Contributing To Non-Profits: 5 Keys to Determining the Validity of a Charity

There are many organizations out there that perform services that range from helping educate children to supporting a multi-national medical organization fighting a rare and deadly disease. One of the first things you need to determine before you contribute to any non-profit organization is what cause and/or service you feel strongly enough to contribute time and money to support them. Then once you have decided on a cause, you should do diligent research on what organizations or charities are working towards meeting the needs of your selected cause. You want to make sure your money and/or time is not being wasted. After you have done your initial research, you then need to know how the money is being spent. There are five keys to determining the validity of a charity while you are doing the initial research.

Do they have 501(3) status?
According to Link to Non-Profits In order to obtain 501(3) status in most states, a non-profit organization must first be incorporated by the state and/or have some identifying documents that allow them to collect money from donors. A start-up charity will not have this status immediately, but they should be taking steps to acquire it. One of the first steps is an EIN number for tax purposes. It is perfectly in your rights to ask a public charity to fill out a W-9 form before giving them a donation.

Where is the money going?
In your initial research, you should ask the charity where the monies will be spent. A good portion of donor money is spent on administrative costs, but it is perfectly legal to ask for a receipt or letter acknowledging your contribution. Organizations like GuideStar offer links to major non-profit organizations along with information about their financial status. The American Institute of Philanthropy is also a good source of information with links to major non-profit organizations.

Do They Have A Solid Mission Statement?
This is a key factor to determining if the charity is legitimate or not. A good solid mission statement can tell you a lot about what the organization stands for and will help you determine whether or not the organization is fulfilling it or not. You should be able to see proof in action by the tasks they perform to fulfill the mission statement. Non-profit organizations are required to file 990s which have a section that tells you what their mission statement is. Be suspicious of vague mission statements.

Is there any evidence of needs being met?
This is an important factor to determine if the charity is legitimate or not. Charities should be actively involved in some way to address needs raised that created the cause. For example, a childcare center should be actively enrolling children in a facility. If there is no evidence of something being done, then you have the right to ask for proof of what the charity is doing to address needs.

Do they have a good “track” record?
This actually ties in with looking for evidence of needs being met by the charity. A young start up charity will not have a track record of performing activities geared towards meeting needs. You should look for what goals the charity wants to accomplish in order to meet the needs addressed by the cause. For a good track record the charity should meet or exceed their stated goals at least 80 percent of the time. A charity without some set goals should be avoided like the plague. A key factor in determining validity here is to ask for measurable goals. For example, a historical society’s goals can be measured by the response they receive from the community at an event. If they receive a favorable response, then they can move forward with their goal of educating the community about their historical resources.

Links can be found on-line to various non-profit organizations. You must do due diligence however to research non-profit organizations before committing either time or money. The time you spend now will save you grief later. Please be aware that there are some illegitimate charities that pose as legitimate charities. If you follow the above guidelines, you can be confident that your time and money is being well spent.


Before Bankruptcy: Smart Ways to Pay off Your Loans

We all know that finances are at the root of becoming a more stable family. The best way to build good credit is to make sure your three C’s are judged highly in the banking world. Get started in making your finances better protected and stabilized by improving these financial C’s before thinking about bankruptcy.

Banks will notice you if you stand by your word. Banks with money to lend are looking to invest people and businesses that say what they mean, and back it up with action. They really don’t want to have to worry about relying on a piece of paper to force you to do what you said you were going to. Give them evidence that it’s in your nature to pay back what you agreed, and they can depend on it.

In the business world, character is valued, but collateral is valued higher. Even the best of us can have financial difficulties. Lenders like to protect their investments by making sure they control at least part of your personal assets in case you fail to pay back your loan. Collateral can be a lot of different things as long as it has a monetary value that when liquidated, can cover the cost of paying back the money you borrowed. This can be a great alternative to bankruptcy and can help give you incentive to pay off your loans.

A lender can decide that even though a client might be true to their word, they just aren’t right for them. Lenders don’t typically want your collateral because they are not in the business of acquiring and selling physical assets. You financial ability to meet your repayment requirements will be heavily scrutinized. Your capacity is typically measured by your debt–to-income ratio. The more money dedicated to paying off debts each month, means the less you will have to spend on acquiring new debt. Lenders want to make sure you can afford adding on new debt, so it’s always a good idea to go over your payment plan with them so they know what to expect.

