In the News 06/30/2015

Beau Runningen, owner and founder of the new debt collection platform Settle4Less, has been developing his site for many years.

An online platform that targets consumers with delinquent debt, Settle4Less recruits creditors, service providers and collections agencies to register in its database and utilize its signature “debt capture method.”

According to Runningen, the debt capture method creates a safe way for consumers to take charge of their debt by offering them the ability to pay what they can without contacting or negotiating with a collector. Consumers can accept a one-time “take it or leave it” amount and pay it off online. Debts covered on the site include credit card, loan, insurance, medical and utility bills. Runningen believes that his method will revolutionize the debt collection industry.

Settle4Less practices are not prohibited under the FDCPA, but it remains unseen how this method will affect the collections industry.

For more information, visit http://www.pr.com/press-release/625272.

6 Rules for Job Interviews

job_interview

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in America holds 10 different jobs before the age of 40, and today’s youngest workers are projected to hold between 12 and 15 jobs in their lifetimes.

Far gone from the days of retiring after 40 years of working for the same company, interview skills are more crucial than they’ve ever been. Whether you’re interviewing for a job at a small business or a Fortune 500 company, check out these six tips for acing job interviews.

  1. Practice. Yes, you read that right. If the job you are interviewing for is important to you, then like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Pull a list of generic interview questions off of the Internet and have your spouse/parent/friend interview you. This will help eliminate nerves and allow you to formulate answers to standard interview questions in advance.
  1. Research the company. You should know the expectations of the company you are interviewing for before you go to an interview. Research the company’s mission statement and requirements and obligations of the positioning you are seeking.
  1. Dress professionally. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Regardless of the dress code at the business you are interviewing with, dressing professionally for an interview demonstrates respect and lets potential employers know that you are serious. Gentleman, you can’t go wrong with a suit and tie or a blazer and slacks. Ladies: no skirts above the knee, keep the heel height modest and the neckline appropriate. Fortune 500 interviews may warrant a power suit for both men and women in neutral colors like black, navy or gray.
  1. Arrive early. Punctuality is a vital asset in an employee—time is money as they say. Arriving late to a job interview immediately casts a negative shadow on you and leaves you flustered and anxious before the question and answer portion has even started.
  1. Ask questions. Once the relief settles in that no more questions are coming your way, feel free to ask your own questions. It is normal to have additional inquires about the company, the office environment or salary/benefits, and asking questions demonstrates a genuine interest to the interviewer.
  1. Follow up. A follow-up phone call or e-mail can be the thing that sets you apart from another potential employee. A day or two after your interview send a friendly e-mail or place a phone call letting your interviewer know that you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to hearing more from them regarding the position. This will help the proctor remember you in the case that he or she interviewed a large number of people for the same position. Common courtesy can go a long way.

In the News 06/23/2015

In the most recent ACA International Convention, seasoned attorneys presented on their experience defending against FDCPA claims involving allegations of emotional distress and interpreting “actual damages.”

The convention, which took place in Boston, promoted a legal education session called Shifting Sands: Court Interpretation of “Actual Damages” in an effort to engage active attorneys and experts on legal issues in a panel discussion on an increasingly common case faced by the credit and collection industry. Courts across the country have handed down disparate rulings regarding the emotional distress theory, and some jurisdictions have made is easier than others for plaintiffs to assert these claims.

For more information, visit http://www.acainternational.org/news-spotlight-on-legal-education-session-court-interpretations-of-actual-damages-36188.aspx.

5 Lunchtime Alternatives

Sitting at your desk all day can be mentally and physically draining, and when you work in an office environment, it may seem difficult to promote mental and physical health.

If you put in extensive hours at the office, you may have never given any thought to how you can utilize your work space, but no worries—we’re here to help! Even the smallest movements or the slightest changes to your routine can help reduce stress and increase productivity. Check out our five lunchtime alternatives for a happier, healthier work day!

1. Exercise at your desk
Exercise often becomes a scheduled even that you have to squeeze in before or after work, but you can do simple exercises right from your desk! Even moderate levels of movement throughout the day promote heart health and decrease the risks commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Waiting for a large document to print? Don’t just stand there! Try some low-impact calf raises by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and raising up on your toes. Hold the pose for a few seconds, and then lower yourself back down. Repeat this exercise until the document is finished!
  • While seated at your desk, straighten one or both legs out in front of you, and hold them in place for 10 seconds. Then raise your legs as high as you can for five more seconds. For added difficulty, hang your purse or something else with a little weight around your legs. You should feel this exercise in your calves and glutes.
  • For exercise and stress relief, sit with your feet flat on the floor, and clasp your hands together like you’re giving yourself a handshake. Pull your arms in opposite directions without letting go. The resistance should be felt in your biceps, but it’s also a great way to release a little tension. Hold it for 15 seconds, release and repeat

2. Stretch
Simple stretches for your neck, back and shoulders can do wonders for your productivity! If you’re tense due to stress, try keeping a stress ball at your desk, taking a lap around the office or stepping outside for a moment to get some fresh air.

