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Cruising with Credit: The Best Credit Cards to Take on Vacation

Cruising with Credit: The Best Credit Cards to Take on Vacation

It’s summer! It’s officially the time of year where the weather is warmer and people like to travel all over the world. And when you are traveling, you want to get the best deals possible, right? That is why I’ve decided to list a few of the best credit cards to use...
The NotPetya Cyber Attack

The NotPetya Cyber Attack

Cybercrime is a very real threat. Most of us, if not all of us, have been a victim of some form of cybercrime, large or small, or at least know someone who has been affected. And as our world becomes increasingly connected and reliant on technology, this problem only...
Peer-to-Peer Payment Services

Peer-to-Peer Payment Services

I’ve mentioned the impact that technology is having on finance before. While there are multiple different ways that technology is changing the financial landscape, it’s biggest influence can be seen in the world of mobile applications. One budding category of...
What Can Impact Your Credit Score?

What Can Impact Your Credit Score?

I recently wrote a piece on what a credit score is and the importance of maintaining a good score on another site of mine: KewhoMin.net. And although I provided a good overview of a credit score, I never gave too much insight into what can impact it. So, without...
The Millennial Mindset

The Millennial Mindset

Millennials have been under a lot of scrutiny regarding their position in the current workforce. They have been label as lazy, entitled children who need a participation ribbon for everything they do. The older generation has created an unemployable stigma around...
A Few Ways to Cut Your Taxes

A Few Ways to Cut Your Taxes

February is already here, which means that the tax deadline is drawing closer. There’s still plenty of time to file your taxes—the deadline is April 18th this year—but getting an early jump on them is never a bad thing. And with the apparent new tax laws coming in...
Adapting and Overcoming: inDinero’s Story

Adapting and Overcoming: inDinero’s Story

In the world of business, remaining stagnant is usually not the way to go. Changing business models tend to fare better in the long run, giving a company longevity. And with so many startups popping up at what seems to be a daily rate, it is difficult to avoid...
The Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early

The Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early

Once again, it’s tax season. For many Americans, they wait until much closer to April 15th (technically April 18th this year, since the 15th falls on a Saturday). Unfortunately, waiting until too close to when taxes are due can make you lose money that you would have...
Financial Ratios You Must Know

Financial Ratios You Must Know

If you’re running your own business, it’s important to have an understanding of the business’ financial standing. While a bank or financial advisor can evaluate your business for you, the equations they use can easily be done by you so you can check up on the...
Acorns For the Winter: Financial Literacy App

Acorns For the Winter: Financial Literacy App

Your personal finances are important. This is, hopefully, a fairly obvious statement. And as obvious a statement as it is, many Americans know very little about their finances. One particular group, millennials, apparently have a very bad understanding of what it...

The Official Blog of Kewho Min

Cruising with Credit: The Best Credit Cards to Take on Vacation

Cruising with Credit: The Best Credit Cards to Take on Vacation

It’s summer! It’s officially the time of year where the weather is warmer and people like to travel all over the world. And when you are traveling, you want to get the best deals possible, right? That is why I’ve decided to list a few of the best credit cards to use when traveling.

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

For the frequent traveler, one of the best possible cards you can take with you is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. It has one of the best incentives for opening an account of any travel credit card available: you can earn 50,000 bonus points for the first $4,000 spent within the first three months of opening an account. Essentially, the equates to $625 that can be used for travel expenses if redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. And you should absolutely continue to use the card when you are on vacation or simply traveling, considering you earn double the points you would normally get when you use your card on airfare, hotels and restaurants. The number of points earned can even be transferred with a 1:1 ration towards any number of airlines, making the card perfect for those who are not loyal to any particular brand.

 

Capital One Venture Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Credit Card has its own set of unique benefits that makes it a fine choice for those traveling this summer. It’s most enticing benefit is its unlimited rewards feature. Users can earn an unlimited number of 2X miles on this card. Users can also earn a whopping 40,000 bonus miles once they’ve spent $3,000 dollars on purchases within the first three months of activation. Its third most appealing feature is its lack of an annual fee for the first year; afterwards, the card costs $59.

 

Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express

At first glance, it may seem as though this card is only for those who frequent Hilton hotels; however, this card can be used by virtually anybody. By spending $1,000 in purchases with the card within the first three months of account activation, users can receive 50,000 Hilton Honors Points. These points can not only be used for staying at a Hilton hotel, they can also be used at the Hilton Shopping Mall in order to purchase a wide variety of gifts, ranging from electronics to clothing. It is certainly one of the most versatile point systems available to travelers. The card also offers 7X the number of Hilton Honors Points for purchases at a Hilton hotel, 5X the number of points for purchases at gas stations, supermarkets, etc., and 3X the points for most other purchases.

