Friday, May 25, 2007

Payday Loan Companies Targeting Immigrants?

PaydayloansVery good post here from Financing Usa (origin Payday Loan Times) on the possible abuse of immigrants by Payday cash advance companies. Your humble narrator doesn’t quite buy this, but it’s a clear argument for sure. 

Illegal immigrants could fall prey to loan sharks and other unscrupulous quick payday loans lenders if they have to pay $5,000 in fines and thousands more in fees and back taxes as required under the immigration reform measure now before Congress, some advocates are warning.

Many immigrants work low-wage jobs and have virtually no assets. As a result, they often have poor credit and are forced to borrow on the street from no fax payday loan stores.

Immigrants “We’re real concerned about the potential for fraud,” said Beatriz Ibarra, who studies Hispanic finances for the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy group and a tepid supporter of the draft legislation. “They’ll find a way to pay, but how?”

Some say the measure also could lead to abuse by employers, who could offer to pay employees’ fines in return for repayment arrangements that could be difficult to satisfy, leading to what would amount to indentured servitude. However, advocates and other experts say that is unlikely, because most employers probably wouldn’t find that sort of arrangement worth the cost and risk.

It is not exactly clear how much time the immigrants would have to pay the fines and fees to achieve legal status and eventually obtain a green card, which confers permanent residency. But because of the backlog of green card applications, immigrants may have up to eight years to come up with the money.

“It’s a lot of money, but if they gave us the opportunity, we’ll see how we can get it,” said a young immigrant mother of a 2-year-old U.S.-born daughter, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of deportation.

The native of Guerrero, Mexico, said she has no idea how she would get the money — which could amount to $3,000 for the initial visa application and $4,000 plus back taxes for a green card. However, she said she is confident she would manage, even though she only makes minimum wage working at a Mexican grocery in Georgia and could conceivably be in need of payday loans.

To make it across the border, many illegal immigrants pay thousands of dollars to smugglers, who sometimes threaten them with death if they don’t pay their debts. Then, many make low wages working in agriculture, construction and the hotel and restaurant industry. Out of that, they often send money back home to support their families. And because they are illegal, they tend to distrust banks.

“If you have a family of four or five, it’s going to add up to thousands of dollars, and I just can’t imagine anyone having that amount of money stored in a shoebox — so someone will come up with a lending scheme that will be close to usury,” said Robert Moser, deputy director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of San Diego.

The Pew Hispanic Center reported last spring that the average weekly earnings for illegal immigrant males who arrived between 2000 and 2005 were around $480, and about $100 more for those who arrived before 2000.

About half of Hispanic immigrants have no checking or savings accounts, and those who have credit cards often pay exorbitant fees and have difficulty managing their debt, according to a study co-authored by Ibarra. Hence, the possibility of cash loans.


Related Video On Payday Loan…

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bad Credit - Zero Down - Sub-Prime Loans

BadcreditloanssubprimeloansCarry Reeder wrote this piece on subprime/bad credit loans. She hits on a few good point regarding zero down loans.

This kind of lending is a bad idea, unless you have a serious and viable plan for repayment, and house-hold income.

Sub-prime lenders now offer financing packages with zero down. Interest rates are higher on these types of loans, but they make purchasing a house easier. And unlike a conventional loan, there is no private mortgage insurance required. There are two types of zero-down mortgage packages, each with their own requirements.

Types Of Zero-Down Loans

100% financing, as it names implies, offers complete financing of your property. The other option, 80/20, finances your mortgage with two loans. Both loans may be carried by your lender, but sometimes the seller or a second lender is required to carry the 20% mortgage.

100% financing is easier to deal with, but not all lenders will offer this type of home loan. 80/20 financing is more common, but takes some negotiation if the seller is involved.

Qualifications For Zero-Down

Each lender has their own criteria for determining who will qualify for a zero-down loan. Most sub-prime lenders require any bankruptcies or foreclosures to have been at least twelve months ago. A conventional loan requires these to be discharged two to four years ago.

