Mar 012013


Joe Duran’s new book, The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now, might just be one of the better books on helping you take control of your financial life.

Unlike a lot of personal finance books, The Money Code avoids the usual stale tips and tidbits that you’ll traditionally find and presents a more vivid journey to help put your finances in order. It offers a personal story that engages you while helping to learn something about yourself and your relationship with money.

The book has garnered some great reviews, both in the press and on Amazon customer reviews, and has recently found itself on the New York Times bestseller list! You can buy the book here and learn quite a bit more about the book on Duran’s website:

JoeThe Money Code is Duran’s third book. Joe John Duran is CEO and founding partner of United Capital, a top-ranked and fast growing wealth counseling firm, and he has been profiled in a number of publications such as Smart Money and the NYTimes.

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Nov 212012

With the wealth of online financial tools out there, it’s becoming easier for consumers to manage their own business interests. Accounting, investing, and tax filing software can be handy when it comes time to work out a budget or file your taxes. However, there are certain situations in which it may be beneficial to speak to a financial advisor.

Investment Management

If you’ve never invested before, putting your money in the hands of a professional is usually the best course of action. Yet many small-time investors with a bit of experience can manage their own portfolios up to a certain point. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed by your assets or are second-guessing your decision, these are good signs that you may be in need of some financial assistance. Receiving an inheritance, planning for retirement, or gaining control over a new series of accounts are all reasons to consider professional money management.

Time is another factor to consider. If you have the time to research your investment option thoroughly and have some background in this field, you may feel comfortable handling your own accounts. Yet many people don’t have the time to stay on top of their portfolio. In these cases, using a professional advisor from a firm like Lombard Odier can make sense, as they will be able to monitor and evaluate your portfolio as needed.

Tax Assistance

Most individuals with uncomplicated finances will be able to file their own taxes each year. However, if you are a small business owner, self-employed, or have a variety of assets, it’s worth hiring a tax professional to help out with your taxes. They may be able to help you with deductions that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, and will organize your finances so that you stand less of a chance of getting audited. Small business owners can benefit from filing quarterly tax estimates throughout the year, to avoid missing any payments or getting stuck with a huge bill at the end of every tax year.

Small business owners or self-employed individuals aren’t the only ones who will want to hire an accountant or tax planning expert. Those with large volumes of assets in multiple locations will need to find ways to avoid paying steep penalties. A little bit of professional knowledge can go a long way in these cases.

Estate Planning

Anyone with significant assets or minor children should think about hiring a financial professional to draw up estate planning documents. These could include a will as well as a family trust. The major advantage of choosing to use a financial professional for this purpose is that they will be able to protect you from gift, inheritance, and estate taxes which can leave your heirs with a much lower sum than what you intended to give them. Hiring a professional estate planner from Lombard Odier will help take the guesswork out of drawing up wills and trusts, so that your minor children and assets are both well looked after. However, if you don’t have any children and minimal assets, you can probably get by with a basic will. There are forms which can be downloaded online and filled out with some basic legal research.

Consumers are now in a better position than ever before to conduct their own financial research. Yet when it comes to managing more complicated financial assets, a professional opinion can be worth the cost.

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Oct 022012

Economists at Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Business School claim that they have devised a manner in which money can be made from spread betting. The idea first appeared in a paper delivered at the Royal Economic Society’s Annual Conference by Dr Leighton Williams and Dr David Paton. The paper, entitled Forecasting outcomes in spread betting markets: can bettors use ‘quarbs’ to beat the book?, is available online. Dr Williams is Head of Economics Research at the first institution named, while Dr Paton is Senior Lecturer in Industrial Economics at the second and edited The Economics of Gambling and National Lottieries.

The method could be tested for free using a spread betting training account. The two economists studied one of the most  heavily- traded markets that of the number of bookings points of Premier League football matches. Ten points were awarded for every yellow card and 25 for every red card, which leads to dismissal from the field. In the period studied, there was an average of 40 points per match, and a maximum of 125.

