Marcia's Blog

How to Buy a Home With Student Loan Debt

If you think student loans can stop you from buying a house, you’re mistaken. It’s entirely possible to be a homeowner even if you’re still paying down student loan debt. Read on to find out how.

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4 Fears Keeping You From Buying a Home – and How to Overcome Them

Fear has the power to keep us rooted in a life of regret. However, the good news about fear is we can overcome it. If fear is keeping you from buying a house, you’re not alone. Here are four fears that could be stopping you from buying a house and how to overcome them to achieve your homeownership dream.

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4 reasons to become a homeowner now

If you’ve been putting off homeownership, you could be blocking a wealth of blessings for you and your family. Before you convince yourself that you’re not ready, read on to find four reasons why you should get on the path to homeownership today.

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The key to comparing home lenders

If you’re thinking about buying a house in 2019, your lender will be one of the most important parts of your homebuying team. For that reason alone, picking a lender shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you want to improve your odds of making the best decision, read on to learn how to narrow down your choice.

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End of Year Money Tips for 2018

Before you get caught up in the last-minute hustle and bustle of the holidays, set aside 15 minutes to focus on your finances. Read on to discover the three steps that can make all the difference for your 2019.

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What is a HUD approved agency and why that matters

When you don’t have a lot of knowledge about something, I’m all for getting some good advice. But it’s critical that we are careful about who we get advice from. When it comes to getting advice on buying a house, all homebuying help is not the same. Read on for what you should be looking for.

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The cure for homebuying anxiety you should know about

Anyone who’s ever bought a home knows that the process can be stressful. In fact, nearly half of American homeowners said buying their first home was the most stressful event in their lives! Luckily, you don’t have to suffer through homebuying anxiety. Here’s a solution that every homebuyer can benefit from.

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The Real Costs of Homeownership: Finding Money to Finance Your Dream

Most people have no idea about all the costs associated with homeownership.  In fact, the average homebuyer can expect to spend as much as $40,000 in one-time fees when buying a house, according to a new study by RealEstate.com and Thumbtack. While that number may sound overwhelming, a homeownership advisor can help you find sources of money you didn’t know existed. Read on to find out how.

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Too Young to Own a Home? Think Again

I sometimes hear young people putting off buying a house until marriage or until they believe that they are ‘ready to settle down.’   Here’s why that may be one of the most costly mistakes that you can make.

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3 Tips to Bring in More Business

Stedman Graham shared one of his secrets to success at HomeFree-USA’s recent Reaching Millions Leadership in Housing Training Conference. Click here to find out what it was and how you can bring in more business this year.

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Why Your Credit Score May Be Getting a Boost

If you’ve been working to improve your credit, I have good news. Your credit score might soon be getting a boost, thanks to a change in the way credit scores are calculated. Read on to see how this can help you reach your financial goals.

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The Key to Landing Winning Partnerships

One thing I’ve noticed about successful people is that they don’t try to go it alone. They understand that partnerships are critical to individual and professional success. In the homeownership development industry, partnerships are particularly important. Click here to find out how you can identify new partners to take your business to the next level.

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Three Reasons Leaders Fail

In the homeownership development industry, good leadership skills are among the most important ingredients to success. Yet, many leaders make three big mistakes, which can hold them and their organizations back. Click here to discover what they are, and how you can take your leadership skills to the next level before this year is out.

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An Event That Can Transform Homeownership

If you’ve never experienced the Reaching Millions Leadership in Housing Training Conference, you’ve been missing out on one of the most powerful conferences in the homeownership development industry. Every year, HomeFree-USA brings together nonprofit, faith-based, government, and real estate finance leaders to improve the housing, homeownership and financial aspirations of low-to-moderate income people across the country.

This year the conference takes place in Washington, DC. Read on to discover how it can help you further your goals.

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Why You’re Never Too Young to be a Homeowner

Homeownership used to be something you thought about when you were ready to have a family and settle down. Today, that type of thinking can hold you back. Your 20s (or even your 30s) can be an ideal time to become a homeowner. Whether you’re single, married or somewhere in-between, here’s why homeownership should be a part of your financial strategy

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Why We Need a New Vision of Homeownership

We hold a lot of preconceived notions about homeownership. Some can be helpful, such as the idea that homeownership provides a sense of pride and fulfillment.  However, other preconceived notions can be harmful, and can keep people from taking the steps to leave renting behind.