Banks are always looking to lend money, and if you’re on the brink of bankruptcy, companies like are usually willing to help out. They just want to make sure they’ll get paid back before they do, and they use the three “Cs” to help them make the right credit-lending decision. Make sure you’re on the right track.

6 Shocking Things That Affect Your Credit Score

There are many things that go into the formula that calculates a person’s credit score. Some of these are obvious like outstanding debt. However, some of the other things that may determine your credit score can be quite shocking. Below are six such items.

1. Closing One of Your Credit Card Accounts
You may be told that canceling one of your credit cards will have no direct effect on your credit score. The truth is it could have an indirect negative impact. Closing a credit account will lower your overall credit usage ratio. This ratio is given a lot of weight when it is factored into your credit score.

2. Using Debit to Rent a Car
Many car rental companies don’t allow you to rent a car with a debit card. However, some do. If you do, it could also have a negative impact on your credit.

3. Opening a New Line of Credit
This may seem very illogical, butaccording to a leading Ogden Utah bankruptcy attorney, opening a new line of credit can indeed inadvertently lower your credit score. This is due to the fact that hard inquiries into a person’s credit history will be flagged and factored into the score in a negative way. Each time a person opens a new line of credit, a hard inquiry into that person’s credit history will occur.

4. Using an In-Store Loan
Many retailers will allow a customer to take out a loan with the store to make a big purchase such as for new furniture or an HD TV. While you may not know this when such a loan is offered, these kinds of loans will often negatively affect your credit score.

5. Unpaid Parking Tickets
If you think that skipping paying parking tickets will have little impact on you, you could be mistaken. Many states hire debt collection agencies to collect on those unpaid tickets. This could severely harm your credit score.

6. Not Using Your Credit Cards
While there are many actions that can harm your credit score, simple inaction can hurt it as well. If you don’t use a credit card for an extended period of time, the creditor could close the account. This will affect your credit usage ratio. In turn, this can negatively affect your credit score.

Overall, the things that can affect your credit score are varied and numerous. To keep your credit score healthy, you need to stay educated about each possible thing that may be used to calculate it.

Refused Workers’ Comp? 5 Actions to Take Now

Having your worker’s compensation claim denied is extremely frustrating, but you still have the right to challenge the claim. The fact of the matter is you have the right to fight and the following five steps will help you overturn the workers’ comp rejection. Remember to follow these steps in order.

Step one: Understand the Reason for Denial
Read the letter you received informing you of the claims denial carefully to know the reasons for their denial. It may also tell you of how you can make an appeal for your claims. It’s essential to read the letter thoroughly as vital facts are often buried under a sea of unimportant information. You may also want to have a relative or close confident read the letter just in case you miss any critical information. An additional pair of eyes don’t hurt!

Step two: Contact the Concerned Parties
Contact your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance agency to discuss the compensation denial. If it was a mistake on their part, it could be rectified and your claims restored. If your employer or the insurance agency still refuses, you may appeal. Often times contacting the insurance agency is all it takes to rectify the situation. Additionally, it’s one of the easier steps included on this list.

Step three: Talk to an Attorney
Don’t give up your benefits for workers’ compensation as this is your right. A competent attorney like Robert H Littlejohn can help you to determine the best action to take. Such appeals have short and strict deadlines so you have to take this action quickly for you not to lose your rights for compensation, and don’t file any appeals yourself before consulting an attorney.

Step four: Provide Evidence
As soon as you are denied claims, start collecting evidential documents to back your appeal since these will be required by your attorney and your attorney will help you to collect your evidence. You will need the names of witnesses to the accident, proof of the medical procedures you underwent, information regarding the accident and your employer’s insurance information. Your attorney may instruct you to evaluate your injuries with the help of an independent medical specialist. Have your injuries evaluated as quickly as possible.

Step five: File Your Appeal
Your attorney will help you to file an initial review and appeal if there is need. Have it reviewed first since some states have review boards that oversee such cases. In other states, your appeal will be sent to an administrative judge and you will be given a chance to provide witnesses and evidence to the board.