The key is to take advantage of different odds offered by different spread betting companies, so it is necessary to have accounts with the companies involved. An example would be if one bookmaker offered odds of 3:1 for England to win a football match against Brazil, while another offered 3:1 on Brazil winning. This is an arbitrage position, where it is possible to buy high with one company and sell low with another, making profit certain. Spread betting companies have been known to restrict the amount of money that can be bet in such a situation and it is said that accounts have been closed as a result. Situations where prices are different but less than an arbitrage are known as quasi-arbitrages, or quarbs.

The economists say that following their method would have led to success in more than 60 percent of matches in the last two seasons: 86 out of 140. A punter betting a mere £5 per point in each case would have gained almost £5,000 in two years.

Dr Williams says that if punters bet sensibly, they can turn the odds in their favour. He adds the note of caution always seen at the websites of spread betting providers, that spread betting is infamously volatile and it is possible to lose much money in a short space of time.

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Aug 252011

Stock Trading ChartThe Stock Market is one of the few places where you have the option of investing a small amount of money and earning large returns. But to invest in the stock market, you obviously need to have a representative who can buy and sell stock for you or broker your deals on the stock exchange.
There are basically two different kinds of brokerage services available out there. One is the full service broker and the other is discount online broker. Both these kinds of brokers have their pros and cons and the kind of service that you select would ultimately be dependent upon your needs and your budget. This article is dedicated to finding out the differences in the kind of service that is provided by these two kinds of brokers. Continue reading »
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Aug 142011

MarketridersInvesting online has really opened up a lot of opportunities for smaller investors. Whereas in years past when investing in the stock market was the exclusive domain of the well-heeled the ability to buy stocks has been opened up to those with more modest means. However, even with the relatively lower fees that brokerage companies now charge to trade or the lower charges found in mutual funds, these costs can really eat into your profits quickly. This is where an Online Portfolio Manager can really help you enter the market intelligently and affordably. has really opened up the market for smaller investors or just those folks that like to avoid the unnecessary costs found with even the more reasonable online brokerage firms. The company provides a very easy to use, intuitive Do It Yourself portfolio management system wherein you can create a balanced portfolio with using asset allocation to determine how aggressively you want to tackle the markets.

The real trick to MarketRiders system, and the way it ultimately helps you save money, is building a portfolio using Exchange Traded Funds or ETFs. These funds are managed automatically by computer but are essentially a collection of individual securities focusing on different sectors. The fees to run such funds are much lower than similar instruments like mutual funds and these savings are passed on to the investor.

The portfolio that MarketRiders can build for you relies on choosing ETFs that are appropriate to your investment goals, and using their Portfolio rebalancing software your portfolio can be adjusted as needed to meet your specific asset allocation.  The company offers a free trial and a low monthly fee thereafter.  It’s definitely worth taking a spin for a month to see what you think, and if nothing else, you’ll learn quite a bit about the different options that are becoming available with ETFs and online portfolio management systems.

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Aug 072011

Online Discount BrokersBefore online discount brokerage firms like ScottTrade, Zecco, TradeKing and others, trading in the stock exchange was reserved for those who had the resources to pay the large fees that stock brokers charge their clients. This barrier for the smaller trader was overcome with the emergence of a brand new concept; the advent of a discount online broker. A discount online broker provides brokerage service at a much lower cost than a traditional full-service brokerage. This is due to the fact that a discount brokerage provides you with the most basic of services and unlike a full-service broker does not provide personalized advice.

These days there are several different discount brokers which have entered the market, and due to this it has become very difficult to find out which broker is good and which is not worthy of your business. This article should give you a starting point for what you need to look for in a discount broker and help you decide which online broker is the best for you.