If we are going to ensure that as many people as possible share in the dream of homeownership, we need to give people a vision they can buy into. Here are three outdated beliefs about homeownership, and why we need to leave that type of thinking behind.
 

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4 Questions You Must Ask to Achieve Your Goals

I have never met someone who didn’t want to achieve more. Our professional success depends on it. Yet we sometimes may think we need a roadmap to figure out how to reach our most elusive goals.

The truth of the matter is we all have an inner roadmap that knows exactly what to do. However, sometimes we must take some time to look inside of ourselves to discover it. Read on to find four questions that you must ask yourself to determine whether you are on the right path, and if not, which direction you need to go.

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How to Build Authentic Client Connections

While some people chase fads, I’ve always believed that the key to effective marketing is authenticity.  Not only do potential clients know when you’re not being genuine, but it’s almost impossible to be consistent if you’re not being yourself. 

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How We Can Help the 80 Percent

I’ve often found that consumers are optimistic at the start of the year. Many have new financial goals and some have made New Year’s Resolutions to improve their finances or become first-time homebuyers. But then February sets in and, for many, that optimism begins to fade.

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How Homeownership Can Rebuild a City

We often point out all of the ways that homeownership can help consumers. Yet we sometimes overlook how it can also literally transform cities. 

We all remember watching as Baltimore was rocked by protests against police violence in 2015. Baltimore has also suffered since the mortgage meltdown. However, we always knew that with homeowners as the backbone, Baltimore could withstand any challenge and thrive again. That’s why I’m so excited about Move Up in Baltimore, a program that seeks to expand homeownership in the city through the reuse of vacant, abandoned and/or foreclosed properties.

Recently we gave partners in Move Up in Baltimore a tour of some of the properties that are being rehabilitated for homebuyers. Read on to see how this program can be a model for transforming cities across the country.
 

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Three Questions to Close Out the Year

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on what went right this year and what we can do better next year. I’ve recently done some soul-searching and I invite you to do the same.  In between decorating, shopping and spending time with loved ones, ask yourself these three questions to put yourself in the right mindset for a successful 2018.

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A Myth About Homeownership Counseling That We Must Dispel

I talk to a lot of people about the value of homeownership counseling. While most people see value in it, I’ve come across too many who don’t believe it is something that they personally need. 

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Insights Too Valuable Not to Share

Last week, HomeFree-USA held the 13th Annual Reaching Millions Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. The theme was “Trends to Transform Your Business; New Ideas to Expedite Your Growth.”

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How you can contribute to a stronger mortgage industry

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from working with homebuyers is that people feel most comfortable dealing with mortgage professionals they can relate to. Many consumers would prefer to work with someone who comes from their community or shares their cultural background.

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A sign we're not giving renters the right message

Every June we acknowledge National Homeownership Month and look at the state of the mortgage industry. While it’s good to focus on homebuyers and homeowners at this time, this month also provides a good opportunity for us to do some industry soul-searching and ask ourselves: Are we giving consumers a reason – and the confidence –to buy?

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How the mortgage industry can attract customers for life

With homebuying season in full swing, we must ask ourselves: Are we giving our customers what they want? I would argue that the mark of success isn’t helping a consumer buy a home; it’s making that consumer happy enough with the experience to feel good about the homebuying process and do business with you again.

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What the mortgage industry is not telling consumers

Time and time again, I’ve seen how homeownership education can change someone’s life.

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What the mortgage industry can learn from Spring

Spring is a time of renewal. We’ve made it through another winter, and now we plant new seeds that will bloom throughout the rest of the year. Spring also reminds us that everything is cyclical. No matter how bad winter gets, there is always the promise of Spring, which brings us hope, rebirth and fertile ground.

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A Program We Can All Get Behind

Our mission at HomeFree-USA is to help as many Americans as possible realize the American Dream of homeownership. Yet for many African-American homebuyers, that dream may seem to be out of reach.

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The ‘fake news’ keeping Americans from owning homes

The key fact that renters have all wrong

When it comes to homeownership, knowledge is key. That’s why I was so disturbed by a recent study that showed just how misinformed many potential homebuyers are.