While a credit score of 600 or higher is best, large cash reserves can also qualify you. Six to twelve month’s worth of cash reserves in the form of savings, money market, or other liquid assets are considered ideal.

If you choose 80/20 financing with the seller carrying the second mortgage, you can qualify with sub-prime lenders with a score of 560.

Zero-Down Sub-prime Lenders

You can find zero-down sub-prime mortgages with both conventional and niche sub-prime lenders. Make sure that you request quotes from as many mortgage lenders has possible to be sure you find the lowest rate and best terms.

You will also want to decide what type of mortgage you want. An ARM is easier to qualify for and has lower rates. A fixed rate mortgage offers the security of a constant interest rate over the life of your loan.

Typically an ARM will be a better deal if you plan to refinance within a couple of years. After you have improved your credit history, you can refinance for a conventional mortgage with low interest rates.

To view our list of recommended subprime mortgage lenders online, visit this page: Recommended Bad Credit Mortgage Lenders Online.

Carrie Reeder is the owner of ABC Loan Guide, an informational website about various types of loans.

Related Video…


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Americans Learning To Invest Their Personal Money

StockmarketinvestingThis is a great article/piece on SM, regarding the education citizens need to invest their own money wisely, and prosper. Interesting to see a lack of interest these days.

Let’s face it, it’s more fun to be at the golf course, than sitting in front of a computer, with a phone attached to your earlobe.   

Taped to the big wooden doors of the Charlotte, Michigan, library, a photocopied flier offers a free Saturday afternoon course on investing. The program is new to the community library, the pilot in a statewide investor-education campaign. Funded with $30,000 of government money, with more on the way, it looks like a gem: It's free, it isn't selling anything, and participants can sign up for one-on-one financial counseling.

But 10 minutes before the seminar, something is missing — people. The flier, it turns out, was posted only two days ago, and the only other advance notice came in the form of a few radio ads. Standing before an almost empty room, Linda Cena, the state's securities regulator, welcomes two senior citizens and the library director and introduces a financial planner who has driven 80 minutes from suburban Detroit. He begins his PowerPoint presentation with "What is the stock market?" and ends two hours later with "Three keys to building wealth."

The septuagenarian couple don't take notes, nor do they really want financial counseling. "I wish we'd heard this 30 years ago," says one of them, wondering aloud "why more people hadn't come." Her rhetorical question is swallowed by the library's stuffy, echoing stillness.

That silence may be the sound of squandered opportunity. For four years now, Uncle Sam and all 50 states have been engaged in an unprecedented effort to educate Americans about investing, coaching them in everything from 401(k) plans to how to avoid fraud. It is a novel idea indeed, made possible by the high-profile 2003 settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the brokerage industry that earmarked $85 million for investor education. But if you haven't heard about it, or had a chance to sit in on a free seminar, you're not alone. Even some of the officials who are funding the programs concede that some efforts have been disappointing.

At a time when more Americans than ever are interested in the stock market and retirement planning, this money would seem to be a welcome windfall. But a SmartMoney look into just how it's being spent doesn't inspire much confidence. In Minnesota, it's gone to distributing a free CD in supermarkets with such generic financial tips as "obtain information about your investment possibilities from reputable sources" — in Ojibwa and Amharic, among other languages. Meanwhile, in Buffalo, N.Y., a new PBS show called MoneyTrack offers wiser tips but with one drawback: It runs only on Tuesdays at 5 a.m.

The settlement brokered by the SEC divided the investor-education money into two parts: $30 million was turned over to the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit group set up to fund state-by-state programs; the rest was designated to support a national initiative. Four years later, however, the states have used less than $8.5 million. Meanwhile, the national endeavor, which started making grants only a year ago, has deployed just $2.1 million, largely for research projects. For now, it's uncertain when the rest will be spent, or on what. "No one has ever had $50 million to spend on doing the right thing, and it didn't have to be hard," says Charles Ellis, a prominent investment consultant tapped by the SEC to develop a national investor-education plan — only to see his efforts dismissed. "We really ended up surprised and disappointed."

