Healthy Desserts That Won’t Ruin Your Diet

Indulge yourself without feeling guilty with these healthy treats

When you’re on a diet, HealthyDessert_Featuredyou tend to restrict yourself to only healthy foods, leading you to cross desserts entirely off your list. However, being on a diet doesn’t mean eating dessert is totally out of the question. In fact, allowing a small daily indulgence can help curb any cravings you might have.

Here are some delicious yet healthy desserts that won’t ruin your diet but will leave you feeling satisfied.

Yogurt parfait
A yogurt parfait is an ideal way to get a sweet fix, while also watching caloric intake. Combine a flavorful, yet low-fat yogurt with a variety of fresh fruits like berries or melon. Then, top this concoction off with either a drizzle of honey or the much-needed crunch of granola. The resulting parfait will leave you feeling full without adding majorly to your calorie count.

Frozen banana sandwich
For the peanut butter-lover, a frozen banana sandwich is the healthy dessert of choice. They’re easy to make, too. Cut a banana into individual, round pieces. Place a small amount of peanut butter between two pieces, making a small sandwich. Then, freeze them. After an hour or so in the freezer, these protein-packed banana sandwiches are ready to eat. They almost taste like banana ice cream sandwiches, which is the perfect way to end the day without worrying about calories.

Apple and peanut butter
An apple is the perfect vessel to indulge in peanut butter. To create the perfect apple-and-peanut-butter dessert, chop up an apple and place it in a bowl. Then, heat up one serving (usually two tablespoons) of peanut butter in the microwave for 30-45 seconds or until melted. Drizzle the peanut butter onto the apples, and then top it off with a serving size of dark chocolate chips. This dessert will satisfy your sweet tooth, while making sure you’re not frowning when it comes time to weigh yourself.

Dessert smoothies
A dessert smoothie is a healthy, filling and sweet indulgence. Combine a variety of fruits to create the dessert of your dreams. Consider adding other flavors like vegetable juice or flavored yogurt. Even a dollop of peanut butter is a great addition to a dessert smoothie. No matter what is added, a smoothie is a healthy way to satisfy the need for dessert.

Dark chocolate
Who knew chocolate could be healthy? According to Women’s Health magazine, chocolate is considered a superfood, which means it has a number of health benefits. Cacao, which is dark chocolate’s main ingredient, can help heart health. Because of this, eating chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it is beneficial to one’s wellbeing.

Women’s Health also mentions a study from the University of Copenhagen which found that dark chocolate is more filling and can help increase weight loss. So, if you are looking to indulge, consider eating a small portion of dark chocolate for your dessert.

Even if you’re on a diet, it’s easy to satisfy your sweet tooth. One of the most important ideas to keep in mind, though, is to use portion control and to not overindulge. Enjoy these healthy treats in moderation and you will begin seeing results without sacrificing your happiness.

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

To-Do List for Getting Finances in Order

How to get financially organized

Do you often find you’reFinToDoList_Featured scatterbrained when it comes to keeping your finances in order? More important, do you spend more than you can afford? More than one-third of adults do, and an estimated 70 percent of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. And that means it’s time to start really getting down to business about keeping more organized to avoid spending more than you should be spending.

“You cannot be in denial about finances,” Dr. Phil says. “It doesn’t matter what you think you deserve, what you think you need, even — and [it] certainly doesn’t matter what you want or desire. When you’re dealing with finances, you’ve got to deal with reality.”

Here are some top tips for getting financially organized:

Ditch paper – Most bills can be paid online, so you might want to take advantage of that, as too much paper increases the chance that things will get lost. If you use a scanner, you’re more likely to be able to keep things in order (plus, it’s better for the environment).

“Simply scan photos and paper documents to create electronic copies. By transferring all physical records into electronic format, you’ll be able to later print the records,” says Lynnette Khalfani Cox, author of “Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.”

You should also store at least one backup copy on a CD or memory stick. Not ready to go paperless completely? Invest in a paper shredder.

“It eliminates waste, and that’s pretty crucial,” says CPA and financial planner David Bendix, president of The Bendix Financial Group in Garden City, New York. “It’s smart, and it’ll help you get organized.”

Start a retirement plan – While you’re getting your finances in order, it’s a good time to set up a 401(k) or other retirement plan (if you haven’t already) to help you save for the future.

“Having a long-term allocation to equities is necessary for combating inflation in the future and making sure that you have enough money to buy the things you want when you are retired,” said iShares Asset Allocation Strategist Jane Leung. Try to invest as much as you can in a 401(k), and take advantage of whatever company matches available to you. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), you can open an IRA.

Be detailed about files – “Think about those files you access the most and the reasons why,” says Wayne Bogosian, president and managing director of the PFE Group, and co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to 401(k) Plans.” “Rather than dumping everything into a general folder called ‘documents’ or ‘photographs,’ break it down into primary and secondary folders.” That means being as specific as possible (e.g., “tax returns,” “credit/debit cards,” “insurance,” etc.).

“And don’t be an ‘e-pack rat,’” says Bogosian. “Chances are, that document you saved in 1997 isn’t going to do you much good today.”

Open an emergency fund – No one wants to find themselves strapped for cash, especially in an emergency. That’s why it’s wise to start building a just-in-case fund to help keep things in order.

“$1,000 would be the first goal to work toward,” says Tom Maynard, finance instructor at Converse College. “Then try to get to the point where it’s equal to one month’s take-home pay, and then two months’ take-home pay, and if you can get to where you have three months’ take-home pay, then you probably have reached a level that, I’m going to guess on this, but I’ll bet you 10 percent of the American public does not have.”