  • The first and foremost thing that you need to know before selecting a discount broker is the kind of instrument that you are interested in investing. There are several different types of brokers: discount stock brokers, discount commodity brokers, and discount real estate brokers and your choice is surely going to be affected by the type of instrument that you are planning to invest in.
  • The next thing that you need to determine is how much commission is being charged. In terms of commission, there are two types of discount brokers: standard discounters and deep discounters. Standard discounters have fees which are generally 50% less than full-service brokers and deep discounters have fees which are between 60 to 90% lower than full-service brokers.
  • Another important thing that you need to take care of is whether there are any hidden fees associated with trading through a particular broker. There are brokers which have several hidden fees and you need to be wary of those brokers. Make sure there are not penalties for a certain size of trade or limitations placed on the types of stocks you want to buy.
  • Another important aspect that you need to keep in consideration is whether the customer service of the brokerage firm is at par with the industry standard. You would not want to invest with someone who does not even answer your queries. You can test this level of customer service before hand by calling their sales team before hand, but understand that a sales call will likely be more friendly and helpful than a technical one.
  • The kind of value added services offered by the broker is another aspect that needs to be taken care of. Most of the discount brokers out there offer to their clients’ services such as telephone stock quotes, free check writing privileges and dividend reinvestment service. Think about the kind of things that might be important to you in your broker and identify those particular services.

These are some of the things that need to be look for in a discount online broker like TradeKing, ScottTrade, Zecco or others before investing your money with their firm.  Ultimately, an online discount broker is a great way of investing in the stock market at a very low cost, but you want to be careful and do you homework before you open an account and attempt trading online.


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Aug 032011

Option trading is something that is gaining popularity these days as investors are looking for novel ways to trade and make money. This is due to the fact that even though the amount of risk involved is very high, there is an increased potential for higher profits. The advantage of investing in options is that you can very easily maximize your money when there is rise in value of stocks. In order to generate huge profits you have to be confident in how the market is going to move in the future.

So what really is option trading? To put it simply, when you buy an option you have the right to later buy or sell a given stock for a particular price in the future. This means that you can either buy or sell a share in the future based on a price that is determined when you are buying the option. In every option transaction, there are two kinds of options, called the “call” and the “put”. The call option is used to lock in the price for a stock in the future, whereas the put option gives you the ability to sell your stock at the locked in price.

Option trading is a risky proposition because you need to have through understanding of the market to accurately predict the future prices of a share. This means that before investing in options you need to be well informed about the market and you need to understand what drives the market and by how much.

One of the most important aspect that you need to take into consideration while investing in options is the amount of risk you are willing to take. This involves determining the amount of money you are willing to risk and the kind of options you are going to invest in. Option trading requires that you have a secure financial position, so that any losses can be dealt with without any kind of problems.

One of the pre-requisites of trading in options is that you should be able to understand the market in and out. If you do not have the knowledge and you are not willing to learn, then you would only lose by investing in options. For most of the investors, it is the risk associated with options which attracts their attention. People who are risk averse in nature generally trade in options.

These are some of the things which need to be incorporated in oneself if he or she wishes to trade in option. The most important thing that needs to be understood and remembered about option trading is that it is a rewarding platform but those rewards come with a price, i.e. the risk involved. Thus effort needs to be put on developing skills which balance these risks and rewards.

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Jul 272011

Interest rates on savings accounts and CDs have taken quite a beating these last few years. At this point it’s really hard to even find anything much better than 1% to 1.5% APY on any type of personal savings account. There are, however, some pretty good resources available to hunt for the best interest rates.

Google has got into the game recently, offering a comparison engine at Google Advisor. As with all things Google, the interface is refreshingly clear and uncluttered and navigating the site is quite simple.  You can find the best interest rates on CDs as well as savings and checking accounts.  You can also find current offers on mortgages and an assortment of credit cards too.  You can sort by a number of criteria like APY, fees, minimum amounts and so forth.  Currently, as of this writing, the best interest rate on a standard savings account is 1.15% APY and the best 1 year CD rate is 1.33%.