For their part, the folks in charge of the money say better programs are on the way. But financial education, even when it's done well, is a tricky proposition. As any financial planner will tell you, people are often reluctant to examine their finances, and for those just getting started, the whole idea of saving and investing is often abstract and confusing. John Gannon, who heads the NASD Foundation, which oversees the national programs, says there's too often a disconnect between the programs that are proposed — which involve creating web sites, brochures and curricula — and what actually works. "They don't focus on how to get those materials into the hands of people who need them," he says.

JIM LOWE ISN'T AN investing expert, nor is he an educator. What the former salesman does know is how to raise money for a consortium of 12 Minnesota public radio stations, where he serves as development director. So when he heard there was grant money available for investor-education programs three years ago, he says, "I immediately saw the potential." Lowe quickly drafted a proposal for a series of public service announcements warning recent immigrants about fraud and shipped it to the Investor Protection Trust. After five months of back-and-forth discussion, Lowe's plan to use foreign-language radio to reach these new groups was approved with a budget of $210,000 — nearly half of the state's allocation for investor education. How far that money went, though, may seem a little disappointing. Most paid for 40-second radio spots — in Ojibwa, Hmong and Amharic, Spanish and English — with advice that ranged from "get things in writing" to "stay alert." The ads, which were also recorded on CDs and distributed free at local supermarkets, referred listeners to a web site — that doesn't offer any investing resources, only information about the consortium. Lowe argues that the project was a big success. "It's hard to gauge any kind of advertising," he says. "But people have told us they think this is fantastic."

Multiply that effort times 50, and you start to understand the problem with this exercise in good intentions. In Texas the money is being used to promote the state regulator's office, says Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Crawford, "or no one would even know we exist." California spent some of the money to warn members of the military about payday lending. And several states pooled their money to award a $1.6 million grant to develop the public television series MoneyTrack. The first 13 episodes, which aired last year in Buffalo and elsewhere, averaged 450,000 viewers per episode — less than half the audience for reruns of Mama's Family. So does any of this help investors make better choices? "We don't have any data, but I think we're making a difference," says Montana State Auditor John Morrison. His state has used some of its money to sponsor seminars covering, among other things, lottery fraud. It's not saving or investing, Morrison concedes, but "if it's what you want to do with your money, better to play the real lottery than a fake one."

TO BE SURE, MOST of this was not what the SEC had in mind in 2003, when it reached a $1.4 billion settlement with 10 brokerage houses in which they neither admitted nor denied allegations that they had provided misleading stock research during the dot-com boom. With the money set aside for the national education effort, the agency drafted Ellis, the Wall Street consultant, and George Daly, now dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown, to develop a strategy. For a year, they and a team of experts combed through research on the topic and came to an alarming conclusion: There was no chance that people would sit down for even a short, relatively convenient, relatively entertaining program on the principles of investing. "The smartest people I knew said, 'You will fail,'" says Ellis.

What would work? The team wanted to direct the funds toward educating the people who run workplace-based savings plans, like 401(k)s. But to some, that plan appeared to hand the money right back to the financial-services industry. "It wasn't a frivolous idea," says a person who worked at the SEC at the time. "But it wouldn't play in Peoria." Frustrated, Ellis resigned, and the funding for national investor education was turned over to the NASD Investor Education Foundation, a nonprofit attached to the National Association of Securities Dealers, in September 2005, more than two years after it was first set aside.

Academics and financial planners alike agree that money spent producing still more web sites, brochures, public service announcements and curricula falls almost uniformly short of helping investors. For one thing, consumer groups and mutual fund companies have been doing that for a long time. "The last thing we need is more materials," says Nancy Smith, who ran the Office of Investor Education at the SEC before becoming vice president of investment services for AARP Financial. "We're not one web site away from successfully teaching people about investing." The folks in charge of doling out investor-education money seem equally frustrated. Don Blandin, who runs the Investor Protection Trust, which distributes money to the states, says the efforts are by definition all over the map. "Every day I'm trying to turn 50 dials, trying to make some progress. But I can't turn them all at the same time."

