Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Multiple Savings Accounts Keep Your Life in Order

I have come to the realization that multiple savings accounts is the kind of thing that is so naturally intuitive and refreshing that, on first glance, the idea seems too obvious or too good to be true. I simply find it surprising that it took me so long to stumble across this idea and that most people I know haven't really caught on to the idea yet.

I think this attitude stems primarily from this blasé notion of banking that much of America seems to share. My guess is that people have this idea that Bank of America is probably the best they can have, so they often miss opportunities from other banks like ING Direct, FNBO Direct and Ally Bank. Each of these online banking institutions offers the ability for you to create multiple savings accounts with ease and at no expense. You don't even have to create multiple logins.

How It Works
You don't often realize the beauty of having multiple savings accounts until you actually have them and get to mess around and experiment. Before having multiple accounts, I (like many other people I presume) had a checking and savings account. Mine were both held by Bank of America. The idea of having multiple savings accounts didn't even occur to me for the first couple months after switching to ING savings; I just signed up for the higher interest.

It wasn't until I finally had my emergency fund the way I wanted it that I realized a need for multiple accounts. I had never been much of a saver before (by virtue of being very poor), so after reaching my goal of saving a certain amount for an emergency fund, I quickly thought of other things I wanted to save away for. But it became pretty difficult managing which savings goals I had and what amount of my funds in my savings account went to which goal.

This all simplifies magnificently with multiple savings accounts because you can designate each account for a particular goal. Best of all, once that goal is completed and you spend the money you saved, you can rename the account nickname to suit a different financial goal of yours. And all of this account maintenance comes free of charge, of course.

For any of you who use, you will be happy to know that multiple savings accounts pair seamlessly with Mint's goal system. Right now, I have an "Emergency" goal (which is already met, but I keep the goal there just to remind me it's there if I need it), "Europe Trip" goal, and "Big Purchase" goal. Each of these goals are separate accounts, but all manageable through the same ING login, and I know exactly what track I am on the completing this goals.

All of this organization within my savings has made me more savings-conscious. I have been budgeting better because I have a very clear idea what I am saving for and when I will reach that goal. Every long-term expense has become that much more in reach, all thanks to the organization I get from multiple savings accounts.

About the Guest Author
This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7
If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

IRS e-file – When Will I Get My Refund (2012)?

If you are wondering when you can expect to receive your tax refund from the IRS, they have a publication where you can look this information up. If you used IRS e-file, the information is listed in Publication 2043 for 2012. For people who efile, this publication is printed in both English and Spanish.

I copied a portion of the table below which shows when your federal tax refund should be deposited in your bank account (by direct deposit), or when your check would be mailed if you e-filed and your refund was accepted within certain dates.

IRS accepts your return
(by 11:00 am) between…
Direct Deposit
Paper Check
Jan 17 and Jan 18, 2012 Jan 25, 2012 Jan 27, 2012
Jan 19 and Jan 25, 2012 Feb 1, 2012 Feb 3, 2012
Jan 26 and Feb 1, 2012   Feb 8, 2012 Feb 10, 2012
Feb 2 and Feb 8, 2012 Feb 15, 2012    Feb 17, 2012
Feb 9 and Feb 15, 2012 Feb 22, 2012 Feb 24, 2012
Feb 16 and Feb 22, 2012 Feb 29, 2012 Mar 2, 2012
Feb 23 and Feb 29, 2012 Mar 7, 2012 Mar 9, 2012
Mar 1 and Mar 7, 2012 Mar 14, 2012 Mar 16, 2012
Mar 8 and Mar 14, 2012 Mar 21, 2012 Mar 23, 2012
Mar 15 and Mar 21, 2012 Mar 28, 2012 Mar 30, 2012
Mar 22 and Mar 28, 2012 Apr 4, 2012 Apr 6, 2012
Mar 29 and Apr 4, 2012 Apr 11, 2012 Apr 13, 2012
Apr 5 and Apr 11, 2012 Apr 18, 2012 Apr 20, 2012
Apr 12 and Apr 18, 2012 Apr 25, 2012 Apr 27, 2012
Apr 19 and Apr 25, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 4, 2012
Apr 26 and May 2, 2012 May 9, 2012 May 11, 2012

While it may be interesting information to have, this is the federal government that we are talking about. You can also check the status of your income tax refund using this link. (And of course, en Español: ¿Dónde está mi reembolso?) You will need to enter your social security number, filing status, and refund amount to see your refund status.

