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Do you remember your first bank account? Mine was when I was 8 years old. My parents gave me an allowance but I had to put $5 away each week into a savings account. This was back in the 60’s and, at the time, it was a local bank.

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Times have changed and selecting a bank isn’t as easy anymore. Each bank has benefits and negatives about it, and if you don’t want to feel like you’re being taken advantage of or get angry here and there, you need to take more time evaluating banks and determining which one fits your needs the best before you go putting your money in one.

Here are 5 things you should evaluate banks on based on your circumstances.

1. Bank Fees

Let’s get this one out of the way. All banks have fees; that’s just the fact. In 2015, the 3 biggest banks in the country made $6 billion off ATM & overdraft fees alone; ouch! That’s not including monthly fees for having balances under certain amounts or not using your debit card enough times during the month, or wanting paper bills instead of going electronic.

You need to ask the big “fees” question up front. When to overdraft fees begin? How many times a day will they hit you up? If they deny payment on your debit card because you don’t have enough in there to cover the purchase does that trigger a fee? Is banking free if you do direct deposit? Most banks will have a brochure of every fee they charge. You should get this from more than one bank and do a comparison to see which fees you can deal with and which ones are non-negotiable.

2. ATMs

In the day of ATMs everywhere, we can access our money 24/7. However, some ATM fees are higher than others, and in some cases if you can get to the right ATMs there’s no charge.

If you’re someone who stays close to home all the time so you can easily get to your bank to use their ATM then this is something you can take off your list. If you travel a lot then this can become a big issue. In my opinion this is the only time to use major banks because they probably have ATMs in many locations across the country that you can access without a fee. There are some credit unions that not only allow you free withdrawals at other ATMs but will reimburse you for fees some of those ATMs might charge you.

3. Debit Cards

In my opinion it’s smart to get a debit card rather than just a card to be able to take money out of an ATM, but some of them come with drawbacks. Some banks charge a fee if you don’t use it a certain number of times each month, while some charge you for the privilege of being able to use your own money like a credit card. For personal accounts you should never have to pay for the right to have a debit card; business or corporate cards are a different matter since you get to claim those fees on your taxes.

4. Loans

Major banks don’t like this type of advice but if you see yourself needing some kind of future loan then you need to check out local banks or credit unions first. Large banks have lots of money to loan but their criteria might make it harder for you to get the loan if you’ve had a few blips along the way. Local bankers get to know you and your patterns a bit better, and more often than not they’ll be more willing to take a chance on you, although you still might have to deal with a higher interest rate for that loan.

Credit unions are… well, they’re just different; sometimes you’ll get a better rate, sometimes you won’t. It depends on the type of credit union and its users, which is why it’s hard to make a blanket statement about them.

5. Stability

Remember that bank I mentioned where I had my first account? Over the years that bank was bought out by multiple chains and the terms kept changing until, one day I noticed I had almost no money in my savings account. Seems they decided that because my account was grandfathered that it cost them more money to maintain than it was worth and literally drained my savings account. That’s partially my fault because I never checked on the balance, I just put a few dollars in every once in a while. I took my money out of that bank and moved it to another bank. Three years later the national organization that my bank had been absorbed by decided to sell off all branches and leave the country; wow!

These days we have the internet, so before you make your final decision on a bank you should do a cursory search to see what recent news there is about your bank, if any. If they’re in trouble you’ll certainly see a news story about them and know to stay away. If all is fine, you’ll either see nothing or they’ll be touting their successes. Protect yourself; even though federal law makes all banks pay for protection, why would you want to continue going through hoops in selecting a bank?
 

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Spread betting is an activity whereby you take a bet depending on the difference between the selling and buying price. The spread is the variance between the values and attracts more attention when it is small as it assures growth with petite movement.

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There are certain things that you need to know before you venture into spread betting as an investment strategy to avoid making mistakes that could be prevented. This type of betting does not involve you putting in a fixed prize; on the contrary, it works on a pound per point basis. This means that the more right you are the more you win, and vice versa if you’re wrong. There is always a possibility for you to go wrong and owe the broker a lump sum of money.

To begin with, you need to be aware that spread betting is divided into three types: finance, sport and novelty. When dealing with sports bets, you need to gamble with different happenings including the goals made. In novelty, the bet incorporates everything you could think of, the sky’s the limit. Finally, finance betting involves benefits within the stock market and other financial catalogs without the necessity of buying stock.

When dealing with spread betting, you need to be aware that it works on a margin basis. In other words, you must hand over an individual deposit. All the same, you need to cover the costs if the gamble is against you.

Some of the obvious things that you need to know about spread betting before you begin are as follows:

The introduction to the trading sector requires you to be knowledgeable in:

– Identifying the right opportunities that you could place your trade on.
– Familiarizing with reality examples in the trading sector.
– Knowing both the strong and weak points in the most common markets.

When getting started the things you need to be aware of how to handle include:

– Knowing how to use the charts
– Identifying the essential trading tools
– Setting up your dashboard that you will use for trading on

Choosing a trading platform like CMC Markets is important as they offer technical analysis on the entry and exit points as well catering to risk management. This includes:

– Opting for an ideal input and output strategies
– Identifying the right entry and exit point into the trade
– Coming up with handy risk management tips to guide you through the trading
– Catching a glimpse of the best trading trends

One can know the basic trading tools and methods by paying attention to the list given below:

– Taking an overview of the standard technical approaches and tools to use
– Finding out how to spot the resistance lines as well as those that are supportive in the trading market.