 

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The borrower the mortgage industry too often overlooks

It’s human nature to prefer things to be as easy as possible. So it makes sense that many of us in the mortgage industry want to focus our attention on those borrowers who are already mortgage-ready.  We know they will easily qualify for a loan and the homebuying process is more likely to go smoothly, providing an easier experience for all of us.

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How the mortgage industry should be measuring success

At the end of the year, it’s natural to reflect on recent successes. However, success is relative.

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My Thanksgiving Gratitude List

There are so many things that I love about Thanksgiving.

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What $1,000 Can Tell Us About Our Industry

I came across a recent study that found that more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. Even more disturbingly, 34 percent of Americans have no savings at all. 

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Building a better Baltimore together

There’s no doubt the city of Baltimore has been dealt a tough series of blows. We’ve all seen the headlines about the police trials surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, and we witnessed the riots that broke out last April. But Baltimore is a great city and there is good reason to be optimistic about its future. Not only that, but we as an industry have an incredible opportunity to be a part of its revitalization.

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Why the industry must embrace single women

While we often talk about homeownership as a logical step for a growing family, the truth of the matter is that single women are representing a larger part of the homeownership pie.

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What we must do to reach tomorrow’s homebuyer

With the number of minorities continuing to rise in the United States, there’s no doubt that the face of America’s homebuyers is changing. African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans will be the homebuyers of tomorrow.

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What Homebuyers and Homeowners Really Want

Every June, we celebrate National Homeownership Month and look at the state of homebuying in America.  But this year, I challenge the industry to look inward, and ask ourselves if we’re giving our customers the services they want and the financial education that they need.

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Is the mortgage industry selling consumers short?

We all celebrate when we help consumers successfully buy a home, but what are we as an industry doing to make sure our customers have the skills to be homeowners for the rest of their lives?

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A Month Isn’t Enough for Financial Literacy

Every April during Financial Literacy Month, we focus on the importance of financial education. We talk about the need to educate consumers on ways to better manage their money and achieve financial security.

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Why mortgage denials are not just a minority problem

When it comes to mortgage denials, minorities are leading the pack: Black and Latino homebuyers are less likely to be approved for mortgage loans than their White counterparts.

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Why Minority Home Ownership is Worth Fighting For

When it comes to homeownership, statistics don’t lie. Minorities are being left out of the American Dream. 

For Black Americans the news is particularly grim. As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s important to note: Blacks trail behind all other racial and ethnic groups in the quest to own a home, with only 41.9 percent of Black Americans owning a home in 2015, compared to 63.8 percent of the general population. 

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Giving homebuyers and homeowners a voice

It’s no secret that homeownership is one of the greatest ways for Americans to build wealth. But I’m going to be truthful with you. Today’s homebuyers face very real challenges that can keep many consumers renting forever.

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3 New Year’s resolutions for the industry

Every year around this time, I like to slow down and reflect upon the past 12 months. I journal about the goals I’ve accomplished and come up with new intentions to start the next year.

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What the mortgage industry can be thankful for

Thanksgiving is a time when we slow down and think about all that we are grateful for and those who are most important to us. One of the most important relationships that we must remember is that of the homebuyers and homeowners who we have helped throughout the year.

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Helping Baltimore rebuild from the ashes

When riots broke out in Baltimore last April, Charm City’s future looked grim.


To the world, Baltimore appeared to be a broken city. Many questioned the city’s leadership and its ability to protect its residents. Others wondered what the riots would do to the real estate market. Still others wondered when and if the city would be able to recover.

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Pulling leaders together for the betterment of our industry

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin


As an industry, we talk about the importance of financial education for consumers but if we don’t take the time to educate ourselves, we’re simply the blind leading the blind.

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Dispelling myths about homeownership

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with someone who was afraid to pursue homeownership because they believed information about the homebuying process that simply was not true.

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My challenge to the mortgage industry

“You can be whatever you want to be.”


We’ve all heard that saying, but is it really true? Sadly, for many young people it’s not fact, but fiction.

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National Homeownership Month: Time to take stock

June is National Homeownership Month, a good time to reflect upon how effective we as an industry have been in making homeownership accessible for all Americans.