I've heard some anecdotal stories about the IRS taking a lot longer to process refunds in 2011, so I would take the information with a grain of salt. I will be curious how the IRS does this time around.

NOTE: Please see the update for 2013: When Will I Get My 2013 Tax Refund?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Discover Card 2012 Cashback Bonus Categories

Discover Card offers a 5% cashback bonus on a "seasonally rotating" list of spending categories. For the 2012, these bonus categories are as follows:

Q1 2012: Gas Stations, Museums, Movies
Q2 2012: Restaurants, Movies
Q3 2012: Gas, Movies, Theme Parks
Q4 2012: Department Stores, Electronics Stores, Toy Stores, Movies

I noticed that "movies" occurs in every one of seasonal lists, so you can conclude that you should always use your Discover card if you are at the movies.

Discover it™ Card

It is also worth mentioning that Discover Card is currently offering a deal on balance transfers. If you apply for a new card (see link), Discover is will give you an introductory 0% APR for 12 months from date of first transfer, for transfers that post to your account by July 10, 2012 AND there is no transfer fee. It seems that you need to open a new account to get the $0 balance transfer fee. I have an existing Discover Card account, and although they still offer 0% APR on balance transfers, they charge 5% with a $10 minimum for account transfers.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Citi Dividend Card Q1 2012 Categories

I had written before that I have a Citibank Dividend MasterCard. One of the benefits of this card is that it offers 5% cash back on rotating categories of merchants. The main problem I have with this arrangement is that I always forget which categories are currently offering 5% cash back when I am at the store. As a result, I often miss out on the bonus dividend dollars. In order to help me remember, I have decided to post the categories which change every three months here.

For Q1 2012, the categories are:
  • Health care - doctor's visits, eyeglasses medicine, etc.
  • Fitness clubs - memberships and more
  • Utilities - gas, electric, wireless services, cable, etc.

Note that "Q1 2012" means from January 1 - March 31, 2012. Also note that even if you have a Citi Dividend Card, the enrollment is not automatic. You have to login and sign up for this offer at the Citibank website.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Financial Spread Betting

In the United Kingdom, a type of financial trading called "spread betting" is available to investors. Spread betting can be used as a derivatives investment that allows a trader to cash in on the price movements of many financial markets, such as indices, shares, currencies, commodities and more.

Spread bets can be used to speculate on price movements regardless of whether the general market is rising or falling. If you go long (buy), profits rise in line with any increase in that price. If you go short (sell), profits will rise in line with any fall. Similarly, if you go long on the price and the underlying stock price falls, you will lose money.

In order to participate in financial spread betting, you must first open a margin account with a broker such as City Index. When you place a trade, you are required to deposit a small percentage of the full value of your position. The potential for both profits and losses from an initial investment is significantly higher than in traditional trading. The required margin is typically between 1% and 10% of the total value of your position, depending on the market. City Index offers prices on over 12,000 spread betting markets.

In spread betting, two prices are quoted for all spread bets – a buy price (the price at which you can go long if you expect the underlying market to rise) and a sell price (the price at which you can go short if you expect the underlying market price to fall). The difference between the "buy" price and the "sell" price is known as the spread.

A graphic from the City Index website gives additional insight into the spread.

An additional benefit of spread betting is that profits made in spread betting are exempt from UK Capital Gains Tax. This automatically saves you a large percentage of your profits that you would normally have to pay if you were to trade the underlying markets. As spread betting is a derivatives product, it is also exempt from UK stamp duty. Tax laws are subject to change and depend on individual circumstances.

Lastly, as with any leveraged derivative investment, you have the potential to lose more money than you invest. Do not invest with money that you cannot afford to lose, and consult a financial advisor if you are unsure if financial spread betting is suitable to you.

Disclaimer: This material is for general information only. It is not intended as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any investment. PFStock does not provide investment advice. This post is sponsored by City Index.