The NotPetya Cyber Attack

The NotPetya Cyber Attack

Cybercrime is a very real threat. Most of us, if not all of us, have been a victim of some form of cybercrime, large or small, or at least know someone who has been affected. And as our world becomes increasingly connected and reliant on technology, this problem only has potential to get worse. A recent example of this was the WannaCry ransomware attack that occurred in May of this year. Essentially, the attack targeted Windows-based computers all around the world and crippled several networks for hours. It was one of the largest cyberattacks in recorded history.

 

Just recently, there was a similar attack on several PCs largely in Ukraine and Russia called NotPetya. By this point you are probably wondering why I am even speaking about this when I typically discuss finance and accounting, and you are right to think that. However, this attack hits closer to home than you’d think. According to a recent report from WIRED, Ukrainian law officials have seized the servers of a local software firm called MeDoc. The firm is apparently responsible for the attack due to its glaring anti-virus issues. According to the report, the firm was told multiple times about its security problems, and because the MeDoc failed to improve their cybersecurity, they are being held liable for the widespread attack.

 

The reason this attack hits so close to home is because MeDoc is an accounting software manufacturer. More specifically, the software responsible for the attack was for tax accounting. It is unfortunate that this attack happened at all, however, it is even worse that it is associated with accounting.

 

The NotPetya attack disguises itself as a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks (like May’s WannaCry virus) essentially hold a computer’s files hostage until the computer’s owner agrees to pay a certain amount of money. The NotPetya attack did not actually require money. Instead, it was solely a chaos-inducing virus that deleted and damaged files on Windows-based computers. The virus was able to spread so quickly throughout the country because of a software update to the accounting software pushed out by MeDoc.

 

Tales such as these may seem terrifying, and rightfully so; however, these stories also serve as reminders to always stay safe and use anti-virus protection for your computer. Always use trusted software and never assume that software from a legitimate company can not cause damage.

Peer-to-Peer Payment Services

Peer-to-Peer Payment Services

I’ve mentioned the impact that technology is having on finance before. While there are multiple different ways that technology is changing the financial landscape, it’s biggest influence can be seen in the world of mobile applications. One budding category of financial innovation is peer-to-peer payments. In essence, peer-to-peer payments allow users to send money to friends, family or colleagues quickly and securely.

 

One of the oldest and most recognized peer-to-peer payment services is PayPal. Founded in 1998 as Confinity, PayPal allows for online transfers of money, and became incredibly popular with the rise of the Internet. In fact, the company is still quite popular and currently has a revenue stream of over $10 billion.

 

As our society continues to rely heavily on smartphones, mobile applications have almost become a necessity. And with that necessity comes opportunity. And multiple companies saw the opportunity to take their online peer-to-peer payment services and bring them to the mobile market.

 

This is an industry that has been flooded with a variety of companies, including Google Wallet, Circle and Square Cash. The most popular of these is Venmo. The premise of the application is simple: simply connect your bank account to your Venmo account, input the amount of money you would like to send, and transfer it to whomever you desire. Venmo’s true popularity lies in its social media features. Users can upload profile photos, follow friends and even comment on money transfers. The ease-of-use and social media functionality of the application have made Venmo incredibly popular among millennials.

 

Peer-to-peer payments have become so popular among younger audiences that social media and messaging applications are beginning to utilize the service. The image and video sharing service Snapchat has recently unveiled its version of P2P payments called Snapcash and Facebook Messenger, one of the most popular messaging applications in the world, also has its own variation of the service.

 

To drive the point home, even software developers are implementing the power and ease of P2P payments into their mobile operating systems. Just this week, technology giant Apple announced the implementation of a P2P payments service in their iMessage application. The service works through Apple’s Apple Pay service, and is end-to-end encrypted, so all information is kept incredibly safe. Users will simply need to connect an account, open up their messaging application, select an amount and send.

 

As technology gets more advanced and as we depend on it more and more, we will start to see the implementation of P2P payments everywhere around us. It is already happening. The most important thing to remember is to be smart about how your are using your money. Always keep a record and have an idea of how much you have in the bank.

What Can Impact Your Credit Score?

What Can Impact Your Credit Score?

I recently wrote a piece on what a credit score is and the importance of maintaining a good score on another site of mine: KewhoMin.net. And although I provided a good overview of a credit score, I never gave too much insight into what can impact it. So, without further ado, here are some of the most common factors that can influence your credit score.