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Millennials and homeownership: Forget what you thought you knew

How much do you really know about millennials? Some words that have been used to describe them include ‘entitled,’ ‘idealistic,’ and ‘more focused on themselves than previous generations.’

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Giving your customers what they want

A business that doesn’t listen to its customers is destined to fail.

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Cooperative relationships between HUD-approved counselors and servicers prevent foreclosures and stabilize families

Eight years after the housing market crash, millions of American homeowners are still in trouble, are non-responsive to lenders, and are in danger of losing their homes.

 

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What Americans lose if more minorities cannot buy homes

Anyone who has studied recent U.S. Census trends knows that minorities are about to become the largest group in the United States. In fact, recent studies show that race roles are reversing and Caucasian Americans are becoming the minority.

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3 signs we are killing the dream of homeownership

While everyone deserves a fair shot at success, the scale is not so balanced when it comes to homeownership.

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3 myths that will always block your success

Despite our best intentions, we sometimes do things that we think will help us achieve our goals, but we end up creating larger barriers to our success. If you’re finding that success is more elusive than you’d like for it to be, make sure you’re not buying into these myths, which could be doing more harm than good.

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4 reasons leaders fail

Ever wonder why some leaders fail? It has nothing to do with luck, but rather a misunderstanding of where true power lies. We all have the ability to become a better leader and achieve greater results. Just start off by avoiding these four mistakes.

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Why homeowners need more help

The mortgage crisis may be behind us, but homeowners are still feeling the pain.

More than 1 million properties in the U.S. are in some stage of foreclosure. In fact, in July, the number of foreclosure filings actually increased 2 percent from the month before.

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Polish your personal brand. No one knows you more than you.

Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses are critical to achieving more in life. I have found that in order to do more, we have to focus more on our strengths than on our weaknesses. Most importantly, we have to communicate those strengths with confidence so that others see and appreciate them. If you want to succeed, you can't be bashful.

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4 qualities of a great leader: Do you measure up?

Every manager is not a great leader. Leadership is a skill that inspires others to work harder and smarter for the sake of the entire organization. Effective leadership can make a good organization great. Try cultivating these qualities to give your leadership abilities a boost.

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4 ways to build a winning team

No matter how successful you are in life, you cannot build an empire without a winning team. Not only does a team allow multiple people to divide the work, but it leverages the skills and talents of everyone involved.

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Making the sale: 4 ways to turn leads into customers

Without loyal customers you can’t stay in business. But getting those customers isn’t always easy. Whenever you come across a potential client, there is still much work to be done to make sure that client is the right fit and then to gain that client or customer’s trust.

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4 tips for building your personal brand

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or you’re climbing the corporate ladder, it’s important to know how others see you. Do they consider you to be a trustworthy and hardworking person or do they consider you to be flaky and undependable? Your personal brand goes a long way in determining whether people want to work with you, buy from you or align themselves with you.

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5 ways to achieve BIGGER dreams

When you think small, you live small. However, if you’re ready to experience more success in all areas of your life, you can decide to embrace bigger dreams in a bolder way. If you’re ready to shatter your own limitations – financial and otherwise -- here are five steps you can take to create a bigger and brighter life.

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4 reasons you must not go it alone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to think you can do everything on your own.
Partnerships are critical to individual and professional success. The most successful people in the world achieved their success because they had a great team standing with them. Whether your goal is to buy a house, advance in your career, start a business or achieve a personal goal, here’s why you should be building partnerships that can further you on your path.
 

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5 ways to invest in yourself

When we think about investing, stocks and bonds often come to mind. But an investment is anything that you do to increase the quality of your life over time. In order to experience the most fulfilling life, you must invest in you. Here are five ways to do that no matter how much money you currently have.

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Four ways to know you’re ready for entrepreneurship

One of the best ways to increase your financial fortune is to start a business. Not only does it give you the opportunity to control your financial destiny, but you can ideally craft a life around something that you love.

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5 ways to attract success

Whether your goal is to buy a house, start a business or achieve a personal goal, there are certain steps you can take to increase your odds of getting to the finish line.

