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Home warranty service - We are not in London anymore

March 27th, 2017 at 03:48 pm

Moving from the UK to USA was a smart thing to do. I moved with my family 5 years ago to Houston, Texas. We bought a large house - Very nice people, very nice neighbourhood and much more space.

After a couple of weeks my neighbour brought to my attention a thing that we don’t really have in the UK, a home warranty insurance. I told him that I already have an insurance for my house. He looked at me and said: “don’t be silly, it’s an appliances insurance, for your dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, oh and even for the main systems like plumbing”.

When I googled it, I found a very interesting thing - a home warranty in the UK is very different from a home warranty service in the US. In the UK, the phrase “home warranty” suggests an insurance for new buildings. Usually this insurance lasts for 10 years. In the US, a home warranty plan is a service provided by home warranty companies all over the country. It provided to homeowners as an insurance for the home appliances to save repair or replacement costs.

This idea was new to me, but I thought it was a good one. An insurance plan that will cover the entire systems of the house, like plumbing system and heating or cooling system, so you won’t have to worry about it. I was curious to know more about this subject, and after a couple of minutes I found myself strolling online looking for information.

Some say a home warranty plan in Texas has its advantages.
1. It gives you a peace of mind and spares you a lot of headaches.
2. The cost is relatively low.
3. You can make all the needed repairs (if broken) with one provider only, without coordinating a thing.
4. There is a 24/7 support center.

Home warranties are not for everyone. Those who have fresh, top notch, systems in place, don’t really need them in the first few years…. But I was not in that position at all.

As I always do before making a purchase, I read some reviews about the companies that provides the home warranty service. Choice home warranty review caught my eyes. It seems like a large company with high credibility and with variety of plans in different prices.

Another review about a home warranty provider that found on my little research was this. It was interesting to find out that this industry was founded in 1971 and there are still companies from back then that exists today. It gave me a little peace mind knowing that fact.

I discovered many things about home warranty in Texas, but what I treasured the most is understanding the fact that there are more than a couple of options available. Finding the best home warranty company paid off big time! Come wintertime, we had 3 urgent repairs to make which could have seriously damaged my financial status, and the home warranty provider took care of them.

Save money as an expat

May 4th, 2016 at 08:42 am

My newest blog posts is my top 5 Tips on How to Save Money as an Expat.

When living abroad as an expat, it is very easy for the cost of living to have unexpected expenses that you did not plan for. The key in mitigating this risk is to be frugal with your money so that you have the opportunity to enjoy every aspect that your new locale has to offer. Here are five tips on how to save money as an expat:

Use a Local Agent to Find Your Housing:

When moving to a new city, it is wise to not lease your apartment right away. The reason for this is that in many countries there is an underground real estate market that can only be accessed upon arrival. Thus, it is wise to get to the city, explore the neighborhoods by renting an Airbnb or Booking.com hotel in one week increments, and then make local contacts. If you do this, you will avoid apartments that are targeted at wealthy expats and find something that is not only nicer, but also a better value for your money. This will allow you to save more money while you are living abroad.

Take Out Cash in Larger Amounts: If you are planning on staying in your new city for an extended amount of time and you have the proper visa, you will likely be opening a local bank account. That being said, while you are using your bank account from you home country, it is highly recommended to take cash out in large amounts and less frequently. The reason for this is that you will pay less in international transaction fees in the long run.

Open a Local Bank Account: Opening a local bank account is a very good idea. The key to this is that if the country has bank cards that allow you to travel to foreign countries. Be sure to check on this so that your salary is not stuck in the country that you are currently living in. If you do this, you can decide when to send your money home and can also save a great deal of money on currency conversion and ATM fees.

Wire Money Home Less Frequently: One of the main expenses of expats is to wire their salary home. What I recommend to combat this is to not wire more than five times per year. If you do have expenses in your home country, such as credit card minimums, then either freelance to cover those or leave enough money in your home bank account to cover those expenses until your next wire. If you do this, you can save on the $40 banking fee per wire transaction that can really add up over time.
Set Aside a Piece of Your Salary for Savings: The other aspect of living abroad is the gift of getting financially ahead. Many people just live life to the fullest abroad and do not save.

This is a critical error because, if you play your cards correctly, you can come home and be in an entirely different economic situation than before. It is recommended to save at least 30% of your salary each month so that you will have wonderful financial surprise when you return home for your retirement.

Being an expat surely has its benefits. The key is to navigate the financial sector of your experience with care and you will not only have a great life altering experience, but you will also return home financially ahead.