 

On-Time Payments

This is probably the most obvious factor in this list. One of the biggest mistakes made by new credit card holders is assuming that as long as you make the payments eventually, everything will be fine. This is very wrong. Missing even one payment can drastically affect your credit score in a negative way. By ensuring that your bills are paid on time you are demonstrating to creditors that you are reliable.

 

Number of Accounts

While having and maintaining multiple credit accounts, such as loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc., is a good thing, having too many can actually be detrimental. Opening new lines of credit for the sake of having them is not smart. Think long and hard about what line of credit seems right for you. Make wise choices!

 

Closing Accounts

If you already have multiple credit accounts and want to close a few in order to avoid fees, this is a good idea, however, it can backfire. Closing several accounts quickly can seem suspicious and hurt your score. The best possible way to avoid this is by closing out your accounts wisely and efficiently. Space out your cancellations and closures, as to not attract any unwanted attention.

 

Hard Inquiries

Here is where the world of credit can get a bit confusing. In order to open a line of credit, you must first have a credit check, and for certain types of credit accounts, you must go through a “hard credit inquiry.” Hard credit inquiries are usually associated with any kind of loan from a bank and are actually bad for your credit score. It is unfortunately an inevitable part of life, but it is not impossible to bounce back from. Usually a hard inquiry will slightly damage your score, but through months of on-time payments, your score will jump right back up. However, opening multiple lines of credit with hard inquiries can really do some damage.

 

Credit scores are tricky, but they are important. They are how most of us purchase cars, homes and attend college. And while it may seem like a strange and impossible world to understand, it is not. By taking the time to research your credit history and what lines of credit would be best for you, you can certainly have a fantastic credit score in no time. And you can always hire an accountant or financial consultant to assist. Good luck!

The Millennial Mindset

The Millennial Mindset

Millennials have been under a lot of scrutiny regarding their position in the current workforce. They have been label as lazy, entitled children who need a participation ribbon for everything they do. The older generation has created an unemployable stigma around young people attempting to enter the workforce. The lack of truth behind the stereotype may be a surprise for older generations.

 

The Stereotype

The climate of work has changed over the years. It was reported by CNN in 2016 that Millennials will have at least four jobs under their belt by the time they are 32. This differs from the previous generation of working for a single company for a lifetime. Millennials now have to maintain a skill set that can adaptable for different jobs and careers throughout their lifetime.

With technology savviness being the strongest skill of young people, Millennials have different ways of prioritizing work in terms of work climate and a better work-life balance. Young people are much more connected than ever with not only technology but with core beliefs of working hard. This different mindset could be the biggest separation between the generations.

 

The Truth

Millennials are actually secret workaholics. In a survey done by Project:Time Off and GfK, Millennials are most likely to not use all of their vacation days compared to other generations like Generation X or Baby Boomers, in the workforce. Their reputation of wanting longer personal time off and not wanting to work is actually not true. The report also says that Millennials make up half of the workforce and that 1 in 4 of Millennials are already in management positions. Employees who are millennials that choose to take time off tend to feel guilty for it as well, the report says. They are creating a different work atmosphere that allows for less time off with less pay.

The cycle of older generations insulting younger generations is nothing new. The difference with this generation is that technology plays a huge part in our daily life that changes the way we work and live. The current youth can access information much quicker than any generation prior to them.  Millennials are being blamed for the change of environment in the workforce but it may be changes beyond their control.

A Few Ways to Cut Your Taxes

A Few Ways to Cut Your Taxes

February is already here, which means that the tax deadline is drawing closer. There’s still plenty of time to file your taxes—the deadline is April 18th this year—but getting an early jump on them is never a bad thing. And with the apparent new tax laws coming in from Washington sometime soon, it’s a great idea on focusing your efforts on cutting your tax bill as much as you can for 2016. And according to a report from Time, TurboTax CPA Lisa Greene-Lewis states, “There are still plenty of last-minute moves people can make.”

If your occupational situation changed last year, whether it be bad or good, it might be in your best interest to reclaim a social security overpayment. In the same Time report, H&R Block Tax Institute Director Gil Charney states that if you changed jobs last year, with a combined income of over $118,500, you overpaid Social Security Tax. You could also save on any schooling that you’ve done last year with the Lifetime Learning Credit. The LLC can reduce your bill by up to $2,000 for single filers if your income didn’t exceed $65,000 or $131,000 for joint filers.

For any college graduates who are new to their respective fields, you have many tax breaks at your disposal. One such break is student loan interest deductions. If you can’t be claimed as a dependent, the loans are in your name and your income didn’t exceed $80,000 last year, a potential $2,500 can be deducted from you bill. Or, if you are currently paying for college, there are avenues that can help alleviate your bills. For example, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a great break, even more so than the Lifetime Learning Credit. If you earn less than $90,000, you could potentially save $2,500. Unfortunately, only the first four years of an undergraduate degree can qualify. Other than that, it’s amazing break.