If your review is unsuccessful, your attorney may help you to appeal to the workers’ compensation court of appeal. Here, the court will decide on the matter.

If you receive a letter revealing that your claim is denied, that is not the end of the road for you. You need to challenge that decision as soon as possible and most likely, you can prevail.

Overwhelmed? How much debt is too much debt?

Most people have debt in one or more categories; mortgages, car payments and some credit cards bills are the typical experience. Unfortunately, unexpected expenses, a vacation or anything that costs money can easily break a budget. A few hundred dollars on a credit card can quickly become a few thousand. But when does typical debt become too much debt?

Debt-to-Income Ratio
Your debt to income ratio is a calculation of the percentage of your income that must go to pay bills.

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio:

1. Determine your monthly payments toward everything other than your mortgage (car payment, loans, credit cards).

2. Divide that total by your monthly take home income.

General guidelines recommend that the result of this calculation should be less than 0.10 (10%) for your debt not including your mortgage or 0.36 (36%) for all debt including a mortgage.

Steps to Improve Your Ratio
Calculating your debt to income ratio is the beginning of your road to financial health. Increased awareness of your finances will allow you to determine any basic cost cutting measures. Reducing your television subscription; packing rather than purchasing lunch at work; and cutting down on unnecessary expenses can all help improve your debt to income ratio. However, maxed out credit cards or calls from bill collectors are warning signs that your debt may be too high to manage.

Options to manage your debt
A person who is unable to pay bills and meet financial obligations is considered insolvent. An insolvent person is not necessarily a bankrupt person.

According to A C Waring & Associates Inc., a company which helps with bankruptcy in Edmonton, insolvent persons have two general options – declare bankruptcy or submit credit settlement proposals to creditors. Both of these options will take significant documentation to have the legal settlements written, submitted and approved. Legal counsel is recommended to help you understand your financial options, their repercussions and to ensure that the steps you choose to take are appropriate and in your best interest.

Fixing Your Financial Situation
Overwhelming debt can happen to anyone and facing your creditors head on can be intimidating. Seeking counsel to help you get back on the road to a healthy financial situation is a good step to take. An outside review of your finances will allow you to breathe more easily as you set a plan to satisfy your creditors. There are options available to you to move forward if you take that first step.

6 Smart Ways to Adjust Your Financial Mindset

Learning more about adjusting your financial mindset is not only great for your financial future’s outlook, but it is also a way to ensure you stay as stress free as possible while ridding debts, making investments and looking towards the future.

Get Educated
Get educated about finances whether you are managing your own personally or if you are planning to start your very own business. The more knowledgeable you are of saving, managing bank accounts and taking care of taxes, the less likely to you are to feel stressed and overwhelmed should you encounter any issues or challenges in the future.

Seek Professional Help and Assistance
Seeking out professional help and assistance is possible by working with a CPA, or certified public accountant in addition to a financial manager, depending on your needs as well as whether you are looking to improve personal or business-related finances.

Research Potential Investments in Your Future
Before getting involved in any new business venture or investment you have in mind, be sure to thoroughly research each of the markets to determine whether the decision is financially sound for you. The more aware you are of all financial investments, the less likely you are to encounter debts and other potential financial-related stress triggers that can easily shift your current mindset.

Use Applications and Tools
Using downloadable applications for your mobile smartphone or applications for your computer’s desktop is another way to keep track of your finances while learning more on how to make the best financial decisions.

Go for Settlement Opportunities
According to My Lump Sum, another way to rid financial stress that may be looming in your life is to research various structured settlements. Services like these will provide you immediate cash in return for any future settlements you may be owed.
Eat Smart and Exercise

Eating smart and exercising is a way to stay focused while eliminating stress, giving you the ability to maintain your finances at all times, regardless of the type of debt you may be struggling to overcome. Always be sure to feed your body right while also incorporating exercise to keep a clear mind when it comes to handling your finances.

Knowing how to adjust your financial mindset is not only a way to rid debts and get ahead in your life, but it is also a way to improve your overall mental health, clarity and focus by eliminating financial stress altogether.

Second Home Secrets: What to Know Before You Buy

You need a second home to change up the scenery, go on vacations, or simply enjoy having another house to live in. Regardless of the reason, make a good choice the second time around. Making a second purchase allows you to fix the mistakes that you made on the first one. Consider all of the factors that make up the ideal home, and have a good plan in place for your second home design.

