Archive for the Category ◊ Finance ◊

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• Friday, September 03rd, 2010

We all heard of traditional Piggy bank. Either you were taught to use Piggybank to save money  by your parents or as a parent you are teaching kids to use to save money. Piggy bank helps to nurture saving habit in us. That trend has gone digitial few years back and many started using digital bank like Digital Money jar show here. Now Internet has taken that further to another level and we now have SmartyPig. I call it, adult version of Piggy bank or Piggy bank webicized.

In my last post, I talked little about Smartypig.com and promised to post a detail further blog after my first use. With first hand user experience at SmartyPig.com, I am posting this blog to share my views, saving strategy and tips/tricks to get around the site.. 

What is the Big idea about SmartyPig.com?


It is not real big or new innovation. I like the concept of taking the traditional piggy bank saving to Internet and giving it a boost by adding social media networking to it. They call it a unique patent pending savings program launched to help people save for specific goals.

How can you use it?


First of you should set you mindset, it is neither a bank or credit union. It is just finance based internet company which bridges consumers and banking breaking away from traditional savings methodology. I came to know about this website from mymoneyblog.com.

Usually, we either have checking account for daily transaction and savings account for saving money that earns a meager interest, currently .50%. We also sometimes have CD’s to save for longer term. These traditional saving mechanism are less flexible and doesn’t open doors to accept external contributions. SmartyPig bring it all together. SmartyPig is all about giving importance to your goals and savings account is  placed behind it.

You can have any number of goals you want and start putting money to it. You don’t have worry about opening any savings or CD’s. To top it, you can even accept contributions towards your goals via social media sites like facebook.  Like if you are saving for your kids education, instead of getting stuck in 529 savings plans, you open smartypig account and accept contribution from kids grandparents and relartives. That’s smart but the draw back it only earn savings rate not investment rate of return.

Interest is configured using a daily accrual method, compounded quaterly and posted to a customer’s account but  up-todate earning is shown in your account.

To close your goal, simply click on Stop Goal. You will then have the option of receiving your current savings plus interest on the SmartyPig MasterCard® Debit Card, the gift card of a best-in-class retailer partnering with SmartyPig, or you can ACH the funds back to your existing checking or savings account.

Good, Bad and Ugly

  1. Account gets high interest from reputed BBVA bank. High interest rate of 2.15% as of Sep, 3, 2010 and will reduce to 1.75% from Sept 7th, 2010. Still by par to any banks, even INGDirect.com
  2. All your funds are insured by FDIC upto $250,000. The site is secured by Verisign.com and other security providers.
  3. Get boost for your savings from retailer gift cards with bonus percentage added to it – Macy’s has 12% bonus.
  4. Withdraws can be only via ACH transfers, debit card or retail shopping gift cards.
  5. There is no Account number for your accounts because it is not traditional bank account. It is secured for security reasons.


Tips and Tricks

1. During the setup process, you can do one-time deposit or recurring. If you want to setup for recurring, you need put initial deposit which is one time and recurring amount. Initial deposit cannot be your first month deposit. So if you want initial deposit to start this smonth and recurring to kick start next month, that doesn’t work because recurring date is auto selected. So I have to do the initial deposit first and come back later time to setup recurring deposit to pick up next month date.

2. If you want to withdraw money from a goal, you cannot do partial withdrawal. Solution recommended, you can start a new goal and move the money to new goal leaving the money you want to withdraw. Then close the old goal to get the money transferred to your bank account or get debit card.

3. During the goal setup, once you add your goal amount and try to setup recurring deposit. There is a link to try SmartyPig reccuring deposit suggestion which calculates the recurring amount to reach your goal on time. It doesn’t consider friends contribution if you plan to get one.

These are some of tips/tricks which I figured out. They also have great FAQ section to clarify any of your doubts and bet they have good customer service to answer you calls. Try it out and you won’t really regret the extra yield from better interest rates.

Disclaimer: I am neither employee or advertiser and no way connected to Smartypig except being a valuable customer. The above posting is from my first hand experience with Smartypig website.

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Author:
• Friday, June 18th, 2010

This week I am so happy and mentally relaxed, feeling a big sigh of relief.  I finally completed the CFP course and I am so excited about it.  Yes, I did it after all!!