10 Ways to Save Money in 2016

January 20th, 2016 at 06:40 am

At the beginning of the year, many people are reflecting on how they can implement a positive financial change in their lives. Here are some recommended ways that you can save money and still have fun in 2016:

1) Eat In During the Week and Celebrate on the Weekends: While this may sound obvious, you would be surprised how much money you would be able to save by cooking at home on the weeknights. This will free up some extra funds to go out with your friends on weekends.

2) Take the Metro at Times: There are many times on the way to a night out that you do not need a taxi. By eliminating your taxi on the way to your destination, you can at times cut your
transportation cost in half.

3) Consider Not Having a Car: Some cities actually do not need cars. With the popularity of Uber and metro/bus options, you would be surprised how much you would save by eliminating gas, insurance, and car payments from your budget. Not to mention, you would also be leaving a positive carbon footprint as well.

4) Join Loyalty Programs at Grocery Stores: Many grocery stores have coupon programs that allow you to save on what you are already spending. These coupons could be a great asset to your budget overall.

5) Sign Up for Airline Credit Cards: Many airlines have mileage cards that allow you to spend a certain amount on your normal expenses and get a free international flight. By doing this, you will have a free vacation that will not harm your budget.

6) Do Not Forget About Your Change: While coins can be annoying, you may be surprised that they can really add up to a lunch or a coffee with a friend.
7) Avoid Going Out for Coffee for Breakfast: If you turn your coffee habit into a social or afternoon tradition, you will be surprised at how much you can save in your bank account!

8) Rent Your Literature: With the abundance of digital reading devices, you will find that in the long term renting is a viable option that could save you an average of 20 USD to 30 USD per book.
9) Apply for Rewards Credit Cards: Many cards provide a percentage back on what you spend. Why not make a profit on what you already spend on your daily life, right?

10) When Going on Vacation, Buy in Bundles: Many travel sites offer all-inclusive deals including hotel, food, and flights. If you find one of these at the right moment, you may just find yourself unexpectedly in a five star resort for half the price!

Saving money is never a fun concept to consider; however, there are ways to save money and still live life to the fullest in the New Year.

Help me Invest

November 29th, 2015 at 08:39 pm

Hello everyone. It's been a while since I've written here, but things have been pretty busy, in a good way...

This time I'm not going to lecture ya'll about money saving nor going to rant about stupid things like Xmas presents.

This time around, I'll be glad with any feedback you can provide in regards to investments, which is not my forte at all (new year resolutions: master this area of expertise as it is as meaningful, if not more meaningful, to one's personal finances, as "money saving" per se).

My investment profile is very uninteresting. Besides investing into Peer to Peer which has proved itself as a great investment over the past few years, and the fact I seldom hand-pick stocks (of companies in my sectors which I'm familiar with), the rest (and vast majority) of my investment profile seems pretty dull. Most of it is invested in the S&P 500, alongside other major indices in Europe and the USA.

Obviously it worked really well over the past few years, but I'm afraid the Fed interest rate announcement in Dec will signal a rough year. I do not want to be driven by fear, but I do want to act. What would you do in my position? What alternative investments do I have? Particular sector of companies that should remain unaffected (most gurus recommend the huge companies with the largest cash pile, but I'm not sure).

Bottom line, what are your thoughts?

Christmas - Gifts. Money. Greed. Advertising. Finance.

September 20th, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Let`s admit it. Christmas, for devoted Christians, is a time in the year to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For others, its simply a time to enjoy a peaceful feast with their families. For almost everybody, its a time to express their tremendous kindness of heart through the act of bestowing gifts upon their families, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Many allot a significant part of their time and energy towards finding the most appropriate gifts for their respective receivers. These people are fueled by an innate fear, deeply rooted into western society - they fear of being considered as cheap. The problem? they are indeed quite cheap, and dont feel comfortable at all with spending massive amounts their surrounding environment dictates.

Businesses absolutely enjoy preying on these people.

Fear-driven shopping is great, for the salesman, of course. It usually translates into an instant, no-questions-asked, no-haggling-involved, sale. Just look at businesses which are either selling or advertising dietary pills, bed bug “solutions”, and terminal illness “cures” - they make tremendous amounts of money sucking the life of the lifeless.

Second best to fear-driven is impulse buying. Just ask the street hustlers what brings their clients to dark corners, willing to skin off their babies for another hit, and theyll say right off the bat - IMPULSE. If someone wants something and he cannot rationally explain that, he is hooked. You can give the poor bastard what he needs, if you have it, and he'll give you everything he has and beyond.

