of, otherwise, you will end up wasting the money you have already paid into the plan.

The first thing that can invalidate your policy is if the insurance company find out that you have lied on the application or any claim form. This is why you need to ensure that all information is accurate. The second key reason for a policy becoming invalid is if you fail to keep up with premiums. You should, therefore, make sure that you make your payment on time every month.

  • A number of factors can affect the amount that you pay for life insurance: When it comes to premiums for life insurance, the costs can vary based on a number of factors. Obviously, the type of plan you choose and the provider you go through will have an effect on the amount you have to pay. However, other factors that can affect the premiums include your age, your lifestyle, your health, and your family medical history. In some cases, the premiums may also be affected if you are deemed to work in a hazardous job or take part in any high-risk activities and hobbies.

Comparing life insurance to get the best deal

In order to find the most suitable life insurance with competitive pricing and a good level of coverage, it is important to compare policies from a range of different providers.  With a wide variety of providers and policies to choose from, it can be something of a minefield when you are trying to determine which is going to be best for your needs.

Taking some time to research the different plans and provider will make this task far easier. However, you should always make sure you read the small print carefully before you sign on the dotted line. This will ensure that you familiarise yourself with all of the important information before you make your decision.

Amazon set to dominate the small business loan market

Amazon has always taken an aggressive approach to business, transforming the face of retail and the way we consume books in the 22 years the company has been in operation. Utilizing aggressive growth tactics is Amazon’s M.O., and it uses it to great effect, disrupting entire industries in the process.

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it has enabled even the smallest of companies to access markets that may have been well beyond their reach otherwise. Amazon Marketplace was a game changer, there’s no questioning that.

Consumers with little time on their hands suddenly found themselves faced with a trusted marketplace, filled with trusted retailers that they could place orders with from the comfort of their own homes – no more traipsing around shopping malls looking for something that may not even be in stock. The fact that they could shop from their smartphone too was just icing on the cake. There was a worry, at one point, that the emerging generation would forget what a physical store looked like and this would herald the decline of the bricks and mortar retailer.

Obviously, worrying about this proved to be time wasted. The acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion was just the latest move in the Amazon drive to sink its fingers into as many pies as it can, wasn’t it? Apparently not, no.

Amazon and the case of the small business loan

Amazon, very quietly, has been making some very strong inroads into the small business loans market over the past 12 months (at the time of announcement). How strong have these incursions been? They recently trumpeted that during the 12 month period, they had made $1 billion in small business loans. These loans were not restricted to the USA, either. In fact, over 20,000 small businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan had been in receipt of business loans from Amazon.

If Amazon pursues the small business loans market in the same way that it aggressively went after online retailing and eBooks, then it could potentially change the banking industry forever. Business loan providers could also suffer, although they have less to worry about being able to move in slightly different ways than banks – and faster than Amazon can right now. The Best Egg review sheds some light on how they work.

Starting life selling books and Compact Discs, way back in 1995, Amazon has amassed total sales of over $400 billion and making Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) the richest man in the world, with a personal fortune of $90 billion, into the bargain. Being bold, aggressive and not afraid of charging headlong into the fray is what allowed Amazon to rank among the top 10 U.S. employers.

The fact that they branched out into non retail areas is a little surprising, giving their past track record, but the business loan market is not unknown to them either. Many people don’t realise this, but Amazon actually started this several years ago. Amazon Lending was born in 2011, and to date has topped $3 billion in loans.

Why are we only really hearing about this now? The fact that a third of their total came in 12 months, while the rest was accrued over a 6 year period, shows just how rapidly they expanding in the small business lending space. It also emerged that over 50% of companies that take a loan with Amazon come back for at least one more.

Amazon small business lending: A license to print money?

Entering the loans arena was actually a rather smart move by Jeff Bezos. Amazon will, naturally, earn interest on all approved loans. With money continuing to be earned via retailers on the main Amazon site, the company is suddenly more cash rich than ever before. With money being raised, almost passively, there is more available to lend, earn interest on, to lend, interest on… You get the idea. Amazon are making superb progress in an exceptionally lucrative market.

While Amazon lending is invitation only, those that are approached are able to apply for loans between $k and $750k. It should also be noted that companies Amazon approach are already selling on the site. This in of itself is a genius move, with Amazon collecting cash on both ends of the retailer – interest on repayments, and increased fees on retailer sales.

Seemingly not content with the U.S., UK and Japan, the company has been dropping hints that it is looking at expanding to other countries where there is an Amazon TLD (top level domain). Strong marketplaces that they could be looking at include India, Canada, France, and China.

The Vice President of Amazon Marketplace, Peeyush Nahar, is quoted as saying “We created Amazon Lending to make it simple for up-and-coming small businesses to efficiently get a business loan, because we know that an infusion of capital at the right moment can put a small business on the path to even greater success.”. Obviously, he has to say that.

There’s no doubt that smaller business will benefit enormously, but let’s not pretend that Amazon got into the loans business for altruistic reasons. There’s nothing wrong with making money, the nation was built on the principle of capitalism, but nobody should be any illusion about the fact that Amazon has done this with their coffers in mind, not the retailer.

Should banks really be that concerned?

In a word, yes. In many ways, banks are still stuck in the pre-internet days where loans have to be discussed in person, in front of somebody whose sole purpose is to judge whether or not you can make them money. Loans provided over the internet work in a similar way, of course, but there is no sense of being weighed and measured and the fact that you don’t have to set aside an entire day to do it is even better.

Given the choice between a 30 minute process, at the very most, and a drive to the bank after spending precious, copious amounts of time preparing beforehand, getting statements and forecasts prepared and printed, the vast majority of small business owners are going to choose the digital option.

The small business operator simply does not have the time for traditional banking and the longer it takes traditional banks to realise that, the closer to the edge they become. Services like Amazon Lending are slowly but surely taking over the space traditionally occupied by the big bank so yes, banks should be worried.