Another, familiar option, for checking out a number of competing banks can be found at Also fairly easy to use, but much more cluttered than the Google Advisor interface.  At Bankrate they mix their ads in with the search forms, presumably to get you to click on the ads of course, and it makes for a less pleasant experience overall. Unlike Google, however, there are some more search options available like College Finance, auto loans, retirement and a few more.  The best rate on a standard savings account at at the time of writing is now, like Google, 1.15% APY and it also matches the other engine for 1 year CD rates at 1.33%.

A final, popular, option for searching for good interest rates is  The interface and navigation falls somewhere between the prior two–not quite as simple as Google’s but much cleaner than bankrate. Unlike the other two, however, the results are less than satisfying with only a few featured returns and than a list of results with no links and not much information.  The best rate here for a savings account appeared to be 1.04% APY, though there were a number of higher rates listed for local banks with specific requirements (minors, residency, etc.) and the best CD rate was 1.19%, but only returned one listing and, again, a bunch of other results that you would presumably have to hunt down on your own.

Overall, the best approach to finding a good rate would probably be to stick with Google Advisor and Bankrate.  You can also just do a simple Google search and scan the Adword ads on the top and side to get a sense of which banks and financial institutions are running promotions and trying to get your business.

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Jul 162011

We have on occasion explored the different ways to use your money in order to better understand the options available for personal investing. These assorted methods have included investment options like standard savings accounts, CDs, bonds, the stock market, IRAs and other assorted vehicles that can be used to try and generate a return, be it for savings, investments, retirement planning or any other personal finance goal. Another option that might be appropriate for some folks looking to place their money is in a money market account (MMA).

An MMA is an investment alternative to some of the other common methods and it has some advantages that make it a unique choice. Basically, a money market account is like a savings account and can be opened at banks that offer MMAs, like Aurora Bank FSB.  The difference from a standard account is that the money is deposited into a fund that is administered by the bank, which invests the money is safe places like government bonds.  The yield of an MMA is slightly higher than a normal savings account and the interest rate is usually increased depending on the balance, with accounts over $100,000 normally offering the best rates.  The funds in these accounts are protected with the backing of FDIC insurance up to $250,000.

A money market account is a good way to balance the risk in a well-diversified portfolio.  Certainly, there aren’t going to be great gains made as might be seen with other, riskier options, but they do offer a place to put a portion of your funds for safekeeping while still drawing a return on your money.  You can usually draw money out of a money market account a limited number of times per month, usually about six times with penalty, so you money is still available to you and your account is very liquid. Obviously, however, this wouldn’t be the type of an account for your regular expenses or a replacement for a checking account.

An MMA is really best suited as a safe place to keep your money on a short-term basis for things like emergency living expenses. The stock market is obviously too volatile for these types of funds and other types of investment options are not as liquid.  On the other hand, a traditional checking or savings account does not usually offer as good a yield as a money market account. It is not really a place to keep all of your funds due to the limitations listed above, however, there’s clearly a place for some percentage of your investments dollars in a well-rounded portfolio for an MMA.

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Jul 062011

If you aren’t trading online already, you’ve probably at least done a little research on finding a good online broker for stock trading, options, ETFs, IRA accounts, mutual funds or some other investment vehicle. The choices are quite vast and can be a bit confusing at best. Everyone seems to offer a great deal with unbeatable services and prices. You have to be careful, however, that you aren’t simply choosing a broker with the best advertising budget.

Online trading is serious business and there’s a lot of money to be made from the firms offering these services. Many companies will do a lot to attract customers but might not always be prepared to follow through with the quality of service you should expect. is an online brokerage firm that provides the opportunity to trade online with competitive costs and with 25 years of service to back up their business.  They have a great website with a lot of information to research the best types of trading to fit your particular investment strategy and if you choose to open an account you can expect to get good service and a fair price, what they call “Low Cost, High Standards.” The also have the ability for you to do mobile trading with a cross platform interface as well as an Iphone app for trading.