For its part, the NASD Foundation thinks it has a solution — one that's supported even by people who wonder whether traditional financial education can work at all. Instead of starting from scratch, the foundation plans to tap into groups that already have a wide membership base. Among the early recipients is the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, which was awarded $630,000 to teach marriage counselors to talk finances with divorcing couples. Similar reasoning yielded funding for the Center for American Nurses to create a financial-education program directed at the country's 2.9 million nurses. "We want the information to be accurate, unbiased and objective," says the NASD Foundation's Gannon. "And we want to make sure it's targeted to the audience."

Neither program is beyond the planning stages, but they seem closer to the right idea: getting information to people who might not otherwise ask. But projects like these are rare. Given what's out there, Gannon doesn't think the foundation will be able to give away more than $25 million by 2015. The rest of the money will go to programs sponsored and developed by the foundation itself.

Still, even projects that seem innovative in the planning stages can struggle in the execution, which may be among the biggest challenges for this experiment. The NASD Foundation funded and applauded, for example, a program designed by the Partnership for After School Education to teach investor education through its 1,400 member organizations. And on a frosty Thursday afternoon in February at a public school in the Bronx, more than a dozen young adults grab a slice of pizza and settle in for the day's "Dollars and Sense" lesson on investing. It all seems very promising until Ken deRegt, a 20-year Morgan Stanley veteran and a member of the PASE board, starts talking about risk-return strategies. He discusses the difference between bond yields and dividends and mentions the 2001 market crash. He's been talking for at least 30 minutes when a young woman raises her hand with a fundamental question: "I don't get it," she says. "Why do I have to invest, anyway?"

"What doesn't make sense to you?" he asks, smiling patiently.

"Everything," she says, shaking her head.


Related Video…Global Investment Ad 

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New York Real Estate Cost vs Cost of Living (Video Incl)

New York Real Estate Found some interesting numbers quoted at the Terry Zulit blog (Your Financial Freedom), regarding the cost of living and breathing in New York city, and surrounding areas. I’m glad I’m not trying to make a go of it in New York!

I guess the saying is true…..”if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”.

All this, with the latest forcast for overall housing prices to drop in late 2007 across the United States. I suppose there are some areas where real estate is somewhat immune from fluctuation, and New York is one of those places.

Some of the numbers below are not directly related to NYC real estate, but they either show the trend, or add a little humor into the fray. Interesting number on how much real estate work you can do when you're serving 33 1/3 years in jail.


$7.25 million =

Going price for the most expensive of One Brooklyn Bridge Park's 26 penthouse units, making it Brooklyn's all-time priciest condo

$3.8 million =

The borough's previous record, paid this past January for a penthouse in Williamsburg's Aurora building

45 =

Stories slated for Donald Trump's planned condo-hotel in SoHo

12 =

Months it took for The Donald's controversial project to finally get approval

$1,550 =

Rent for a one-bedroom loft in Bushwick advertised - without apparent irony - as "punk rock heaven"

$1 =

Amount residents at the former punk squat C-Spot paid to purchase their East Village building five years ago

40,000 =

Square feet in Brownsville and East New York set aside by the city to be used as community farms

33 1/3 =

Minimum number of years drug dealer Alejandro Lopez-Guevara was sentenced to serve in prison following his 1988 conviction

$1.775 million =

Sum of the real-estate deals Lopez-Guevara has pulled off from behind bars

7 1/2 =

Percentage a rent-stabilized apartment could increase on a two-year lease

$1.2 billion =

Entire 2006 gross domestic product of Belize

$2.4 billion =

Value of residential listings held by Prudential Douglas Elliman, according to a survey by The Real Deal

$940 million =

Price that Urban American Management and the City Investment Fund paid for nearly 4,000 units in former Mitchell-Lama buildings in Harlem, making it the second-biggest real-estate deal in NYC history

34 =

Percentage of Mitchell-Lama's original 105,000 apartments that were moved out of the program between 1990 and 2005

750 =

Number of calculators Halstead Property is donating to Harlem public schools

New York City real estate is a little on the expensive side, you might say. Therefore, real estate in New York NY, is prime for those desiring a solid financial investment.

