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The Intelligent Life Blog

Helping millions of Americans become educated
in making intelligent decisions around their life needs

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Get Your Budget on Course: 5 Apps That Can Help

Mar 16, 2017 8:19:00 AM

Nearly all of us have some financial goals that we'd like to achieve, but putting the action in place to achieve those goals is a common roadblock. According to one Nielsen survey, 69% of respondents believed that they would achieve their financial goals, but only 28% had planning efforts in place to make those plans a reality. Most financial planning begins with basic budgeting. Here are just five simple budget apps that can help you get your family's budget on track so you can get on course to reaching your goals.

1. Mint

Mint is one of the most popular and most widely-used budget apps because it is user-friendly and versatile. The program is available online and as an iPhone and Android app. You can link your bank accounts to the app, create monthly budgets, track spending categories, and even upload data to some types of tax software.

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You Got a Bonus! What Will You Do with It?

Mar 12, 2017 6:31:00 PM

Whether your employment bonus check was expected or not, you now have some extra cash in your hand and a few decisions to make. When a bonus check comes into your life, it might be tempting to splurge on big ticket items or a fancy vacation. But just maybe there are some more responsible uses for that money, though. Here are just a few ideas of things that you can spend your bonus money on and some wise investment tips.

Indulge Yourself

We all deserve some reward, right? This doesn't mean that you should spend your entire bonus on a trip to Hawaii or a down payment on a new sports car. But, if you've been dying for a weekend away or some new fancy gadget for your kitchen, it's ok to spend a small portion of this bonus on some short-term gratification. The rest, however, should go towards achieving your long-term financial goals.

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Identity Theft: 5 Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Victim

Mar 9, 2017 8:35:00 PM

If you have a bank account, shop online, or even pay taxes, you run the risk of identity theft. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 17.6 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. As of 2014, about 7% of U.S. residents ages 16 and older experienced some form of identity theft. This type of theft includes such things as the unauthorized use of credit cards, bank accounts, or the use of personal information to commit financial crimes.

While some identity theft losses are insured by financial institutions, others may be financially and emotionally devastating. One thing that they nearly all have in common is that they are frustrating and inconvenient. In today's digital age, protecting your information is a challenge, but it is necessary. Here are five tips that can help you avoid becoming a victim of an identity theft scheme.

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Love, Marriage --- What's Next?

Feb 26, 2017 7:22:00 PM

Anyone who finds their life partner should be commended. It's not easy to find that one person that you want to spend the rest of your life with and who appreciates your unique quirks. Now that you've made that commitment in front of family and friends and hopefully had a nice honeymoon, there's some business to attend to.

The idea of being married and actually settling down into life as a married couple are two very different things. While you'll still enjoy evenings out and plenty of good times, living as a married couple requires some planning. Here are just a few things you'll need to take care of as you merge from two people who are dating into a family that is building a future together.

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10 Debt Traps to Avoid in 2017

Jan 12, 2017 10:40:00 AM

It's never fun being broke or having to live paycheck to paycheck. Wondering if you'll be able to pay your bills is stressful, and access to money is often limited. Those who have escaped debt will tell you that it is both a struggle and one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and your family. Maybe you just see the potential for trouble on the horizon and want to avoid total financial disaster. Whether you're crawling out of debt or hope to avoid its pitfalls, here are just ten debt traps to avoid in 2017.

1. Spending Too Much on a Home

Buying too much home is a common mistake that gets many people in over their heads in debt. A standard monthly benchmark for housing is 30% of your income. Many go up to 40%, but too many families fail to consider such things as property taxes, insurance, upkeep, and repairs in their budget.

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How to Make the Right Decisions

Jan 8, 2017 8:17:00 PM

Do you have difficulty making decisions? For many people, having to choose between even two simple alternatives is a stressful proposition, and life-changing decisions can be downright debilitating. If you'd rather not just throw caution to the wind and flip a coin when it comes to where you live, work, or who you spend your time with, some effective decision-making skills might be useful. Here are five exercises that can help you work through decisions, big and small so that you can come to better conclusions with less overall stress.

1. Identify Your Goals

It's difficult to make sound decisions if you don't have clear goals. In fact, people who aren't able to sit down and reflect on what they want are more likely to make bad decisions. If you want to avoid a series of bad, and potentially costly choices, sit down and list out your goals. The decisions that will help you achieve those goals will become more apparent.

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Planning Your Finances for 2017

Jan 5, 2017 10:32:42 AM

The new year is often a time when we make resolutions about living a healthier lifestyle. While resolving to exercise and eat better is a wonderful thing, the overall health of your personal finances could often use some attention as well. The new year is the perfect time to create new financial habits, which includes setting some goals. Here are several important areas to consider as you plan your finances for 2017.

Assess Your Situation

Whether you're planning for retirement, trying to claw your way out of debt, or saving for the dream of home ownership, it's hard to make a plan if you don't know where you stand. Sit down and make a list of your assets and liabilities. This means that you list out everything that you own as well as what you owe. If this sounds tedious, but there are some free online tools can help you get this done, such as Mint.com.

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Are New Year's Resolutions a Good Idea?

Dec 24, 2016 8:36:00 AM

Are you one of the many people that flood into the local fitness center during the first weeks of the new year, determined to make a change? How about tossing out all of the sugar in the kitchen or vowing to give up social media - except on the weekends? Many of us make resolutions at the start of the new year with the best of intentions, only to fall back into the same habits in short order. So, it's a pretty common debate about whether New Year's resolutions are a good idea at all or even healthy.

Why News Year's Resolutions Are a Good Idea

New Year's resolutions are an excellent idea for several reasons. Anyone who is willing to sit down and take stock of their life and see where a few things might need improvement should be commended. Setting goals can work but only if done properly.

Thousands of studies have been conducted on goal setting and the psychology of goals. Several overriding themes have surfaced from these studies. Among these are that goals should have meaning, be realistic, and be measurable. Setting a goal to lose 30 lbs. over the coming year is a noble quest, but without an action plan, you likely won't get very far. This is why too many goals, or resolutions, fall by the wayside.

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