Putting together intermediated strategies to use for trading by:

– Using a variety of time frames
– Making use of programs that could help out with analysis

Coming up with adequate plans for trading, management of the money that you use as well as the psychology of the trading process by:

– Creating an inclusive plan to use for trading
– Finding out how to become a long time trader
– Coming up with wide-ranging management strategies that can easily handle money.
– Study how psychology and emotions can ruin your trading causing errors to occur

Spread betting is very advantageous once you get into the trading thrill. It has several benefits as compared to the typical conventional share dealing or even the fixed odd betting. It is easier to access market that are restricted, to put in a small fortune and even make bets on credit. Besides that, spread betting has immense profits with no direct commission or stamp duty. It is an investment to look into.

This post is sponsored by CMC Markets
 

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The last blog post of 2015 here was related to finding ways to relieve financial stress. There are some pretty good tips in that post, if I say so myself (I do since I wrote it) but I didn’t mention whether or not any of them were part of my own financial goals.

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I haven’t written a financial goals post since 2011 as I changed the focus of this blog more towards offering assistance for everyone else more than offering opinions and talking about myself as often. Still, I used to find those posts somewhat important because, when all is said and done, most of us end up having some of the same financial goals, whether or not we manifest them differently.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at 3 years worth of previous financial goals (not all mine), see if they were legitimate, and how they fit with the “me and you” of now. It’s hard to complete financial goals without knowing what they are, and in life you should never forget where you started. :-)

Catch up on taxes

I had payment plans to catch up on back taxes I had from a couple of really great financial years where, because I did my own taxes, it turned out I hadn’t paid close to enough. This was my goal for 2 of the years, and I made a significant dent in it & got it paid off. It came back in 2015 where, because my accountant had categorized some of my income in the wrong place, once again I had a balance that I needed to set up another payment plan for. Luckily, it’s not as exorbitant as in the past, so hopefully I’ll have it taken care of by fall.

Earn back what I lost in my money market account

The early part of 2009 was horrible when it came to my investment account. One day I opened one of the envelopes from the company (I never opened them; please, PLEASE, always open your financial mail) and saw that I’d lost more than 67% of my account as the stock market dropped. I pulled my money out and wanted to figure out another way to recoup all those losses.

However, when the market finally started coming back around, I couldn’t get up the nerve to trust it again. That and I had other things to deal with. Now, it’s still the trust factor, although it’s still my intention at some point to get back into investing. I just might start out being less aggressive though and have more of a hands on with it. One day I’ll write a cautionary tale that involves having financial advisors and what you need to do, although this guest post from 2012 is a good place to start.

Put away at least $10,000 in savings (dropped to $3,000 for 2010)

Sometimes you have to dream big, which is what this one was. It took me a few years to get to the point where I could have made it a reality, but by that time I’d closed my savings account. In my opinion, when your monthly fee is higher than the interest your account is generating it’s time to make a change.

Instead, I’ve found other ways to save money, although none of it is generating extra revenue. My wife is covered on that front, and I’ll probably get another savings account at some point, but right now I hold on to some of my excess money in my business checking account. The rest is stashed around the house… but you didn’t see that (cough).

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Build up the value in my house

There were a couple of years where I was following housing trends when the market was in trouble, and trying to figure out ways of increasing what my house was worth. However, I live in a flat housing market, which was great back then because my house wasn’t losing any value, but anything I do to the house won’t improve its worth; only time will. This works better in places like Florida and California, where people are always buying, improving and flipping houses, but it’s not universal everywhere. If you’re thinking about doing something like this research your area’s costs and fluctuations over a period of time before embarking on it. Improve your house for yourself.

Advertising on this blog

That part actually started and still exists, although it’s morphed a little bit. This blog now accepts sponsored posts and sidebar advertising, the second of which was very popular years ago. As of today any advertising you see in the sidebars are my own affiliate ads, but that could change at any time.

Pay down more outstanding bills

This one wasn’t meant for me but was a major suggestion for everyone else. I’m a big proponent of paying down debt as opposed to trying to grow money as a first option. The reason is that many times interest rates are higher on debt than percentage rates of growth in investing. I’m especially big on people working towards paying down credit card debt. I’m doing well on this front; how about you?

Learn to budget your money

Once again this one’s not about me because I’m always budgeting my money and helping others do the same. Why is budgeting important? Because if you don’t know what you have you can’t address either your problems or your wishes when there are things you want to buy but aren’t sure you can afford. A nice place to start is by checking out this post.

Purchase health care

When I first made this recommendation it wasn’t anything I had to think of. Now that my wife and I are both independent contractors, we’ve had to invest a little more time on it. There are many reasons to have health insurance, and the ACA has made it easier for people to at least get something at an affordable rate (some people end up not having to pay anything for it). The biggest reason is because it’s now mandatory by law or else you’ll have to pay penalties. However, the penalties aren’t quite what some people think they are; check out that link above to see what I mean.

Always make sure to take care of yourself first when fiscally possible

This one is the most important of all, and the main goal I still carry into every single year. I stash money away for emergencies. I stash money away so I can every once in a while buy something I want instead of need. Because I budget, I know my outlay of cash and what I need and can do with it. Taking care of yourself first doesn’t mean going out to dinner and dropping $100 because it makes you feel good. It means doing what’s necessary to protect yourself in case your money stream stops or gets interrupted, then seeing what you can do with the rest.

I covered a lot over the previous years didn’t I? What will you take from this to move forward into the new year?
 

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