Related Video……cost of living in New York

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Found Agency Slapped By Google For Black Hat Techinques

The Found Agency has recently been slapped hard by Google for using what is know as “black hat techniques”. Black Hat techniques are methods whereby an Internet property is promoted through the use of artificial linking. Black hat techniques are widely used by webmasters, in an effort to gain search engine ranking. The higher your ranking – the more money you make. Google always catches up with these methods in time.   

STORY: The Found Agency, whose estimated $3 million sale to the Photon marketing group is due to be completed later this year, has admitted to pushing the boundaries of Google's guidelines to get other sites to link to its website to improve its ranking on the search engine.

Paid search engine marketing and manipulating the more trusted, natural results have become highly popular marketing channels as more people go to search engines such as Google to find services and products.

But Google appears to have stopped counting potentially thousands of links pointing to Found Agency: last month had the top natural search position for the term "search engine optimisation", but by yesterday morning it had dropped to 52nd.

Google Australia would not comment on the case -- talk of which had spread like wildfire through the search marketing industry -- but a spokesman pointed to its webmaster quality guidelines, which covered the most common forms of deceptive behaviour.

The guidelines tell site designers to "avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings" and directs them not to participate in "link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking".

"Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here," the company stated. Industry blogs such as have cited one method used by Found Agency -- whereby it supplies numerous unrelated websites with a hit counter that tabulates the number of visitors but that also contains an advertising link to au -- as a "black hat link-building strategy".

Found Agency co-founder Tim Macdonald said Google had downgraded the site's search ranking but refused to comment on whether the company used black hat techniques. He said some strategies the company used were "in the grey area".

"We've just had a penalty applied to our site," Mr Macdonald said.

"We haven't been banned."

Similar action does not appear to have been taken on Yahoo, which had about 14,000 links pointing to on Wednesday.

The search engine optimisation industry is split into white hat - or approved --methods of achieving a high ranking for a website and black hat practices.

Clear Light Digital co-founder Jamie Silver said black hat tactics were about fooling search engines to achieve an artificially high ranking rather than optimising them for users.

Mr Macdonald said Found Agency had taken "a calculated decision" to aggressively promote its own website but said it did not use the same methods forits clients, which include, Travel. and Wotif. "There are clear things such as hidden text (which are banned by Google)," Mr Macdonald said.

"We've never done anything like that where there are clear guidelines. The rest of the rules are open to interpretation."

Said one rival, who asked not to be named: "Google says a link is a vote of quality and that's not a vote of quality."

Mr Macdonald refused to comment directly on the use of the hit counter. "The only way to rank for a term like (search engine optimisation) is to be exceptionally aggressive," he said.

Mr Macdonald said the company had been open about its practices with its clients.

"Working for a client, you have to stay way, way, away from the boundaries of what could be perceived as being not in Google's rule book," Mr Macdonald said. "Equally, you have to know where the boundaries are. We have tested the boundaries with other sites."

Chris Meehan, general manager, commercial at Travel., said he was not aware that Found Agency had been penalised by Google but planned to look into it.

So would Found use grey-hat tactics to improve its ranking on Google again?

"No comment," Mr Macdonald said. "There are other big name agencies that have seen exactly the same thing (happen to them) and they're very strong businesses powering along today We always knew the risks."


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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Personal Finance Daily

God articles from MarketWATCH on their personal finance daily column. A good feed for finance bloggers around the world. Here is a bit from it,  

There are strategies you can adopt to propel you from ignorant beginner to smart novice. For one, you can approach the task of finding a winning horse just as you would finding a winning stock-market investment: Look for undiscovered value in horses with high odds. That’s what one expert tells personal-finance writer Amy Hoak in her Sports Watch column today. Read her column for seven tips on making a better Kentucky Derby bet, and don’t miss Steve Kerch’s story on why two favorites for Saturday’s race will have to buck a long-running trend to win. Plus don’t miss our piece on how to invest in real estate through your IRA, and find out what effect consumers online reviews are having on restaurants, all on today’s Personal Finance pages.


