Friday, July 31, 2015

Say Cheese

When taking on the topic of personal finance, I love hearing the stories where that voice speaks to you from the heart and leads you on the path of happy and home. 

We made a visit today to Belle Chèvre in Elkmont, Alabama and met the charismatic and delightful owner, Ms. Tasia Malakasis(Chief Cheese Officer).  I first learned about this impressive lady in perusing old publications of Organic Gardening. She left a very successful and financially rewarding career in Internet technologies to venture back to her roots and become a queen in the world of award-winning cheese making. Since that article, she has appeared in countless magazines, news shows, and newspapers and now author of two culinary books.

Her list of accomplishments are impressive but upon meeting with her in person, I found that gold nugget I love most that I see in those who pursue their passion -that positive and happy energy that radiates from inside them and just makes them glow. 

She discovered her culinary passions by taking non-credit courses at the Culinary Institute of America while on a sabbatical from her corporate career. This led her to her discovery of Belle Chèvre cheese. She eventually left New York City, a big pay check, and the stress of corporate life to volunteer at Bell Chèvre and learned the art of cheese making. After 6 months, she purchased Belle Chèvre, has grown the company considerably, increasing the product portfolio, sales and distribution to many national retail stores. 

If ever on I-65 through Alabama, take a 5 mile detour to Elkmont and visit Belle Chèvre. Pay to take the guided tour and perhaps you will have the good fortune to meet Tasia. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Run Away Tax Fraud

Wherever we turn - national or local news, neighbor or co-worker - we hear about those who have been the target of state and federal tax fraud.  

The number of fraudulent tax returns is on the rise as criminals use stolen names and Social Security Numbers to forge W-2 information on electronically filed tax returns.  Most people do not realize that they have been a victim of identity theft until they try to file their tax return and discover that a criminal beat them to their refund.

The federal tax return fraud rate ranges between of 1% to 2%. States report an increase in fraudulent tax returns this year of 50% to 3,700%.

1.      File a report with your local police and with the FTC.
2.      Report fraud to IRS, Identity Protection Specialized Unit: 1-800-908-4490
3.      File a theft claim with the FTC: Send a copy of your police report or an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form, along with proof of your identity, to the IRS: 
4.      Put a fraud alert on your credit reports: 
5.      Order and monitor your credit report


Check out the FTC article on a comprehensive identity theft action document with step-by-step instructions on recovering from this crime. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sign Up for Health Care Coverage or Pay Penalty

The Affordable Care Act(ACA) – also known as Obamacare – is a law enacted to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance. It supports discounts (known as tax credits) on government-sponsored health insurance plans, and expanded the Medicaid assistance program to include more people. The law requires most Americans to have insurance by Feb 15 or pay a fine at tax time. The Obama administration extended the deadline to April 30, which is the end of the tax season, so to allow people who discover they would owe a fine, to still sign up for coverage. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that many uninsured are choosing the penalty over the opportunity to enroll in a healthcare insurance plan. Choosing to go without health insurance puts your assets at risk. If you consider yourself healthy, you can select a plan with low premiums. You will have higher out-of-pocket costs at the time of care than with more expensive plans, but you will still have protection against an acute episode of costly care, which if unprotected, can drive you to bankruptcy.

If you do not have health care insurance through your employer, and you are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, then you can buy a healthcare plan on www.healthcare.gov if your state participates in the federal program or else from your state’s health care website. For access to an up-to-date information on each state’s health insurance marketplace profile, check out http://kff.org/state-health-marketplace-profiles/.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Personal Finance and Passion

Personal Finance and Passion – we love it when the two come together. We meet people in all walks of life who exemplify the philosophy:  If you are doing what you love, you never have to work a day in your life. As we approach Valentine’s weekend, we are reminded how joyful that endeavor can be-- for the entrepreneur following their passion as well as those benefiting from their labor of love.

Through our Walker Homestead CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), we have the great privilege of hosting a Farmer’s Table dinner this Valentines weekend. Chef Chris Grebner is an extremely talented culinary artist. His passion is to bring together the food producer with the food consumer, over a four to seven course meal on the property where the food is produced. These evenings are exquisite with an eclectic group of people coming together to enjoy meeting new people, fine foods and conversation, and having their own beverage of choice in the beauty of a country setting.

Pursuit of his passion benefits his livelihood, that of the food producer and those who have the privilege to participate in his highly sought-after dinning events.  


Bon appetite.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Six Years of Car Payments Sounds Like A Student Loan

I just saw a TV commercial where they were offering 0% financing on a new car for 72 months; that's right - six years. The rule of thumb is to never finance a car for more than three years or 36 months and keep the car for at least six years. If you do that and then continue the amount of the car payment into your savings account for three or four more years, you will be able to pay cash for your next car.

We all know that money is not free, so if there is cash back offer or 0%, pay cash and take the discount.

I don't know about you, but ten years to pay off my student loans seemed to take forever. I personally couldn't stand for paying for a car over a six year period.

The problem with debt is that you are pledging future earning to the banker. In simple terms, you are enslaved to your lender. Vehicles depreciate over time –a vehicle is not an investment. At least with your student loans, it's an investment that pays off.

When you are debt free, all the money you make is for you (and the government in taxes). Being free of debt liberates you to pursue your passions and work for less doing something you love.   When you can turn your passions into profit, you never have to "work" a day in your life.

Be careful of low monthly payments. Dave Ramsey says "poor people ask how much down and how much a month. Rich people just ask how much."  Here it to you becoming rich and debt free.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Student Loan Repayment – Know Your Options

For the May graduates, 6 months from graduation is time to start repaying your student loans.  The Federal government wants its money back and provides many options for repayment.

