How to Stop Procrastinating

Ways to avoid putting things off and to be more productive

Procrastination happensprocrastinate_Featured to the best of us. Whether it’s postponing the reorganization of your closet, an assignment at work, or refinancing your home, we’ve all delayed projects that we didn’t want to do at a certain point in time. But procrastination only temporarily makes you feel better.

“Putting off the dreaded item on your list saps your strength,” explains Eva Wisnik, who provides time-management training for lawyers and corporations in New York City. “Checking it off will make you feel super-productive.”

Try one of these get-things-done tips today:

Avoid distractions – Most of the time, the reason we procrastinate is because there’s something else we’d rather do — whether it’s play the game from the new app you just downloaded, watch TV, call a friend, or browse Facebook. Find out what’s diverting your attention from what the task at hand, and then get rid of it. So for example, put your phone in a drawer, unplug the TV or block entertaining websites. With distractions in your reach, you’re more likely to be tempted to pursue them. But once they’re out of sight, they’re also out of mind, and it will free you up to achieve what needs to be done.

Shrink the task –Sometimes, people procrastinate because they’re overwhelmed by how much needs to get done. Decrease some of that pressure by making the task at hand smaller. For example, if you need to clean three bathrooms in your home, narrow it down to just one and see how you feel. Or, if you have to organize eight boxes, do three. Once you start and see how good it makes you feel, you’ll likely want to do more.

Regroup in the middle of the day – If you know you’re a procrastinator, make sure to check in with yourself — especially if it feels like your morning has flown by without accomplishing much.

“At 2 p.m. every day, assess how much you’ve accomplished, remind yourself of what’s critical, and alter your plan so you can tackle the most important thing,” says Wisnik. This will help you ensure you have enough time to complete the things that need to get done. “If you wait until 5 p.m. to evaluate your day, you’re out of time — and in crisis mode, putting out fires.”

Make a date – With yourself, that is! It may sound strange, but pencil in what you need to do on your calendar or plug it into your smartphone. And treat this designated time slot as you would any other appointment. For instance, don’t schedule conflicting activities and don’t be late. Setting an appointment with yourself will hold you more accountable and help you avoid procrastinating. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t blow off a friend’s plans or a boss’s meeting if you had a scheduled meeting with them, would you?

Work in 10-minute intervals – Ten minutes. That’s it! Set a timer for a short amount of time where you do what needs to be done and nothing else.

“Anyone can do 10 measly minutes,” says Debbie Mandel, a stress-management specialist in New York City and the author of “Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life.” “You may get engrossed and end up working even longer.” That’s because the satisfaction you’ll feel from accomplishing your job within that short time period will trump the negative outlook you had before.

Your time is valuable, so take the advice of the experts and you’ll see your productivity boom.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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Should You Pay Off Student Loans Early?

Weighing the pros of ridding yourself of student debt

To afford attending139989226_Featured college nowadays, more and more students are left with thousands in student debt that they’re responsible for paying back after graduating from college. In fact, between 2007 and 2012, student loan amounts increased 75 percent, according to a TransUnion study.

Student loans are, in fact, one of the biggest causes of debt. In 2010, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time, rising to more than $800 billion. And with so many people owing such large balances, that leaves the burning question for these students: “Is it better to pay off student loans early?”

While there are certainly reasons why paying a student debt early could be advantageous (i.e. no debt is better than debt). In some instances, however, paying the loans off early may not provide enough incentive. It really depends on your personal situation and where you stand in life.

Here is what you should know about paying down student loans ahead of time:

Pros
You may save money – If your student loan has a high interest rate (7 percent or higher), it’s a good idea to pay those off quicker than slower. Students who pay the minimum in student loans might feel like they’re saving in the present time, but as years pass, they’re actually paying much more than what the actual loan amount is. For instance, say you’re paying off a $10,000 student loan at an interest rate of 7 percent. If the loan term is 10 years, that means paying off the balance early would put approximately $3,932.94 in your pocket. So be sure to note your interest rate when deciding whether to pay them off early.