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Monday, May 07, 2007

Review of Brazen Careerist Review From IWTYTBR

Pluralistic ignorance is a fascinating concept in social psychology. It’s a phenomenon “which involves several members of a group who think that they have different perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes from the rest of the group” (more). For example, Prentice and Miller, two Princeton social psychologists, found that college students tend to think other students drink more than they actually do. Schroeder and Prentice noted that “the majority of students believe that their peers are uniformly more comfortable with campus [drinking] than they are.” This means that

“because everyone who disagrees behaves as if he or she agrees, all dissenting members think that the norm is endorsed by every group member but themselves. This in turn reinforces their willingness to conform to the group norm rather than express their disagreement. Because of pluralistic ignorance, people may conform to the perceived consensual opinion of a group, instead of thinking and acting on their own perceptions” (source)

I find this time and time again when I talk to my friends. People will say things like, “Everyone’s” earning $70,000/year when they graduate, so I should, too. Or obody lives with their parents so it would be embarrassing if I did. We often make decisions based on what we see of our friends, but we don’t see the bigger picture and realize the differences in internal attitudes and behaviors across individuals and groups. Pluralistic ignorance colors our decision-making and the worst part is, we don’t even know it.

That’s why I like the new book by Penelope Trunk, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. Penelope writes for the Boston Globe and Yahoo Finance (she’s covered me before), and she has an attitude. I mean that in a good way: Unlike so many books for young people, this one reads like a real person wrote it, not a damn robot. You can actually hear her in her writing. Now, she and I disagree about some career-related things, but she does a great job explaining her reasoning.

And her advice is good. She talks about issues we care about  living with our parents, getting our first job, negotiating salaries, starting a company, how to make ends meet but reassures us that the things we feel guilty about are actually very common (see my thoughts about young people and guilt here).

For example, she writes that Job-hopping in your early twenties is a great idea especially if you’re still sleeping at your parents house. After all, the point of this period in life is to find the right work for you. But if the job-hopping doesn’t stop by age thirty, the feeling of instability intensifies to crisis. How many of your friends don’t know what they want to do, but feel pressured to pick one single job and focus on it?

I know plenty. I also know plenty of friends who don’t know what they want to do, so they go back to grad school. Penelope shows a better way to think that decision.

That’s what’s interesting about the book: It includes not only advice on how to think about large, ambiguous topics like going back to grad school and office politics, but also includes tactical advice that’s actually good. When it comes to creating your resume, for instance, she writes,

She writes excellent tactical advice for building your cover letter, negotiating your salary, writing a resume that stands out (Ditch the line about references on request. It’s implied. Of course if someone wants a reference, you will give one).

But more than tactical advice, she uses research from places like Harvard Business School not just her personal opinions to remind us not to feel guilty about what we’re doing. For instance, did you know that 50% of the Class of 2003 was still living at home 3 years later?

This book reminds me to stop fighting against the same things that everyone else my age is struggling with. If I wanted to live at home so I can afford to take a low-paying job that I love, that chapter on living at home would be worth the book alone. In other words, stop worrying and feeling guilty about what other people think and focus on the important goals. The best thing a book can do is reassure us, refocus us, and then give us the tools to do more than we thought we could do. This book is a great start.

Brazen Careerist isn’t perfect, of course. It’s overly list-y for my tastes, reading in some parts like a Top 10 Reasons to blog post. Also, the book is itself a bit unfocused, with points on starting your own business, perfecting your resume, working with your manager, optimizing your personal life, and doing yoga (?). But the number of insights I got from the book made up for it.

The book is good. So is the blog. And Penelope is a great woman with tons of interesting thoughts about career issues.

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Practical Guide To Total Financial Freedom, Volumes 1,2,3,4,5 have become hot items in the financial education arena of late. Samuel Blankson wrote the so-called, "practical guide to total financial freedom volume sets" and he hit it out of the park on this one.
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