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3 qualities of wealthy people

While it’s easy to tell yourself that some people are just born wealthy, the truth is that most wealthy people amass their money through sound financial habits. The good news is you can mimic them and watch your own fortune grow.

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3 things to do when a loved one asks for money

We all want to help our loved ones get through tough situations, but all too many times I’ve seen people put themselves in financial distress because they lent money to family and friends that they couldn’t afford to lend.

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4 questions to ask yourself before taking on new debt

Debt is not a bad thing. In fact, when used wisely, it allows us to pay for things that we would not be able to afford if we had to pay for them all at once.

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3 money mistakes new graduates make

For the new college graduates who are receiving diplomas this month, now is a time of new beginnings. First off, Congratulations!

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Financial lessons from Mom on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a time when we reflect upon all of the lessons that our mothers and other important women in our lives have shared with us.

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How financial education can help you get a raise

Financial difficulties can impact every aspect of your life – including your career. As a matter of fact, learning to better manage your finances can pay off big at work.

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Three ways to get a better grip on your finances today

Since April is National Financial Literacy Month, here’s a question for you. How much do you know about your finances? If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know as much as you should. Here are three ways to start changing that today.

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3 simple out of the box secrets to financial success

Budgeting and saving are key to managing your finances, but if you want to achieve true financial success, sprinkle in these three life strategies and watch your financial life bloom.
 

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3 simple solutions for getting out of credit distress

A lot of people can tick off all of the bad things about credit cards, but credit cards can actually be a handy source of cash in an emergency and -- as long as you don’t carry a balance -- they can save you money through cashback and rewards.
 

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4 ways delinquent borrowers can get back on track

If you’ve ever been behind on your mortgage, you might believe that it is impossible to catch up. But that can’t be further from the truth.

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Four actions to save your house from foreclosure


If you’ve received a foreclosure notice, you may think your situation is hopeless. But the truth of the matter is many people turn their financial pictures around and save their homes.

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4 habits of people with good credit

The higher your credit score, the less money you’ll pay in interest on mortgages, car notes and other loans.

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Three financial black holes you can avoid

There are some budget busters that are out of your control, such as a flat tire or an unexpected house repair. But often your money disappears into a financial hole that you can avoid.
 

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3 fears that will keep you in debt

Sometimes we experience financial difficulties because of situations we can’t control such as a job loss or a medical emergency. However, other times we can be our own worst enemies.
 

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How to raise financially-savvy kids

We all want what’s best for our children. I’ve seen so many people struggling to create a better life for the next generation yet they don’t give their children the financial knowledge to maintain that better lifestyle.

 

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What to do when a financial crisis strikes

I have never been one to mince words, so I’m going to give it to you straight: You will have a financial crisis.

 

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3 ways to stick to a savings plan and have fun doing it

One of the surefire ways to see someone’s eyes glaze over is to bring up the word ‘budget.’ Many people I talk to associate budgeting with depriving themselves of their favorite Starbucks latte or other small luxuries. But if you change your perspective, you can actually make budgeting fun.

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How to stop student loans from ruining your credit

Education is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself, but it often comes at a cost. In fact, students who graduated in 2012 had an average of $29,400 in student loan debt.

While I believe the good outweighs the bad when it comes to education, there’s no doubt in my mind that starting your career with such a financial weight on your shoulders can be debilitating. However, it is crucial that you stay on top of your student loan payments or you will derail your chances of building wealth and finding your fortune before they even begin.

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What you should pay first when cash runs out

I have a question for you. If you didn’t have enough money to pay all of your bills, which bill would you pay first: your mortgage, your car note or your credit card?

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Four signs you’re ready to be a homeowner in 2014

If you were dreaming about buying a home this time last year, don’t feel bad. It takes time to achieve such a major financial goal. But the good news is that 2014 can have a much happier ending. Here are four signs that 2014 is your year to leave renting behind for good.

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Find your fortune in 2014

I often hear people say that fortune is a matter of luck, but luck actually occurs when we are prepared, positive and ready to take action.

Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote one of my favorite books Outliers: The Story of Success, tells us that success and good fortune are not a matter of luck, but rather the result of deliberate practice.

If you're ready to override luck and find your fortune in 2014, I have 4 steps for you.