First question you need to ask yourself: “Should I consolidate my student loans?
·        PRO: Consolidated loans simplifies your loan repayment by centralizing your loans into one bill, providing one payment, and can lower your monthly payment by providing you up to 30 year to repay your student loans. 

·        CON: You may lose any benefits offered with the original loan.  Once you combine your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, it’s a done deal and they cannot be unconsolidated.
After you decide if you are going to consolidate your loans or not, you need to choose a repayment plan.

The Federal Student Aid provides all the information you need to know for Federal Student Aid, Work-Study jobs and grants. Listed below is an overview of Direct Loan and FFEL (Federal Family education Loan) Program Loans repayment plans, noting information regarding repayments, deferments and forbearance. 
There are many companies out there who want to take your money to enroll you in government plans that you could do yourself.  Take caution of offers that seem “too good to be true” --because they probably are.

Overview of Direct Loan and FFEL (Federal Family education Loan) Program Loans Repayment Plans
Repayment Plan
Eligible Loans
Monthly Payments and Time Frames
Quick Comparison
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
 
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
 
All PLUS loans
Payments are a fixed amount of at least $50 per month.
 
Up to 10 years
 
You will pay off your loan in a shorter amount of time and you will pay less interest, however your payments could be higher.
 
Consider this plan if you can afford higher payments
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
 
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
 
All PLUS loans
Payments are lower at first and then increase, usually ever two years.
 
Up to 10 years
You will pay more for your loans over time than under the 10 year plan.
 
Consider this plan if you expect your income to start off low and then grow over time.
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
 
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
 
All PLUS loans
Payments may be fixed or graduated.
 
Up to 25 years
Your monthly payments would be lower than the 10-year standard plan
 
Must have at least $30,000 in outstanding Direct Loans OR $30,000 in FFEL Program loans.
 
Direct Loans and FFEL loans must remain separate.  You cannot combine Direct Loans and FFEL loans to reach the $30,000 threshold.
 
Must be a “new borrower” as of October 7, 1998
 
You will pay more interest over a longer period of time than the 10-year plan.
 
Consider if you have over $30,000 in qualified loans and cannot afford the 10-year or graduated repayment plans
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
 
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
 
All PLUS loans made to students
 
Consolidation Loans (Direct or FFEL) that do not include Direct or FFEL PLUS loans made to parents
Your maximum monthly payments will be 15 percent of discretionary income, the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence (other conditions apply).
 
Your payments change as your income changes.
 
Up to 25 years
 
You must have a partial financial hardship
 
Your monthly payment  will be lower than payments under the 10-year standard plan
 
You will pay more for your loan over time than  under the 10-year standard plan
 
If you have not repaid your loan in full after making the equivalent of 25 years of qualifying monthly payments, any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven
 
You may have to pay income tax on any amount that is forgiven.
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
 
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
 
All PLUS loans made to students
 
Consolidation Loans (Direct or FFEL) that do not include Direct or FFEL PLUS loans made to parents
Your maximum monthly payments will be 10 percent of discretionary income; the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence (other conditions apply).
 
Your payments change as your income changes.
 
Up to 20 years
You must be a new borrower on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.
 
You must have a partial financial hardship.
 
Your monthly payment  will be lower than payments under the 10-year standard plan
 
You will pay more for your loan over time than  under the 10-year standard plan
 
If you have not repaid your loan in full after making the equivalent of 20 years of qualifying monthly payments, any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven
 
You may have to pay income tax on any amount that is forgiven.
 
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
 
Direct PLUS Loans made to students
 
Direct Consolidation Loans
Payments are calculated each year and are based on your adjusted gross income, family size, and the total amount of your Direct Loans.
 
Your payments change as your income changes.
 
Up to 25 year
 
You'll pay more for your loan over time than under the 10-year standard plan.
 
If you do not repay your loan after making the equivalent of 25 years of qualifying monthly payments, the unpaid portion will be forgiven.
 
You may have to pay income tax on the amount that is forgiven.
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford  Loans
 
FFEL PLUS Loans
 
FFEL Consolidation Loans
Your monthly payment is based on annual income.
 
Your payments change as your income changes.
 
Up to 10 years
You'll pay more for your loan over time than you would under the 10-year standard plan.
 
Each lender's formula for determining the monthly payment amount under this plan can vary.
 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Savings

The garden is in and we are beginning to harvest the fruit (and vegetables) of our labor.  With this in mind, I got thinking about the benefits of a home garden.  You can do this even if you live in an apartment, using container gardens, or a small raised bed.  We are fortunate that we have the space for a big garden and even a coop for free reign chickens who provide us with fresh eggs.
With a little bit of time you can save big at the grocery store by planting what you eat.  Tomatoes are easy to grow and one to three plants will feed a family all summer. Leaf Lettuce and Swiss Chard will grow continuously till frost. If you have more than you can keep up with,  you can freeze or can to save them for winter.
Lettuce, beets, spinach and Swiss chard are now being harvested and it makes for great salads. We will be able to put in a second planting so we have these vegetables fresh going into fall.

Besides the fresh vegetables, other benefits include:
Ø  You save money by less shopping at the grocery store
Ø  You eat better with higher quality fresh vegetables
Ø  You have time to enjoy working in the garden and harvesting what you planted
Ø  You may loose weight because you are exercising more and eating better
Ø  You have a stress release from your busy workday.

To see what we are up to, check out our other blog:  https://walkerhomesteadcsa.blogspot.com

Happy savings, gardening, eating well, stress reducing, being healthy and happy.