Lower your debt-to-income ratio – A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your income each month that goes toward paying off debt. Despite whether you can pay your loans off in full, if you up your monthly payments, it might still be worth it in the long run. Given the numbers in the previous example, if you’re making minimum payments to that hypothetical loan, you’re paying $116.11 per month. Adding another $100 each month to your payoff would make that $216.11 a month. And by paying that amount, you’d be able to pay off the loan in a little bit more than four and a half years, about half the time it would’ve originally taken you.

Peace of mind – Let’s face it: How good would it feel not having to pay each month toward your student loans? By just getting rid of it as quickly as possible, it’s something you won’t have to worry about. And that way, you can focus on saving for something big, like a house, or start investing for retirement. Think of it like cleaning: It has to get done somehow, so you may as well do it now (if it’s feasible) instead of waiting.

Before you give your loan office a call and rethink your financial plan, there are a few scenarios that need to be avoided when paying down your student loans.

Cons
You have debt with worse repercussions – “[Student loans] are typically unsecured loans that are not tied to collateral such as property, meaning your creditor will not likely repossess your personal assets, such as your home, if you are forced to delay repayment,” says Kent Kramer, chief investment officer and lead advisor at Foster Group. And while there are still consequences for not paying student loans on time, such as having your wages garnished, that still is considered better by most than having your house foreclosed or car repossessed. So Kramer notes if you do have the extra money to pay off your loans, it may be wiser to put it toward other debt before putting it toward student loans.

It would mean draining your bank account – Avoid paying down your student loans if it means you won’t have a dollar left to spare. It’s important to always have some cash set aside in case of an emergency — that will always trump getting your student debt paid off early. So if each month you’re left with nothing after putting money toward your student loans, it doesn’t make sense to try to pay the loan off early.

If you have any additional questions, be sure to contact us today and one of our representatives will help you.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

What Vehicle is Right for You?

Seven steps for finding your perfect car

Finding the “perfect”carBuying3_Featured vehicle sounds quite cut-and-dry, but there is actually a lot more involved in the process than pointing out a car that looks pretty. In fact, there is no “perfect” vehicle, but there very well could be one that is perfect for you. Follow the tips below from Edmunds.com’s Senior Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed to pick a new or used car, truck, SUV or van that will best suit you for years to come.

1. Assess your needs. Be practical. As Reed says, “Functionality should trump flash.” Consider the present and future answers to questions such as:
How many passengers do you need to carry? What type of driving do you do — highway, city, off-road, all weather? Do you have a long commute necessitating better fuel economy? What safety/cargo features are important to you? How much garage or parking space do you have?

2. Set a budget. Before you even lay eyes on a vehicle, you will need to discern your budget, and not just for the car. Figuring out how much you pay per month for other things (i.e. rent, utilities, groceries, etc.) compared to your income will give you an idea of what you can afford toward a car payment. Reed recommends a general rule of no more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay should go toward your vehicle payment, otherwise you are foolishly overpaying.

3. Compare leasing and buying. This is another aspect that is not ‘one answer fits all.’ Each options carries pros and cons. For example, a lease requires little or no money down and offers lower monthly payments, yet when the lease ends, you have to start the shopping process all over again. On the other hand, buying a car is more costly up front, and the monthly payments are a bit higher, but when the loan is paid off, you own that vehicle outright. That is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other advantages and disadvantages of each to consider.

4. Consider all the costs of ownership. Think long-term. It may be true that a car, especially a pre-owned one, may be cheap to buy, but it can also be expensive to own. Therefore, before signing on the dotted line for anything, estimate ownership costs for the long haul. This includes depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel costs.

5. Look at other cars in the class. Say you see a car on the street that strikes your fancy. It happens a lot. Nowadays, dealerships and other companies in the auto dealership have a plethora of tools that help you identify, research and compare that vehicle that was “love at first sight” to others that are similar but may be a better fit for you.