Other large scale life events that are non work or occupation related could also prove as a potential boon for your bill. The birth of a child is one way to get a nice little tax break. As long as the child has a social security number or taxpayer identification number, you can claim a child tax credit of up to $1,000 per child, as well as an exemption for your bundle of joy. Or, if you’ve recently divorced, claim yourself as the “head of household.”

These are just a few of the dozens of ways to cut your tax bill for last year. For the full list, visit the original Time article here.

Adapting and Overcoming: inDinero’s Story

Adapting and Overcoming: inDinero’s Story

In the world of business, remaining stagnant is usually not the way to go. Changing business models tend to fare better in the long run, giving a company longevity. And with so many startups popping up at what seems to be a daily rate, it is difficult to avoid drowning in the endless sea of fresh-faced companies. And one accounting company found itself in that situation, but managed to turn it all around.

Founded in 2009 by Jessica Mah and Andy Su, inDinero is a successful accounting company that offers easy-to-use DIY accounting software, as well as an in-house team that handles bookkeeping and taxes. With approximately 200 employees, offices in New York, Portland and San Francisco, and millions of dollars in annual sales, inDinero is doing fine for itself. However, it was not always this way.

Back in 2012, after only 3 years of being in business, inDinero was struggling heavily. At the time, inDinero solely offered their software to customers and competition from competitors such as QuickBooks was heavy. A few bad hires and an almost depleted $1.2 million from investors did not make matters any better, and Mah quickly realized that her company was going under.

How did a company that was so clearly on the brink of collapse manage to come back and silence the naysayers? Through Mah and Su’s ability to adapt and overcome.

After laying off the company’s employees and moving into an apartment with Su, Mah used 2012 to reflect on the company’s situation. After looking at the business models of other, similar companies, she had realized that if inDinero was going to survive, it would need to completely readjust its business model.

In a New York Times interview with Mah, she mentioned that she spent countless hours interviewing other entrepreneurs and business people in order to figure out what type of services they needed. After her research, she concluded that inDinero would need to offer a service that would cost a few hundred dollars, and that did far more than simple software could.

So, they became an all-in-one shop for business. And now, inDinero handles accounting, tax and payroll services with a fully trained and seasoned staff. According to Mah, the revitalization was an immediate success, helping the company reach new sales and clients. Mah also believes that what helps inDinero stand out above the rest is its customer-service oriented business model.

“These bookkeepers aren’t helping these companies know more about their business and manage a better business,” Mah said. “So, inDinero, we can do accounting and tax, but really, the goal is we want to be their business management solution. At the end of the day, how do you help them run a better company?” she said in a recent article from Pymnts.

Stories such as these are incredibly inspirational to me and any business person for that matter. To see a company go through the ringer, only to learn from its mistakes and come out even stronger, is truly a great sight. Hopefully, for any starting entrepreneurs out there, this story has inspired you to never give up on your dreams, no matter how bleak the situation is.

The Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early

The Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early

Once again, it’s tax season. For many Americans, they wait until much closer to April 15th (technically April 18th this year, since the 15th falls on a Saturday). Unfortunately, waiting until too close to when taxes are due can make you lose money that you would have otherwise gotten back. Instead of waiting until the last minute and stressing about completing your tax return, here are some reasons why you should definitely take care of filing your taxes as soon as possible.

Faster refund

One of the benefits of filing your taxes as early as possible is that you’ll get your refund much more quickly. It can take weeks to see your tax return and that’s valuable money you could be using (sometimes, it can be a few thousand!). If you file your tax returns electronically, you’ll get your refund sent directly to your bank account, often weeks sooner than it would have been sent by mail.

Get information for other sources

For people who are planning on purchasing a house, applying for financial aid, or need a record of their household income, filing taxes early will allow you to complete all of this information by whenever you’d need it. You can start your other paperwork ahead of time and stay on top of filling it all out.

Won’t need an extension

Frequently, people apply for an extension on their taxes, usually citing financial difficulties and needing more time to gather the funds for paying their taxes. Instead of not enough money being an issue, it’s often a lack of organization or familiarity with what was needed. Starting early with filing your taxes gives you time to find any deductions you can use and papers you may need, so you avoid an extension and possible penalties that could cost you even more money.