Third best is what I call cheapster buying. It's for those who want to buy something that looks expensive but in reality, is dirty cheap. They are usually shopping for someone they don't particularly care about - marking another one off a list. You can sell them crap in a box as long as it appears fancy.

So here are my thoughts on that:

1. If you don't particularly care about someone, just skip him. Creates some discomfort at first but gets you off at a better status quo next year.

2. If you insist on getting someone a present, make the minimal amount of effort and spend whatever others are spending. You don't need to spend more than that, and it's probable you can afford to spend as much as your coworkers.

3. If you have decided to cheap out and buy very inexpensive gifts, at least don't try to shop for inexpensive stuff that looks expensive because it never does. If you're buying something for 20 quid, where you know it should cost at least 50 quid, in all probabilities you are buying something of poor quality.

Instead you can always find inexpensive stuff which is personalized, funny or plain cute.

4. If you genuinely cannot afford Christmas presents, keep your head high. There's not shame in that. It's just a custom, nothing more. Those who are familiar with your situation will be sympathetic. Those who aren't would honestly don't care (do you remember who bought you what last Christmas? I bet you don't).


How about travel money?

July 29th, 2015 at 02:59 am

I was so focused on talking about foreign exchange services which are applicable to very particular parts of the population, that I almost forgot to speak about its ugly cousin, the travel money thing. Credit card to cold hard spending cash for holiday. Do you think you get a good deal there? Do you know what you usually pay? What is the typical amount your trade? Please do let me know and I'll continue this on my next post.

-- Continued -- Savings On Foreign Exchange

July 4th, 2015 at 10:04 am

So, on my previous post, I told you about my meeting at the bank, with exact terms/ costs on Foreign Exchange transfers offered to me at the bank.

Now, I want to compare it to one company I work with (also affiliated with, but the stats are completely true).

That company is Currencies Direct. It's a UK-based company and one of the largest currency brokers in existence. Like the majority of Foreign Exchange companies, their focus is on high volume transfers, usually conduct by telephone, but on the other hand offer a platform for any transfer above 100 Pounds.
It's FCA-regulated, with 18 offices worldwide, been in the business for almost 20 years now, won several awards etc. - very trustworthy and I feel very keen on recommending them (note: I have commercial interest; What I do for business is delivering clients to these sort of companies).

Note: They accept international clients; Mostly focused on UK, US, EU, Scandinavia and Australia. It's easier to sign up a UK-based individual or business than with other locations due to anti money-laundering which requires such companies to receive much documentation about their clients.

With Currencies Direct, you will get a better exchange rate than the bank. The exact margins that will be taken will depend on the volume of your trade, the currency pair and its liquidity (exotic currencies will induce high spreads), and the type of services you will need. If you need a straight-up FX transfer on the spot, and willing to haggle, you could probably get to very low exchange rates; if you need services from them (like following the rates and notifying you on the right moment to make the transfer - which is very much recommended in these times of volatility) - you might settle for the initial exchange rate offered to you.

If you compare it to the terms I have previous mentioned and taken from my bank (the actual number don't apply anymore since with the recent Greek crisis, the EURUSD has dropped significantly), you see the following:

Fees: My bank - $25, CD - $0

Commission: My bank - 0.2% (after the initial number was twice that much and I haggled for a while)

Spreads: My bank - 1.58%, CD - ~1%, but could be much lower depending on volumes.

Service: Bank - nothing, CD - dedicated dealer following your requirements and finding the right time to transfer, plus hedging tools (they can secure current rate to make sure you will not be harmed by exchange rate fluctations.

Translation in hard cash:

- Save >25$ on your small $100 transfer (as no fees are incurred).

- Save about half on the costs of a medium $x,xxx transfer (about 1% of that amount).

- Save potentially as much as 1.5% on large $xx,xxx+ transfers. That can translate to thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars (if your a business transferring a lot of currency regularly).

You can find our complete list of recommended currency brokers on the homepage of InternationalMoneyTransfers.org. The easiest and most recommend thing to do is click on all recommended companies, sign up with them, and see which one is most suited to your needs.


You can view the guide here:International Currency Transfers Guide

Banks O Banks

May 21st, 2015 at 12:37 pm

So, I went to my local bank branch today. It's a respectable branch, of a reputable bank. I'm a fairly distinguished client of the bank, and have recently added an additional business account (on top of my personal current account and saving account with them).