Check their website for current promotion deals as well.  They often offer deals such as 250 free trades, refer a friend for $50, and free account transfers.  See their promo page for the most current offers.

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Jul 042011

Unless you haven’t been paying attention, you’ve definitely noticed that gold has been in the news quite a bit for the last year or two. Prices are continuing to rise and personal investors are looking to buy gold bullion as a way to hedge against inflation. This is likely a good strategy in the long-term since gold is consistently a stable investment and bullion is one of the easiest ways to get into gold in order to preserve wealth and add some growth to your investment portfolio.

Buying gold bullion can be a taunting task if you’re not familiar with the market and you’ll want to make sure you’re not only getting a fair price for the gold but that you’re working with people who can be trusted to educate you on your purchase and deliver exactly what you need.  You can  buy bullion from a host of different online sites, and there certainly a lot of competing gold companies out there, but you’ll definitely want to stick with a company that has been around for awhile and has a strong track record of selling gold. can sell you the gold you’re looking for as well as provide a lot of information so you know exactly what you’re getting.  They even offer a free Gold Coin Guide so you can learn exactly what to buy and what you want to avoid.  Go ahead and check out their site and get familiar with buying gold and the types of services that Gold Coin Gain can provide.



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Jun 262009

This has not been the best time to earn some good interest on your money. If you are trying to keep your money in low interest investments or accounts, you really don’t stand much to gain. Most online savings accounts are running around the 1.5% APY mark, and the best you can expect from a shorter-term CD (ie 6 months to a year) is around the 2.0% range. You can stretch that interest rate out to around 3 – 3.5% if you’re willing to tie your money up for 5 years, but that is probably not a wise move at these low rates. I mean, really, interest rates have nowhere else to go but up at this point.

So, what options do you have right now?

Well, John Waggoner over at USA Today suggests looking into municipal bond funds if you’re willing to risk a little bit more. Currently, you can get around 3.5% yield, which isn’t really that great, but beggars can’t be choosers. As Waggoner puts it, “muni rates are higher than usual. A 10-year, high-grade muni now yields 3.54%. Someone in the 28% tax bracket would have to earn 4.92% in a taxable bond to get 3.55% after taxes.”

This might be a good option for someone looking for a slightly better yield that a CD or money market account though the risk of loss begins to creep into the picture.

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Jan 302008

We’ve had a few discussions about the possibility of an upcoming recession including saving money for a recession as well as recession proofing your portfolio.

Well, the buzz about an upcoming recession hasn’t died off since then and people are still concerned. CNN/Money had a “ask the expert” column recently about investing in a recession. There’s definitely some sound advice in there, and he ends with a strong point: “But whatever you do, don’t get fixated on the recession buzz. A buzz is a distraction, not a basis for an investing strategy.” Keep things in perspective and remember the long-term.

Jan 082008

A common problem for the small investor is building up enough capital to make investments in a particular stock that might be appealing. So what exactly can you do if you only have enough money to buy a dozen shares or so of a stock?

Money Magazine has a short article on this issue, concluding in the end that it’s better just to stick to a mutual fund rather than shoot for a few shares in an individual stock.

We’ve talked a bit about buying index funds, and this might be just the option for a small investor looking to get his or her feet wet.

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Jan 072008

People love lists and when it comes to personal finance and investing ideas, this is no exception. Listing the ten ways to save for retirement or the six best places to invest your money are always easy to read and usually have a bit of something interesting to say. Of course, it’s hard to really get any vital information from these snippets, but at least they get the ball rolling.

The WSJ has yet another little article featuring six money mistakes that people make that could end up costing them a lot of money later on. Some basics here we see frequently such as paying needless fund fees and investing too conservatively during retirement. But, there’s some interesting ones such as starting a divorce war and maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle. Some interesting ideas here and it’s always a good idea to remind yourself what you might be doing better to protect and grow your financial security.

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