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3 steps to giving wisely to charity

When you’re thinking about giving this holiday season, don’t forget about the causes that you believe in. Not only can you make a difference by giving to charities, but you can get a tax deduction as well if the donation is made before the end of the year. However, you should do your homework before giving to any nonprofit organization. Here are three things you should consider before pulling out your checkbook.

 

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Taking financial stock: Three things to ask yourself before the end of 2013

December is the time of year for cooking, shopping and entertaining, but it’s also a good time for reflecting. Before you head into the New Year, grab a journal or a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions to gauge where you’re at and put yourself in the mindset for a more financially successful 2014.

 

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Four qualities every new homebuyer will need

If you want 2014 to be the year that you buy your first home, there are definitely certain steps you should be taking to get your finances ready, such as building up your savings and paying off credit card debt. However, there are also certain qualities that are going to help you to achieve your goals.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what some of the homeowners who have worked with HomeFree-USA had to say.

 

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3 questions to ask yourself before Black Friday

Black Friday marks the official beginning of the holiday shopping season. While it’s easy to get caught up in all of the sales and how many deals you can get, ask yourself these three questions to get a better idea of how much you can truly afford to spend.

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How to have a (financially) happy holiday season

For many of us, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year. It can also be financially draining if you’re not careful. The costs of gifts, travel and entertaining can easily overwhelm your budget if you don’t plan properly.

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5 Steps to rebounding from a financial mistake

Friends, sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that we perceive to be ‘bad.’

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4 signs you should run – not walk -- to a financial counselor

Everyone goes through tough times, but rarely does financial disaster come out of the blue. Instead, there are often little signs that we’re headed down a dangerous path and could end up in a serious financial situation such as foreclosure or even bankrup

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When we work with our partners, everybody wins

Now that the country is getting back to normal after the government shutdown and all of the bickering taking place on Capitol Hill, one thing has become clear.

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5 ways to turn your finances around now

Creating a budget is a good first step to being financially responsible and building wealth. But your budget does you no good if you don’t stick to it.

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5 lessons from the government shutdown

Unless you’ve been traveling abroad or living under a rock, you can’t help but see the gridlock that’s going on in Washington, DC, and the financial impact the government shutdown is having on hundreds of thousands of people.

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6 questions to ask before hiring a contractor

If you are a homeowner, there will come a time when you will either want to make home improvements or you will need to have something in your house repaired.

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3 steps to get out of credit card debt

One of the fastest ways to derail your dreams of homeownership is to find yourself in the grips of crushing credit card debt.

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5 budgeting mistakes that will leave you broke

One of the keys to financial success is creating and maintaining an effective budget.

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What’s worrying 2013 homebuyers?

Buying a home may be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, but I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t tell you it can also be one of the most stressful.

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Where will you be without financial education?

What can financial education do for you?

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Don’t get tripped up by these hidden costs of home ownership

You have your eyes on that new home...

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Ready to buy a home?

Questions All Homebuyers Should Ask Themselves

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5 ways to come up with a side hustle

Friends, we can all use a little extra money whether it’s to save for a down payment, beef up our savings or take that vacation we’ve been dreaming about.

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5 things to do in a financial crisis

Whether you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future or you’ve been a homeowner for 20 years, a time will likely come when you have financial challenges to deal with.

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Homeowner help: 4 ways to turn your house into a home

Buying a house can be a rewarding experience, but it can be even more life-changing if you practice home maintenance and turn that house into a home.

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5 things homebuyers and homeowners want in a lender

If you’re a homeowner, you know that your relationship with the lender can make all the difference in the world when it comes to buying a home

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The doctor is in: A prescription to keep your finances healthy

Few people would argue with the fact that if you want to stay healthy, you should visit your doctor before you get sick.

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When it pays to complain…

Nobody wants to be around someone who complains all the time

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Why homebuyers must take charge of their own financial education

There were many lessons learned during the foreclosure fiasco.

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Buying a home? Don’t start with a Realtor.

I love Realtors. In fact, I’ll be the first to tell you that if you want to have a successful and low-stress homebuying process, you need to have a good Realtor.

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The easiest way to improve your credit score

Whether you’re planning to buy a new home or refinance your current mortgage, your credit score can make all the difference in the world.

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