People there are nice. Polite is maybe a better way to phrase it. Their service, I must mention, is very client-oriented. They try to meet the standard that large retail stores have put in place.

In any case, I came there to test them. I wanted to see what I can help my saving with. Little they know that I don't trust banks to begin with, and being a financial entrepreneur, I'm quite familiar with the alternatives, and pursue my major investments, loans, and activities as far as I can from them.

So I started off with the current account. Reducing the fixed fees relating to activities relating to it. I didn't have to ask much and was offered 12 months w/ 75% discount on all of those. That's nice, I must admit, but if it's so easy for them to offer it, why wouldn't they approach me and tell me "hey fella, your bank account is large enough to offer you A B C", instead of me approaching them.

Then we went on with investments, and I reduced fees there at approximately 40%; my previous fees were far less than half of the initial offer from the bank. That means that with a medium sized account, no debt, good history, and assertive, knowledgeable approach, you can reduce 70% of the fees relating to investments, while most people won't even argue over them.

To top it off I was looking for some Foreign Exchange (NOT! I knew the outcome but had to test them). They offered a 0.2 commission structure, because "we've been working together for a while", plus a fixed fees translating to about 25 Dollar US, plus spreads that were over the 1.5% mark. So in total on my $10,000 transfer, they wanted to take off 195 Dollars in commission, and exchange my $9,805 into Euro. Kind offer gentlemen but with the companies I work with (

Confusion in FX

April 19th, 2015 at 02:23 pm

I get so many people approaching me and asking whether FX isn't gambling.

So the answer to this is divided into two parts:

- First off, FX means Foreign Exchange. Services that allow you to change your local currency, whether it's USD, GBP, or EUR are called FX services.

These services, like the ones I am mostly writing about, have nothing to do with gambling. They allow people to pay internationally, move abroad, purchase abroad, invest abroad, etc.

Just like banks do. And banks have nothing to do with gambling, don't they?

- The second part relates to FX trading. Forex Trading mostly relates to derivatives online trading. In short, it means you are using FX platforms to leverage you on your predictions. If you think a certain currency pair like the EURUSD is going to change, you can engage in a contract with these companies which will mean whether you earn big, or lose all (or part) of the money invested in that position.

Is this gambling? by regulative authority it is most certainly not, as these activities are supervised by financial regulators like the FCA in the UK.

Is it high risk investment? It most certainly is, but with no risk there's no gain.

Pensions abroad

March 15th, 2015 at 11:57 am

Let me tell you about an email I got from a J. Doe (I didn't get a permission to republish this story so I'm careful with it). This guy has retired a few years back. Had a decent salary and was eligible for a nice pension at around 5.5K GBP per month.

His children moved to Germany, so him and his wife decided to follow their steps.

They bought a small house, and also brought a large sum of their wonga so they can help their children and spoil their grandchildren. John would transfer the whole sum of 5,550 Pounds a month from the UK to Germany, every month, for the past 2 years, as well as approximately 200,000 Pounds to purchase their current residence, and help their children financially .

All exchanged from British Pound to Euro, of course.


John reports paying what he calls an OK margin for the big transfer (asset purchase), and then paying just about 2% including fees on all other transfers.

He assumes he paid somewhere in the area of 5,000 Pounds in fees. He heard good things about FX companies, but didn't trust them, and ended up paying a lot more than he should have in commissions.

He encountered some of the articles I wrote in that regard, and is now glad to report he pays about half of what he used to pay with his bank, and that the service is good as banks or better.

Good to hear that, and glad to help J Doe Smile




The world of FX

March 12th, 2015 at 09:49 am

Got my first comment on my previous post, nice!

"I would like to know how you do it now. Particularly for small amounts... My father in law sends small checks to my husband for his birthday, too, and the entire thing is eaten up by a $25 fee just for cashing a foreign check." - Buendia.

So I would dive a little further into it. Pardon me for not giving the full in and out analysis of the Forex industry, but it's a rather complex topic and I'm limited in time. So I'm it post by post, so eventually this blog could serve as a source of knowledge.

Answer

- Cashing a foreign check is a big no-no, and as you said common fees are 25 Dollars in the states, and even higher fees in Europe.

- The way to transact funds without paying that ludicrous commission is via bank to bank transfer.

- Wait! banks charge approximately the same amount of money as they do for foreign checks in "transfer fees". On top of that, they will take a margin of 2-3% on the exchange rate, and you'll end up in the same situation.

- So how would one conduct bank to bank transfers internationally without paying fees nor commission?