Many of you know or might have saw it listed as one of my goals is to get CFP Certified by 2010. Completing 6 course series is one of the education eligiblity requirement to sit for CFP Certification.  While I am thrilled about finishing the course, I know my journey is not over yet. I just crossed half of the ocean. I need to cross another half and hope to make to the other side soon!!

Like my friends you might ask, what is CFP actually? What is the big deal in getting CFP certified? Let me explain a bit if you didn’t google about it.

What is CFP?

Many say CFP certification has reputation similar to ceritifications like CPA and tough to pass close to bar exams. It is recognized as standard among those who seek the knowledge and skills necessary to objectively assess their clients’ current financial status, identify problem areas, and recommend appropriate actions–in short, to provide comprehensive, client-based financial planning. With trouble economy, consumers are looking for trusted and authority advisors. CFP is a symbol of authority for planners to show their expertise in financial planning to help guide clients in the right path of financial well being. 


What is CFP certified means?

CFP ceritification is administered by CFP board which enforces strict rules and ethics to be followed by the planners. This gives great level of comfort to consumers who wants to talk about their personal financial matters and their future growth. It is difference as simple as asking advice from nobody or certified plumber to fix your faucet.

The Certified Financial Planner® or CFP® Professional Education Program has defined the financial planning profession since 1972 and has been the basis on which many other financial planning education programs have been developed.  

To become a CFP certificant, you must get thru (5 E’s):

  1. Eligibility – To start with, certification will require an undergraduate bachelor’s degree from an accredited college.
  2. Education - Satisfy an educational requirement taking CFP board-registered program if you don’t have finance background.
  3. Exam – Pass the CFPCertification exam: a 10-hour test that takes 1.5 days (four hours on Friday and six hours on Saturday), conducted three times during the year (typically on the third Friday and Saturday of March, July and November).
  4. Experience – Acquire three years of qualifying full-time work experience (or equivalent). Qualifying work experience is defined by the CFP board as “the supervision, direct support, teaching or personal delivery of all or part of the personal financial planning process to a client.
  5. Ethics – Agree and adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility

 

As of now, I just got through 2 E’s and need to get pass another 3 E’s.

Motivation and Experience

I even asked myself, Why am I doing CFP? Being a software guy by education and profession, what is the need and motivation to take on this leap effort?  The answer in short, I am passionate about money management. At the same time, I want to share my wealth of every day successful experience about money and help guide others. In the blog flocked internet era, anybody who has small experience are also posting and sharing their experience. How can I differentiate myself and show authoritative. A person is only considered as an authoritative source only when he has formal education and experience.

Today, I share my knowlege and experience through this money matters website and other avenues as ordinary individual. But I want to be an authoritative source. I have motivator that’s Mr. Ray Lucia, CFP who can talk and answer almost any type of financial questions. I want to be like him, may be work for him some day. Whether I make money or not, I want to help middle class individual with their money and financial issues. 

One more thing, I like to challenge myself now and then. I get bored if I don’t do that. I took the challenge to run a marathon in 2002 just after starting to run in 2001. I completed in 3 hrs 41 mins. So this is another challenge which can help others too. I feel this is even bigger than Marathon. I have done many Microsoft certifications in the past and I thought it would be a breese.  I was proven wrong. I signed up for Self study course with Boston University CFP program. The program was well explained and also got good support from tutors. I paid only 60% of fees compared to other insitutions charge because I signed up the right time to get a very good offer.

 
I started at Dec 17,  2008 and took me till Jun 15, 2010. There were hundreds of topics discussed in detail manner. I thought of completing well in advance but once I started it took me 4 months to finish my first course and another 3 months to do the next one. I realized, I won’t be able to complete all of the course in 18 months time period given by BU. I have heard many people took 3-5 years via self study path and I don’t want to take that long. So I decided to speed it up and start to put more time and completed one by one in every 2 months by skipping the reading assignment.

I am so glad it is over and my long study hours are done for now.  It took around one and half year while working full time and having another baby along the way. It is well worth an experience to learn and connect every aspect to the real life scenorio. But it wasn’t an easy task. I am happy to have accomplished part of my 2010 goal.

For all these, I owe a Big Thank you to my lovely wife. She stood behind me, pushed me by reminding and encouraging me all the time to get this course completed.

Next Step

I am taking a break for couple of months. I am so close in getting my 2nd rental property and need to  work on it to put up for rental. After that, I plan to sign up for review classes in August to prepare for the Nov exams. I have confident and hope to clear the exams in the first attempt and plan to write about it. 
 

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