Prevent identity theft

Identity theft occurs to numerous people each year during tax season. If your Social Security number was stolen at some point in the past, the thief can use it to file a false tax return and collect your tax refund, completely messing with your filing. These false claims occur early on in tax season, so filing your taxes sooner will prevent someone else from getting what’s owed to you.

Familiarize yourself with what’s needed

By filing early, you’ll have plenty of time to get together anything you might not already have to file taxes. If you need to familiarize yourself with new tax codes or find receipts or proof of deductions, you have weeks to gather these items if you start your taxes early instead of waiting until a week before your taxes are due.

Financial Ratios You Must Know

Financial Ratios You Must Know

If you’re running your own business, it’s important to have an understanding of the business’ financial standing. While a bank or financial advisor can evaluate your business for you, the equations they use can easily be done by you so you can check up on the financial state of your business and get a regular overview of your financial standing. Using these four ratios to frequently check the financial state of your business will help you improve in any areas and also stay on top of your financial situation.

Quick Ratio / Acid Test Ratio

(Cash + Marketable Securities + Net Accounts Receivable) ÷ Current Liabilities = Quick Ratio

This ratio allows business owners to evaluate whether or not they have enough money to cover their liabilities, such as loans, taxes, debts, and payroll. The higher your ratio is, the better, because it means that you’ll be able to invest more cash back into your business. If you have a ratio less than 1.0, it’s important to focus on paying off your debts before spending money on the business and putting yourself into more debt.

Cash Flow to Debt Ratio

(Net Income + Depreciation) ÷ Total Debt = Cash Flow to Debt Ratio

If you feel you’re having cash flow problems, this ratio could help you see if debt is harming your cash flow. Small businesses often fail due to too little cash flow, so it’s valuable to stay on top of this issue by regularly checking the ratio.

Net Profit Margin

(Total Revenue – Total Expenses) ÷ Total Revenue = Net Profit Margin

This ratio allows you to clearly see how much of a profit you’ve turned with your business. If you notice your net profit getting smaller, you should tighten your budget and focus on increasing that margin. If you’re scaling your business, this decrease is normal, but if there is some other reason your profit lowers, look into it immediately and see how to correct it.

Gross Profit on Net Sales

(Net Sales – Cost of Goods Sold) ÷ Net Sales = Gross Profit on Net Sales

Using this ratio lets you determine how much of a profit you’re making on your sales and whether services can be marked up or down. If your gross profit isn’t as high as you anticipated, you might be under-pricing your items and you should consider raising them. Regularly checking this ratio allows you to catch any issues because it can take a while to correct not making enough on sales. By constantly checking up on your gross profit on net sales ratio, you can fix issues sooner rather than later.

Check out the original article from Due Payments Blog that offers more information about each ratio.

Acorns For the Winter: Financial Literacy App

Acorns For the Winter: Financial Literacy App

Your personal finances are important. This is, hopefully, a fairly obvious statement. And as obvious a statement as it is, many Americans know very little about their finances. One particular group, millennials, apparently have a very bad understanding of what it means to budget money. And in the 21st century, the best way to reach millennials is through the technology that they seem to use every waking moment of their lives. One startup, Acorns, is looking to help the millennial generation understand their finances in a big way.

Formed in 2012 by Jeff and Walter Cruttenden, Acorns is a micro investment financing application that makes investing incredibly simple. Users add their credit card to the account, spend money like they normally would, and Acorns will take any spare change and invest it into worthwhile stocks. It is an ingenious idea that is being called the way to invest for millennials. And with over 1.3 million accounts, Acorns is becoming extremely popular.

Another large portion of Acorns’ mission is teaching financial literacy. According to a report from Acorns themselves, after conducting a survey of almost 2,000 millennial respondents, the lack of financial knowledge and budgeting is surprising. Of those surveyed, a whopping 73 percent do not have a budget, and with so many millennials either in debt or severely worried about it (Acorns’ survey shows that debt is the top concern for 40 percent of millennials), they must be educated on how to effectively manage a budget, as well as other personal finance aspects.

This is where Acorns’ goal for teaching financial literacy steps in. The investment company just recently launched a separate service titled Grow in which users can learn a bit more about personal finance techniques. The service, which is available through the main Acorns application, publishes content on financial literacy ranging anywhere from interviews with successful celebrities and financial gurus to in-depth “how-tos” on budgeting, taxes, investing, etc. Acorn CEO Noah Kerner, when asked about the results of the survey, was very adamant about the need for financial literacy, stating, “These numbers are staggering. I don’t accept that our schools think it’s okay to teach about sex but not money. We won’t sleep until we change the problem.”

Acorns is trying to change the way investing is done and taught. As the company continues to grow, hopefully they can reach their goal and improve financial literacy in millennials.