Find the Ideal Location
First and foremost, decide where you want to place the second house. Start by compiling a list of your favorite vacation spots. List the natural and social surroundings that you want. Some people like to live near snow so they visit during the winter. Other people like to live near water, and want to visit during the summer. Sociable people like to live in suburbs close to restaurants and other businesses. Research your ideal location and visit it before you buy any property.

Know the Surroundings
Researching your home, and living there are two different things. It is good to research the surroundings and the neighborhood. Know the type of neighbors who you are getting involved with. The best tip is to visit the area for a while before you buy.

Review Custom Home Builders
Building your custom home is now easier to do with the Internet and trusted Toronto custom home builders. Choose the exact construction materials and styles you want for a dream home. Choose everything from appliances to paint colors and light fixtures. Improve the process of buying your second home by making all of the selections yourself.

Choose the Type of Property
There are different types of houses available for purchase. Your choice depends on lifestyle. A single-family house is small and comfortable, but it costs more than a townhome that is also small and comfortable. A farmhouse is roomy and usually placed on a farm for the best privacy, but you don’t have to go that large if you want a country house. Consider the sizes and styles of the homes that people are buying nowadays. Look for places you might need to fix up. Sometimes hiring a Toronto home renovation is cheaper than going for a brand new place.

Work Closely With a Real Estate Agent
Remember to work closely with a real estate agent whose job is to make your search easier. If you did most of the work on your first purchase, know that you should ease the burden. You could spend weeks looking in the wrong direction. An agent has years of experience in doing market research, talking to contractors, and more.

Buying a second home means redoing the process all over again. You get to live in another scenic location, choose another type of house, and engage in another type of lifestyle. Your second home should be one of the best investments you ever make. So, know about a few second home secrets before you start the process again.

Successful Strategies To Help You Get Out Of Debt

More people are learning the importance of living a debt-free lifestyle and working their way to financial freedom. From auto loans to credit cards, it can be easy to accumulate debt and pay high interest rates in the process. Fortunately, there are several strategies available that make it easy to get out of debt and reduce what you owe in a realistic timeframe.

Use an Envelope System
Using cash will reduce your amount of spending and make it easier to stay within a budget that you’ve created. Use an envelope system for each category in your budget, which separates cash into different envelopes that can be used to pay expenses during the month. Once the money runs out, it will prevent overspending until your next paycheck.

Set Specific Goals
Calculate how much debt you’ve accumulated with each credit card and loan. Work to pay off the account with the highest interest rate and work your way down with each account for an effective snowball effect. This will allow you to gain momentum and prevent spending more money in interest rates. Establish specific dates when each account will be paid off and budget a specific amount that you’ll pay towards the debt with each paycheck.

Consult Professional Services
Work with a professional debt counselor who can help you manage what you owe and establish a plan to repay the debt. According to Harris & Partners Inc, which provides debt help in Toronto, using professional services can help you to lower your interest rates and even reduce your minimum payments each month to make it easier to repay the debt.

Save for Emergencies
While paying off your debt, save at least $1,000 to put in an emergency fund, which can be used for car repairs or medical bills that come up periodically. This will prevent using credit cards and getting back into debt when the money is needed. The fund should be refilled immediately after using the money and should only be used for unexpected expenses.

When paying off your debt, there are several resources to use with goals that need to be established. By creating a plan, you’re more likely to stay on target and work towards financial freedom in a realistic timeframe. By reworking your finances with a budget that is established, it will reduce your risk of filing for bankruptcy and can offer peace of mind during the process.

Family Checkbook: Five Ways to Save on the Big Costs

Many families these days are finding the world to be an expensive place. From gas and groceries, to an occasional night out, money flows out of the house at lightning speed. Luckily there are quite a few ways to save and have a better balanced checkbook. With a few simple tips and a focus on your finances, you can save money on some of your biggest expenses.

Yes, saving a few cents here and there really adds up, but your savings will compound even faster if you find ways to save on your family’s biggest expenses. By slashing your costs on these items and services, you’ll be able to go ahead and treat yourself on the more minor expenses. To begin saving even more money today, focus on cutting costs from your grocery budget, healthcare, car insurance, clothing, and heating and cooling.