6. Set up a test drive. This is one of the most important parts of your vehicle search. After you scour the Internet for the vehicle you like, call or visit the dealership to schedule a test drive.

“By making a test-drive appointment, you ensure that the car will be waiting for you when you arrive,” explained Reed.

While on the test drive, you need to know what to look for. Drive it like you would during your every day life, be that in mountainous terrain or stop-and-go traffic. Try out each seat for comfort that meets your standards. Feel carefully for the smoothness of the ride, and keep the radio off while driving so as to listen for the engine hum.

7. Make your choice and sign for it. If your choice isn’t clear after test driving several cars (never try out just one; you need to compare), sleep on it. If you still can’t decide, go back to the drawing board and rethink your priorities.

But if you think you’ve found your perfect car after following steps 1-7, grab the keys and hit the open road. And as always, contact us today to help get the right financing for whatever you’re looking for.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Top Places to Look for Scholarships

Find out the best places to find available scholarships

What’s the top thingFind Scholarships prospective college students are in search of? A scholarship, of course. Scholarships, or grants that offer full or partial financial help toward a student’s education, are given on the basis of achievement, such as above average academics or athletics. And with student loans increasing every year, it’s a no-brainer for college applicants to be looking for a way to decrease this amount when graduating.

“I advise students to approach the challenge of finding scholarships as if they were looking for a job,” says Judith Lewis Logue, director of financial aid at the University of San Diego. “Few job applicants assume they will be offered the first job for which they apply. They know they will need to apply for many jobs to find the right one. You can never apply for too many scholarships!”

However, sometimes scholarships can be hard to come across, so the key is knowing where to look. So if you’re having a hard time finding places to apply for scholarships, don’t fret. Here are some of the best places to find a scholarship:

The college you’re applying – It sounds obvious, but many prospective students don’t even think about inquiring at the college of their choice.

“The primary source of information about student aid opportunities and resources is the college/university to which the student is applying,” says Joseph Russo, director of financial aid at the University of Notre Dame. “The vast majority of student aid resources are going to be made available through those financial aid offices.” So if you’re applying at your dream college, it doesn’t hurt to give the financial aid officers a call and ask them about scholarship opportunities — they’re the ones with the most information about their particular institution, after all.

Community organizations – Ask about scholarships at your local church or civic area locations, advises Russo. Check out the local rotary or Lions, Eagles and Elks clubs. It’s also possible that your neighborhood may be part of a community foundation or a Dollars for Scholars® chapter, which can offer many scholarship opportunities.

Family and friends – Maybe your parent’s employers provide an opportunity to apply for a scholarship. Or perhaps your friend works in an environment where they have access to scholarship prospects. Also, your high school guidance counselor is bound to have ideas and options on where opportunities might be available to you. Even throwing it out there on a Facebook status or in a tweet might help — you never know who’s reading your posts and who can offer help. In this day and age, it’s all about networking when it comes to scholarships, and you can never ask too many people for their help.

The Internet – There are a number of websites that can help you get started. For example, Zinch.com offers creative and fun scholarships that students can apply for. Fastweb.com is a great resource for not only monetary awards, but also services and tips on career planning. There’s also ScholarshipPoints.com, which uses a rewards system to determine the types of scholarships users best qualify for, as you earn points through a variety of activities. Not even sure where you’re applying yet? Scholarships.com helps you narrow down scholarships and colleges that work best for you and your personalized needs.

“Complete all of the optional questions in the scholarship search profile for about twice as many [scholarship] matches,” advises Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.

One important thing to keep in mind: You should never pay for scholarship advice.

“If you have to pay money to get money, it is probably a scam,” says Kantrowitz. “Never invest more than a postage stamp for information about scholarships or to apply for a scholarship.”

Once you know how much more you’ll need, let us help you get the money you need for all of your educational needs.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.