MORE than Finances

Get your finances in order, and get on with your life!

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How to Get Legal Advice

hammer-719068_640If you’re running a business, it’s vital to know how to get legal advice. If there is any legal point you are uncertain on, seeking advice in advance is a cost well worth paying to avoid larger penalties later. Not paying for an expert’s input is the worst kind of false economy.

That still leaves the question of where to go for your legal advice. There are many different kinds of law specialist, dividing barristers from solicitors, and each of these kinds of lawyer divide further into different specialisms. The lawyer you want to read a contract before you sign it is not necessarily the ideal one to advise you if a customer has injured themselves on your premises and seeks reparations.

Barristers spend most of their time representing clients in court. Ideally, you will not need the services of a barrister, as our aim is to take advice early and negotiate to avoid getting as far as court. You’ll mostly be speaking to solicitors.

Solicitors represent clients and give advice in all sorts of legal situations. While they can appear in court with sufficient training (where they are referred to as ‘my friend’, rather than ‘my learned friend’), they mostly support clients with advice and documents.

You’ll need to find business solicitors who can meet your needs. Whether you’re working mostly with property and need a conveyancing solicitor, or want a commercial solicitor who specialises in reviewing contracts, there are two main ways to find what you need.

LawyerLocator is a handy tool for finding legal firms near you, that also shares community reviews and information so can assess if they are right for you. The nearest firm might not be the best one – it’s worth travelling a little longer to find someone who specialises in what you need, and reviews tell you gives a great service.

You could also consult your network – a personal recommendation from a trusted peer is the best endorsement of a business. You’ll likely know a number of other people in a similar situation to you, either working in your industry or simply facing the same challenge of a running a small business in your area. Talk to them about who they use for their legal needs. They may be able to recommend a hidden gem who is absolutely perfect for what you need from a legal consultant.

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Government Programs to Help Sick People

woman-698964_640An illness or disability is stressful enough in its own right. Factor in the costs of paying for your illness, and you might already feel a pit in your stomach. Stress is bad for your health, and financial constrains shouldn’t prevent you from being able to lead a long and healthy life. A number of government programs cover all or a portion of the costs associated with life with an illness.

Social Security Disability Insurance

People who become disabled who have also worked a certain number of years—with the right number determined by the age at which you become disabled—are eligible to receive monthly benefits in the form of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The waiting period is five months, and you must not have significant income from a regular job. If you’re eligible for SSDI, you can expect a monthly check that will help cover living expenses, medical bills, and other costs of life with a disability. Note that most SSDI benefits aren’t enough to fund the full cost of medical bills. Most recipients receive between $700 and $1700 per month.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is often confused with SSDI. That’s because it also provides cash benefits to people too disabled to work. SSI, however, is based on need—not previous work history or income. The base payment amount is $735, regardless of income, work history, or other factors. However, the actual amount for which you are eligible changes with marital status and other income. The cap on total benefits for married couples is $1,103 per month.

Medicaid

Most people know that low-income people can qualify for Medicaid. Your health, however, can also qualify you. Children, pregnant women, recipients of SSI, and most people with disabilities also qualify. Medicaid covers most, but not all, medical expenses. It almost always covers basic health needs, such as preventative care, vaccines, and medications you need to treat your illness. Some states charge premiums, which means that recipients use Medicaid just like any other health insurance program. A number of supplemental programs, however, offer assistance with premiums and other out of pocket expenses.

Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits

Disabled veterans and veterans with health issues should consult their local Veterans Affairs (VA) office before pursuing other options. Veterans are entitles to a wider range of benefits than civilians, and often can continue working while still receiving these benefits. Veterans can get more than $3,000 in monthly benefits. Those include cash payments, housing and other forms of assistance, and access to VA hospitals. Some veterans may also qualify for job assistance programs or re-training programs. Veterans’ benefits often extend to their dependents or spouse, so you may also be able to support your family through these programs.

State Level Programs

States offer a wide range of programs that extend beyond and build upon those offered by the federal government. Some are in the form of grants or specific training and skills assistance. Other programs offer cash assistance.