Grocery Spending
Especially if you are a family, grocery spending is probably one place you spend most of your money. Food, especially healthy food, is expensive, but you can cut your costs here too. Obviously, you can join the couponing bandwagon, but that will only save so much. To add additional savings to your piggy bank, avoid buying name brand products and figure out what days your local grocer swaps out products. If you can catch meat, bakery items, and produce just before the “sell by” date, you’ll be able to bank a lot of savings.

Healthcare Costs
Again, even for a small family, healthcare costs can comprise a huge portion of the budget. But, this is also an area where you can find savings. Consider reworking your healthcare plan and shop for what is best for you. Keep in mind your family’s average number of doctor visits, prescriptions, dental cleanings, and other services throughout the year and choose the plan that will save you the most. Also consider joining a discount club to add additional savings to your checkbook.

Car Insurance
Car insurance is likely another area where you are paying too much. Do some shopping, even with other companies, and find the provider that gives you the best rate. You’ll be surprised how much you can save by shopping around.

Clothing Expenses
Your kids are likely still growing, which means your clothing budget takes a hit all the time. Build in some savings in this area by shopping discount and thrift stores, pass clothes down, and consider organizing a “swap meet” with your friends and family to exchange clothing and toys.

Heating and Cooling Costs
Your heating and cooling systems comprise a hefty portion of your monthly electric bill. Cut spending here too by turning back the thermostat a couple of degrees or installing a programmable thermostat. According to Cydcom Services Ltd, Installing an energy efficient furnace or air conditioner is another way to rack up monthly and yearly savings. It might be worth the investment to get one of these newer machines, so talk with an Edmonton furnace installation professional to make sure your budget will be offset by this expense.

Remember saving money isn’t easy, but you can do it. Implement these few cost cutting practices and you’ll be well on your way to a fuller wallet.

Saving Money On Your Car Insurance Is Not Always Easy: 4 Little Known Tips That Can Go A Long Ways

Just because you have to have auto insurance doesn’t mean that you should have to pay more for coverage than you absolutely have to. You may already be aware that you can lower the cost of your insurance by bundling policies and increasing your deductible, but there are additional ways that you can drive the cost of your auto insurance down while still getting excellent protection.  Thomson Schindle Green Insurance & Financial Services Ltd is an auto insurance company in Medicine Hate and has a huge list of possible discounts people qualify for and below are a some of them. It is important to keep in mind that not every insurance company is the same. Some of the possible discounts listed below are not universal across all insurance companies. These are just a few that people might not always consider and it is meant to inform you and allow you to research your current provider or look into a new one if these apply to your situation.

Drive Less
If you don’t drive your car very much, or if you live in an area with good public transportation, ask your insurance provider if you qualify for an annual mileage discount. Consumers who usually only drive anywhere from 7,000 to 12,500 miles a year usually qualify for this special discount. It’s not unheard of for drivers to save as much as 11 percent on their premiums.

Use Your Vehicle for Farming
If you use your vehicle for farming, you could also qualify for a discount on your car insurance. Make sure that you actually use your vehicle mainly for farming and not just occasionally for farming in order to stand the best chance of getting this discount. A recent survey showed that about 40 percent of surveyed companies offer the special use of this car discount with a ten percent average discount.

Customer Loyalty
If you’ve been with your current insurance company for a year, 36 months or 60 months, see if they would be willing to give you a customer loyalty discount on your car insurance. More than three of the insurance companies that participated in the survey offered the discount with an average saving of six percent. If your insurance company is one that doesn’t offer this particular discount, make it seem as though you’re thinking about switching providers if they don’t and see if that makes them change their tune.

Advanced Renewal
If you are satisfied with your current auto insurance provider and know that you’ll be renewing your policy and it’s almost time for you to do so, see if you can get an advanced renewal discount. It’s been reported than more than one in four insurance companies offer this particular discount for customers who renew their policy anywhere from seven to ten days before their policy actually expires.

When it comes to saving on your car insurance, it never hurts to sit down with your insurance agent once a year and go over your life and lifestyle to see if there are any discounts you qualify for.

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