3. Pack your lunch at home
It is a lot easier to stick to your guns about eating healthier when you pack your own meals. Throw in a wrap, fruits, vegetables and snacks like cheese, nuts and granola. Fast food is quick and cheap, but it will cost you a lot of money over time—not to mention your health. If you don’t have time to pack your lunch, try ordering the salad or another healthy option from the menu.

4. Take a walk
Depending on the length of your lunch break, try taking a walk. If you have an hour lunch, a leisurely walk can promote health and help clear your mind. If you only have 30 minutes, try a brisk walk around the office or parking lot to stretch your legs and jump start your productivity.

5. Socialize
Sitting in your cube or office alone all day staring at your computer can take a toll on your mind and cause you to lose momentum. Socialize with your coworkers during breaks or at lunch to bolster your motivation.

In the News 06/16/2015

Unwanted calls and texts are the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). In an effort to address these complaints, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has created a proposal to shield consumers from unwanted automated calls, spamming text messages and telemarketing calls. If the proposal is adopted, it will close loopholes and strengthen the guidelines set forth in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The proposal is considered the most significant FCC consumer protection action since the establishment of the Do-Not-Call Registry by the FTC in 2003. It will be voted on at the Commission’s Open Meeting on June 18. If passed, this ruling will have a significant impact on the financial services industry, according to an article by attorney Maurice Wutscher. Businesses that call customers’ cell phones using an automated dialing system will need prior consent from the consumer.

It remains unseen how debt collection calls will be affected by the TCPA ruling.

For more information, you can view Chairman Wheeler’s Fact Sheet or visit http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=6eb753a3-10ea-4d84-bdab-99f5fc899d3a.

The Power of Networking

networking-woman

In the world of small businesses, networking is everything.

Being well connected leads to opportunities to expand your business, obtain new clients and employees and get the word out about who you are and what you do.

While advertising and social media have certainly changed the world of marketing, word-of-mouth and face-to-face meetings are still the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal.

Networking allows small business owners and employees to make personal connections and stand out among the crowd, and people are more likely to do business with someone they like, trust and remember.

Use networking as an easy, effective resource for your business with these tips:

  1. Be articulate. While networking is an opportunity to be more personal, time is still important and valuable. Be able to articulate the highlights of your business operations without hesitation so you can make the most of your time and meet as many people as possible.
  1. Make strategic connections. If you are attending a networking event, conference or social event, be sure to make strategic connections. That is not to say you should snub anyone who wants to talk to you, but try to spend your time talking to people in a similar field or whose relationships could benefit your company in the future.
  1. Do your homework. A great networking tip is to know who’s who before you go to an event. Obviously you won’t know everyone, but you should be able to recognize important business figures, CEOs, etc. and call them by name.
  1. Become a strong resource. When you are helpful to your new connections, they will remember. Within the guidelines of ethical behavior, sharing resources, information and ideas with your new connections will in turn prompt them to do the same for you.
  1. Keep in touch. The best way to make networking work for you is to not let it be a one-time thing. If you meet someone that you think could benefit your business or who you would like to work with in the future, keep in touch. Express that you enjoyed meeting them and exchange contact information.

Don’t be intimidated by networking. The bottom line is that meeting people and showing them you are passionate about your work will lead to bigger and better things.

In the News 06/09/2015

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently conducted a study to measure consumers’ understanding of reverse mortgages. Like many financial options, advertisements and explanations for reverse mortgages found on TV, in print and online depict happy people that are using their extra money to live fuller lives. However, many people do not completely understand what a reverse mortgage is.

A reverse mortgage is a special loan that allows homeowners age 62 or older to borrow against the accrued equity of their homes. According to the CFPB, many people believe a reverse mortgage is a government benefit for senior citizens. However, a reverse mortgage loan must be paid back in full when the borrower dies, moves or no longer lives in their home.

The CFPB study looked at multiple ads and platforms and found that most have incomplete or inaccurate information to describe the loans and that most of the important loan requirements were buried in the fine print, leaving borrowers with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are risk-free.

Many participants involved with the study did not know that reverse mortgages had to be repaid, that they had attached interest or that they could lose their homes if they did not satisfy the loan requirements.