Unfortunately, scams are also common. Some scammers are impressively deceptive, and appear to be true government workers. To find a program in your area that’s not fraudulent, check out the Benefits.gov site, which offers access to state programs and a brief description of each program’s offerings.

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Five Home Improvement Tips that Will Increase the Value of Your Home

paint-2247394_640There are many ways to improve the look of your home and increase its value without breaking the bank. Whether it’s in need of freshening up or you have decided to put it on the market, a little bit of work can make a big difference for very little cost. The five home improvement tips that will increase the value of a home for a first time homebuyer are listed below.  If you are a first time home buyer, perhaps looking to buy a house in Bradenton, Fl these tips can help you save money on a purchase and immediately add value to your home.

If you have decided to sell, a few minor home repairs can increase the value by as much as 20% in today’s market. By taking an objective walk through your home, you can note the areas that need some minor repairs and develop a completion plan while keeping your budget in control.

Make A Plan

Though updating the entire house in your primary goal, here are the key areas to focus your attention and your budget on for the best results.

Paint

A good quality neutral coat of paint on all walls and trim can increase the value of a home almost immediately. Done either by a professional or as a DIY project, this is the first step in your homes new life. Repairing any trim and replacing broken or faded switch plates is also an easy fix for a low cost.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is the most critical area in your home repair efforts. Home buyers are looking for clean and spacious kitchens that flow without clutter. By updating the lighting and adding a coat of fresh paint, you can transform a dated kitchen for a more up to date look and feel. Remove all unnecessary clutter and replace any fixtures that show wear. Installing new flooring can drive up the overall value of the home.

Living and Family Areas

Like the kitchen, the family areas must give the illusion of space and comfort. Old and broken furniture should be removed as well as faded and excessive wall art. Once painted, continue with the neutral theme by minimizing clutter and adding light with lamps. New window furnishings can capture extra visual appeal by enhancing natural light.

Bedrooms

Think clean and spacious with luxurious touches to make these rooms pop. As in the rest of the home, remove extra furniture and repair and replace any fixtures that have seen better days. Invest in new bed linens and carpeting if possible. Bedrooms need to feel calm and soothing, and by minimizing distractions, you can offer this effect with very little effort.

The Bathroom

This is the second critical area that may require a bit more effort to bring it up to date. New lighting, fixtures, and furnishings can overhaul an outdated bathroom immediately. Repainting cabinetry and re-grouting tiles are also quick and easy fixes for a cleaner and new feel. Clear out medicine cabinets and add new towels for better presentation.The bathroom may not be high on your priority list when considering rooms to remodel. However, bathroom remodels can help to improve the resale value of your home.

One of the easiest ways to improve the appearance of your bathroom is to re-grout the tile or thoroughly clean the grouting that is in the bathroom. Then, you can purchase a new rug and towels for the bathroom area. A beautiful matching shower curtain will nicely complete the look. If you have a tiny bathroom, these improvements can make an incredible difference.

Curb Appeal

Simple gardening will go a long way to making your home more attractive. Keep your trees and hedges trimmed and your gardens colorful for instant appeal. Repaint the moldings and front door a welcoming color and change the style of your light fixture for a new look.

A well-maintained home is noticeable from the first step on the property. Enhancing the flow and visual appeal of a well put together home can increase its value considerably. If moving is not in your plans, then all these ideas can be used to update your home for a brand new feel. Either way, keeping your home in the best shape will always be money well spent.

Fixing up your lawn and backyard is another great way to increase the market value of your house, and it can add some beauty to your house as well. Keep the home improvements to your landscape fairly simple, such as getting rid of old or dead shrubs and trees, or planting new bushes and colorful flowers. Do as much as you can to give your landscaping a facelift, and you will raise the value of your house at the same time.

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How Africa is Using Mobile Phones For Health, Wealth and Happiness

smartphone-2209224_640The African continent is undergoing a technology revolution with no counterpart in first world history: due it’s lack of infrastructure, including a standard electricity network, or phonelines as we’d recognise in Europe, it’s plunging ahead into innovation and develop with mobile devices without following the pattern of more unwieldy desktops and laptops first.

Mobile devices have seen dramatic penetration across the continent: they are light, easy to transport, can be charged from small local charging stations powered by generator or solar panels (themselves driving small businesses allowing people a stable income).