Specialized FX companies at your service

The market is booming with companies that provide the same service as banks (transferring funds internationally) but we smaller or no fees, and much better exchange rates.

Which companies are recommended? Well I have inspected the market for quite some time now, and even work for a site that does exactly that.

I will speak about the characteristics of all companies on a latter stage here, but for now I can introduce Currencies direct (review available here - http://moneytransfercomparison.com/currencies-direct-review/). This is an example of a nop-notch company that can address your need Buendia.

The key elements are:

- you can send money from the UK, and from the US, to almost 100 different countries so I am assuming this will fit your requirements (if not, let me know).

- the min amount is low at $100.

- no fees applied.

- better margins than banks.

- intuitive platform, easy, phone support, you do it once with their escort and then you can do it yourself quickly.

How does Curreices Direct direct and other FX companies work?

Simply enough they create an account on your name. You get online access to it. you transfer funds to that account in your local currency via domestic transfer (which costs between nothing to a few dollars).

Once money is stored in your account, you can ship in short time spans to wherever you want.

There is a lot more to it and more advanced options but I wanted to address that inquiry. I hope it helped.


Cheaper Money Transfers

March 11th, 2015 at 06:43 pm

The first topic I would like to address is the topic of FX transfers. To some people this concept might sound foreign, but to the majority of people it won't.

Some people don't even think about it. When they needed money transferred abroad, or require their local currency exchanged to other currencies, they go directly to their bank branch and perform the transaction. They don't know how much they pay, or else, they would not have done so.

I have personally lived in several countries in my short life. When you transfer thousands of Dollars a month, you become much more aware of this topic. At first when I traveled to the east, I used the first FX company I heard of, and probably the only one to this stage, together with MoneyGram, which is Western Union. With their travelers checks, together with some transfers to India, I started noticing very high fees. I was transferring about $750 to a friend's bank account in India to pay off for my monthly expenses. The fees were $25, and I was losing $40-$50 more on the exchange rate compared to the interbank rate.

That sounds not a whole lot, but when you're talking about 10% of the money I transferred each time, that was definitely annoying.

Quick jump to the late 2000's when I'm transferring hundreds of thousands of Dollars for asset purchases, and before I hit the send button on my online bank account, I start re-thinking and investigating through the market.

I figure out that the margins that banks have almost worldwide are at about %1-%2 on liquid currency pairs (where trade volumes are high), and as much as %5 on less common pairs. When you have to pay an additional 2 to 5 per cent on each dollar you transfer, and you're purchasing an asset, that becomes very highly effective in terms of your financial situation.

Our tendency to approach banks with any financial inquiry, service or consultancy we need, is rooted within us, but it is sometimes the worst thing to do.

I will write more about this topic, and what are the alternatives to foreign exchange transfers, as well as almost all aspects relating to one's savings.

Eventually, I think that over a person's lifetime, saving where it matters, could save 5-10% of that person's expenses. Imagine you're getting a 10% salary raise, how much would you work to make it happen? Now think how little you should work in order to educate yourself financially and stop acting like a robot when you have to perform any financial activity, and understand how valuable this advice might be for you and your family.

Me

March 11th, 2015 at 05:27 pm

Welcome to my blog. My name is Matt. I want to help everyone with advice in regards to personal finance. My focus is on financial products you can find outside of bank.

If you do the following activities as per your bank's recommendation, and don't look sideways for better opportunities, you are not maxing out on your saving.

Here are a few examples of things you can do outside of banks:

- Borrowing money - besides Payday loan companies that have a different functionality than the bank loans people usually take, there are many other alternatives.

The focus of my blog will be on peer to peer lending which is a very sustainable option, and for some, will be preferable to bank loans.

Another topic I will focus on are grants, social lending, and crowd funding.

- Investing money - again I vote for Peer to Peer investing, that allows you to act as a bank (to some degree), and do what banks do with your money (after taking a big chunk of it) which is peer to peer investing.

Other means of investing I shall cover include private investment companies, equity investment, crowdsourcing investmens, and anything I can find OUTSIDE of banks that will have higher returns on your money and shall not feed the monster.

- Transferring money for remittance or business. There are plenty of FX firms that serve this purpose much better.

- Credit cards - there are credit card offer that are better than what banks can propose you.

- Bitcoin and alternative coin as mean of

a. investing
b. shopping
c. remittance transfer

This is only a selection of the topics I want to cover, and I have much to say about.

About me -

Matt, 31, PR Officer for a financial data website, an enthusiastic blogger, that hopes to participate in the senior Olympics, when he's old enough to do so.