Category Archives: Money

Which Charities Should You Donate To?

Which Charities Should You Donate To?Americans are among the most charitable people in the world. They are generous in supporting causes that they believe will improve life for the underprivileged, whether this be humans or animals.

And while there are many reasons why we should donate more money to charity and should increase the amount we contribute, giving something is the first step. With the number of U.S. charities growing each year, how do you know which ones to donate to? Consider the following criteria when choosing your charity.

Nonprofit Organizations

A 501(c)(3) Internal Revenue Code tax designation means that an organization is operated for exempt purposes, nor can it participate in political campaigns. Typically, these organizations are dedicated to serving an underrepresented group in society or addressing a specific need, like hunger. This government tax designation helps to ensure the organization is not for profit and legitimately committed to charitable work.

Devastating Acts of Nature

Earthquakes, wildfires, volcanoes, tornadoes, and hurricanes often attract the pity and donations of concerned citizens both near and far. Sometimes a special fund will be set up at a local bank or supermarket to help victims of weather-ravaged communities or those damaged by unexpected events. Floods and hailstorms, along with other savage weather events, often attract sympathetic donors who want to alleviate the suffering caused by these catastrophic conditions.

Religious Institutions

For people of faith, donating to a place of worship or a faith-based ministry is often a priority donation. These donations often get used for typical fees of churches/synagogues/etc., or special programs to help those in need.

Community Drives

Supporting the local community can take many forms, including fundraisers for a family whose home is destroyed by fire or an individual, perhaps well-known and beloved, tragic cancer victim. Donations to support firefighters and police officers are sometimes requested. Contributing to programs like a new school or homeless shelter, or a national program like Habitat for Humanity and United Way, can be orchestrated through paid donations or volunteer support.

Crowdsourcing

Indiegogo and Gofundme are two of many online donation sites where donors can browse hundreds of projects with budgets of all sizes. Videos and interviews posted at project sites, along with offers of thank-you gifts, encourage interested viewers to contribute to a worthwhile cause, which can range from a teenager’s amazing experiment that could improve everyday life to an aspiring musician or a talented artist. Whatever your interest, you will probably find numerous projects to learn about and consider funding.

In addition, there are plenty of other ways to donate to worthy causes. Schools usually schedule fundraisers to help support extracurricular activities. Community organizations for kids like the Girl Scouts sell cookies to earn money for their group activities. Whatever your interest or concern regarding social issues, there are many ways to donate. Don’t be taken in by scams, however. Check out the organization or fundraising initiative you would like to donate to by researching it online or consulting the Better Business Bureau. Find out if you will get a tax-deductible donation receipt. Make your donation count by giving to issues that are meaningful to you.

How to Avoid Fighting About Money With Your Spouse

How to Avoid Fighting About Money With Your SpouseDivorce lawyers often report that money is the number one issue that causes most couples to break up. It doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor. Spouses tend to experience frequent conflict over money management problems. Sometimes it’s because they disagree on how to manage their finances. Other times it’s due to the fact that one spouse is a saver while the other is a spender. Some couples are able to work through this important stressor by avoiding arguments over the role of money in their marriage. The following tips may prove helpful in this effort.

Don’t Make it Personal

Money fights can escalate into serious disagreements between emotional spouses. Sometimes it turns into name-calling and spills over into other issues, extending the argument and raising the stakes. Avoid using a financial problem as a springboard to other complaints. Don’t put all the blame on the other person, even if he or she is the spendthrift. Be willing to accept a reasonable share of responsibility if warranted. Remember that we all make mistakes in one area or another.

Keep it Simple

Stick to the basic issue of disagreement. Rather than claiming your spouse is a terrible money manager, calmly point out that his or her morning coffee run is blowing the grocery budget off the chart. Instead of pointing the finger of blame, ask questions like, “Is this really important to you? Where can we spend less to cover this expense?” A productive, proactive approach is more likely to be successful than shaming the other person for spending habits you do not agree with.

Pick a Productive Time

It is usually best not to hit someone with an accusation or major problem first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Nor is it a good idea when your spouse is rushing out the door to work or worn out after mowing the lawn. Choose a time when the other person is relaxed and alert without feeling caged or cornered. Bring out some beverages to share and pick a relaxing spot like the patio or family room where the two of you won’t be bothered, possibly after dinner or over the weekend when things are relatively quiet and calm. Don’t overdo it; a few minutes may be enough to tackle the issue at hand.

Agree to Disagree

Don’t expect to reach consensus on every money-related problem. There will be times when you disagree, but you can do so amicably, remembering that you still have much in common and are still in love! When you decide to surrender, do so graciously, not grudgingly. Sometimes a playful manner can defuse tensions and help both of you to relax and resume normal activities.

Decide on His and Hers

Many couples today are divided between putting both incomes, if both work, into one household account shared by both, but primarily managed by one spouse. Other couples keep their respective paychecks but split household and family expenses. Some have three bank accounts: his, hers, and ours, with the last established for common expenses. Each couple can decide what type of budget and system works best for them.

The love of money doesn’t have to be the root of all evil in your marriage. Discuss any concerns calmly with your spouse and avoid letting your differences get the best of you. If you find that financial issues are stubbornly resistant to your management efforts, schedule financial counseling with a professional who can help you both learn how to manage your money and a budget without rancor.

Can a Home Equity Loan Help You?

Can a Home Equity Loan Help You?Banks and other lenders often eagerly offer a home equity line of credit to homeowners in good financial standing. The terms may be tempting: A low interest rate applied to the property’s equity or current paid value accessible with a debit card or bank transfer as needed. With a home value that exceeds what is currently owed on the balance of the mortgage loan, it makes sense to use those funds for immediate needs, like remodeling the kitchen or building a patio.

But home equity loans are not reserved just for home remodeling or repairs. Available credit on a property’s value can be used for anything that a regular credit card can buy. Consequently, it is easy to spend that money when it becomes available through a home equity line of credit. This is done by applying for a loan, with the property used as collateral against the loan. So, if something happens to prevent you from repaying the loan, your home can be taken by the creditor, and you will lose it. In effect, a home equity loan is a second mortgage on your property.

Many homeowners don’t want to risk losing their property by taking out a second mortgage based on their home’s equity. Keeping up with the regular mortgage can be hard enough, especially if you become unemployed in losing your job or are able to work only part-time. Having two mortgages to repay increases stress and the financial burden of meeting payment due-dates. Trying to sell the home to get out from under the mortgage payment becomes extra difficult, as the second mortgage will have to be paid first by the homeowner or from the proceeds of the property’s sale.

However, under the right circumstances, a home equity loan can be very helpful. First, it allows you to make use of the equity accrued on your home rather than letting it sit idle. If your home is worth $150,000 and you still owe $70,000, there is a substantial amount of available credit in your home’s equity. Keep in mind that the lender will advance a percentage of the current equity, on average about 85 percent, balanced against your income and any other outstanding debts.

Second, interest paid on a home equity loan can be claimed as a deduction on your tax return. Certain conditions may apply, so you will need to discuss this with your accountant or carefully read the tax rules if you prepare your own returns.

Third, home equity loans are often approved at lower interest rates than standard credit cards or credit accounts. A line of credit against your home’s equity could be the cheapest way to finance a college education or a dream vacation. The main thing is to be sure you can afford the monthly payments with low risk of default.

A home equity loan is a convenient source of credit that may be readily available at your fingertips, depending on your home’s equity and your other financial obligations. If you are thinking about borrowing money for a substantial but necessary or long-planned purchase, contact a lender who is offering great terms on a home equity loan. Then compare the advantages and terms with other credit offers currently available.