Mobile phone credit can even be used as a de facto currency in some places, meaning that phones aren’t just a means of communication, but also a financing platform, more secure than carrying cash on your person. International mobile top up businesses are increasingly the most popular way for people who have moved abroad to send money back home to friends and family across the African continent.

One way in which mobile phones are particularly helpful in Africa is not in the financial field, but in health. Several apps have launched in the last few years that have been responsible for big improvements in public health in Africa. Some help with diagnosis, others ensure patients have access to all the information they need to take their medication correctly, and daily reminders to do so. Here are some of the most revolutionary apps that are helping Africa stay healthy.

Matibabu

Made by a team of four Ugandan coders, this app helps doctors in remote locations diagnose Malaria. This normally requires a blood test, but this app, using a simple piece of custom hardware (a red LED and sensor) allows doctors to test for the disease without either a long wait for results or sterile medical equipment.

MomConnect

With development funded by the US government, this app intends to help with the high mortality rate for mothers in Africa. Starting from when you find out you are pregnant, the app provides daily information and advice, with support lasting until after pregnancy. Currently only used in South Africa, success could see it localised to other African countries, providing much greater benefit with smaller resource investment.

HIV Confidant

A revolutionary app in fighting the AIDs crisis, this facilitates confidential notification of test results and helps those diagnosed with the virus get further care and counselling.

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Auto Loan & Car Loan Actual Cash Value?

girls-1209321_640If, like many people, you purchase a car using an auto loan, one concept that’s important to understand is your car’s actual cash value. Here’s what you need to know about actual cash value and how you can protect yourself.

Your Car’s Actual Cash Value

It’s common knowledge at this point that new cars depreciate the moment buyers sign on the dotted line and drive off the lot. At that point, cars go from new to used, and that difference alone can shave a considerable amount off a car’s value.

New cars also tend to depreciate very quickly. The first two to three years of a car’s life is when it will depreciate the most. One of the potential problems with this is when you obtain an auto loan to purchase a car.

The standard insurance policy will cover a car’s actual cash value. If the $20,000 car you purchased now has a value of $16,000 and you total it, insurance will pay you $16,000. But auto loan payments have interest, and you may not have paid as much on your loan as the car has depreciated.

So, what happens if you still have $18,000 left to pay on your auto loan, but the insurance company only pays you $16,000 for your totaled car? You’re out $2,000, plus whatever your deductible was, and you need to get a new car. This obviously isn’t a great position for you.

What You Can Do

To protect yourself, you have a couple options. The most common safeguard is to purchase gap insurance, which is an optional insurance coverage. If you go through an experience like the one described above where your car is totaled and its actual cash value is less than the loan amount, your insurance company will cover the difference.

The lender that issued your auto loan may require that you have gap insurance. If not, it’s still a good idea to add it on. It won’t add much to your insurance premiums, and it’s well worth the peace of mind you’ll have.

Another option which is even more expensive but also provides much more protection is getting auto insurance that covers your car’s replacement cost. In this case, your insurance will pay you whatever it costs to buy a similar vehicle new instead of the actual cash value. If you bought a new 2015 Hyundai Sonata, purchased replacement value insurance coverage for it and then totaled the car in 2017, your insurance would pay for a 2017 Hyundai Sonata. If you’re thinking about going with this option, check with your insurance provider to confirm that you can, and remember that you will need to pay much higher premiums.

After Your Auto Loan Ends

Your car’s actual cash value is also important after you’re done paying off your auto loan. The most obvious reason is that you want to have property with as high of a value as possible so you make good money back if you decide to sell it.

The actual cash value of your vehicle can play a significant role if you ever need to use it as collateral on a loan. Let’s say you needed to get a Pittsburgh title loan. The lender would take your car’s actual cash value into consideration when deciding how much to lend you, because your car would serve as the collateral on the loan. This could also be the case with other loans where you put up your car as collateral.

The main thing you need to remember is that your car’s actual cash value can be much less than the remaining balance on your auto loan. You need to keep that in mind when purchasing insurance so in a worst-case scenario where the car is totaled, you’re at least paid enough to cover the loan.