For more information, visit: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/consumer-advisory-dont-be-misled-by-reverse-mortgage-advertising/.

3 Best Apps for Managing Your Money

teaching-theres-an-app-for-that-videoplaceholder

Many people find themselves in debt because they don’t manage their money well. There is a negative stigma on debt, but it is often the result of a series of small mistakes such as forgetting to pay off a credit card bill, not regularly checking bank account balances, not moving any money into savings or forgetting to make student loan payments and getting behind.

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

You can find an app for almost anything these days—editing photos, meeting new people, tracking your steps, booking a flight and even figuring out what song is playing on the radio. Take a look at these top user-rated apps for managing your money conveniently from your smartphone!

  1. Mint

Often touted as one of the best financial apps available, Mint is a collection of different apps for managing money. For example, Mint Bills lets you set up bill payments directly from your phone, while Mint Personal Finance keeps a log of all of your recent transactions and allows you to create and track budgets and credit scores.

You can manage your earnings, spending and savings via your bank account, mutual funds, 401(k) and/or IRA. Mint will alert you if you go over budget, overdraw your bank account or if an unauthorized payment was made using your debit or credit card (to help prevent fraudulent purchases).

Mint is available for iOS, Android and Windows, and it is free to download!

  1. Expensify

Expensify has both an app and web interface, so you can check your information from any of your devices. It is rated high in easy navigation and usability and offers four main features: SmartScan, Add Expense, Track Time and Track Distance.

The SmartScan feature allows you to take pictures and categorize your receipts. Expensify can use these receipts to generate reports and track your spending habits. This feature is mirrored in the Add Expense button, which allows manual entry.

  1. HealPay Reminders

healpayLast month, a Michigan-based company called HealPay released an app unique to their innovative bill pay solution—SettlementApp. HealPay’s “reminders” allow consumers to opt-in and create bill reminders via SMS and e-mail. Reminders allows for custom messaging, real-time delivery and unlimited reminders. This app, in conjunction with their online SettlementApp, reduces overhead and automates operations for companies that receive routine, reoccurring payments while reminding their consumers at no cost—a win-win for all parties. Learn more at http://healpay.com.

With today’s technological advances and a free app for managing nearly every aspect of your life, do your research and take advantage of the tools that can help you rest well knowing nothing has been forgotten!

In the News 06/02/2015

In a 9-0 decision on Monday, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that underwater homeowners, or homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth, cannot get rid of their second mortgage by filing for bankruptcy. All nine justices agreed that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection does not allow for canceling a second mortgage.

The original case involved two Florida homeowners who argued that a second mortgage is paid after the first and is essentially worthless after filing bankruptcy. However, SCOTUS sided with lenders who fought to keep the second mortgage liens, such as home-equity loans, citing the constant shift in the property market in their decision. The justices agreed that when the value of real estate changes, the second mortgage could be paid off in full.

For more information, visit http://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-underwater-homeowners-cant-void-second-mortgages-in-bankruptcy-1433173699.

How to Choose the Right Credit Card for You

Credit Card Reform Legislation Would Tighten Rules On Rates And FeesMany people fall into debt as the result of charging too much to their credit card(s). In general, credit cards should be used to buy things you need or want to make payments on—not to buy things you want but can’t afford.

While some people choose not to have one at all, having a credit card is almost a necessity in today’s economic environment. Many young people apply for credit cards to begin building credit in the hopes of one day securing a loan to buy a house, car or a even a small business. Having a credit card and using it responsibly are great ways to manage your money, but with so many to choose from, how do you know which is the right fit for you?

Check out these tips for choosing the right credit card!

1. Check your credit score. When choosing a credit card, you first need to see which ones are available to you. If you have a low credit score, it may be the ones with sky-high interest rates and baseline spending limits due to your credit history. While making purchase and paying them off with a credit card will help boost your credit score, you may want to consider other ways to improve your credit.

2. Don’t get blinded by rewards. In the colorful world of marketing, there are hundreds of impressive commercials about travel rewards and cash back. However, be sure to read the fine print. Advertisements fail to mention important information like annual fees, minimum payment requirements, penalties and reward caps.

3. Consider your lifestyle. There are several specialty credit cards that are geared toward specific groups like college students and small business owners. If you travel a lot for business, check for cards with point systems that reward you for hotel stays, airfare and car rentals. If you are a stay-at-home mom or dad, consider cards that allow you to earn points on gas and groceries.

No matter which card you choose, make sure you pay your bill on time to avoid penalties and high interest rates.