Keep a checklist handy – Start each month by making a checklist of each bill you know will be arriving. Keep the list in the same place at all times, and be sure to update it regularly. You can refer to it whenever you need to verify whether you’ve paid — or you haven’t paid — a bill. Whether via mail or email, not all important documents always make their way to you in a timely manner, so keeping a list helps you stay on track and notice if something wasn’t delivered on time (which can be a common occurrence).

We can help you get your finances in order – contact us today.

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

Personal Loans Versus Credit Cards

Advantages and drawbacks of each type of lending

Personal loans andCardsVsLoans_Featured credit cards, should they be used intelligently, can be great ways to finance your wants and needs. As personal finance author Greg McFarlane writes on Investopedia.com, credit in general grants us temporary access to other people’s money, and for a time, it is a win-win for all parties.

“The lenders get interest, the borrowers get leverage and the economy grows. What’s not to love?” he said. “Without credit, capitalism would stagnate.”

But which lending method is better: personal loans or credit cards? Let’s look at some of the high points and low points of each.

Personal loans
This type of credit is unsecured, meaning there is no collateral involved. Because this is a higher risk for the lender, as there is nothing of which they can take possession in the event of default, interest rates are fairly high. And because you will have a balance to be paid from day one, you are paying that interest starting the moment you sign on the dotted line. Still, these interest rates are typically lower than those of most consumer credit cards, giving personal loans an advantage there.

Another advantage of a loan is that it comes with a set term during which you will be repaying it, and a set amount to pay, which helps with budgeting. At the same time, credit card terms are either longer or unspecified, allowing for lower, although inconsistent, payment amounts.

“Many personal loans have a payback period of no longer than 60 months, or five years. Credit cards tend to amortize your payment over eight to 10 years, resulting in a lower payment over a longer time,” said debt adviser Steve Bucci of Bankrate.com.

Credit cards
While credit cards do come with inherently high rates — so high, in fact, that the president and Congress had to artificially cap those rates from outside the free market — for the first month after you purchase something on the card, you are technically getting a zero percent interest rate, McFarlane says.

“Should you choose to take 30 days or longer to pay for an item you bought on a credit card? Well, that’s when you’re failing to take advantage of the inherent benefit of the method of payment,” he explains.

Furthermore, credit card companies often offer a grace period for payments. That means you have more than a month to come up with enough money to pay off your balance and avoid being charged interest — that’s at least two pay periods to gather your own money and use it to pay off the money you borrowed.

Also, not having to wait for paperwork approval when you need or want the money, as you do with loans, is yet another way your credit card acts just like cash (except in plastic form).

Exceptions to these details exist when you are talking about business loans or credit cards, or about personal loans obtained for use of credit card consolidation. Regardless of how you are using your means of credit, make sure you are looking carefully at the terms of the agreement. Let us help you choose the method that best suits your needs, and then take full advantage of its benefits.

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

Navigating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid Process (FAFSA)

A guide to some of the most important FAFSA questions

The heavy burdenFafsa_Featured of student loan debt that so many people in our country face is always in the news, so new students and their parents know exactly how important it is to minimize their costs. Obtaining financial aid is dependent upon filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which means there is a lot of pressure surrounding the task of filling it out correctly.

The first thing you should know is that the form is very important, and you should fill it out no matter what. This may seem obvious, since it is required for anyone who hopes to receive federal loans or grants or who may be admitted to a work-study program, but a surprising number of students do not submit the application at all.

“Unfortunately, the standard FAFSA has over 100 questions asking for everything from your net worth to your parents’ assets, causing many overwhelmed students to never complete it,” says Alexandra Rice for U.S. News & World Report.

The length of the application isn’t the only reason students might forgo submitting it. One of the most common reasons is that students think their parents’ income level is too high to qualify for financial aid.

“This is a costly misconception,” states Rice. “It’s important to be aware that many colleges offer merit-based aid that doesn’t even consider financial need; it’s based on achievements such as grades, SAT scores or athletics. In other words, the amount of money your parents make doesn’t matter for this type of aid, but you can’t get it if you don’t fill out the form.”

So when it comes time to fill out your FAFSA application, you should be aware of some of the most important questions and answer them carefully to help ensure you get the most aid that you are entitled to.

Kim Clark from Time Inc.’s Money.com points to questions 24 and 25, which deal with the education level of your parents.

“Don’t brag!” cautions Clark. “If either parent attended but did not graduate from college, then just click on high school. There are some extra scholarship programs for people whose parents never finished college.”

Question 31, dealing with work study, is another one to watch out for. You should answer yes regardless of whether or not you currently think you want to work while attending school. You aren’t obligated to take a work-study position even if you answer yes, and it keeps you in the running so your options are open when the time is closer and you can assess how you feel.

Not only do work-study jobs help you earn some money to put toward your tuition, but the income doesn’t impact your financial aid eligibility in future years. On the other hand, if you don’t try to gain a work-study position and later decide you need to work and take an off-campus job, those earnings could impact that future eligibility.

“Also, research shows that students who spend 10 to 15 hours a week on work-study jobs do better in college than those who don’t work,” states Rice.

Questions 41 and 42 deal with the student’s savings and investments, which have a big impact on how much aid you receive. It is important to pay extra attention to these questions in order to accurately calculate the exact sum of investments and savings that belong specifically to the student.

“Every dollar of savings in the student’s name reduces need-based aid by about 20 cents, while money in parents’ accounts — even if it’s designated for the student — reduces need-based aid by a maximum of 5.64 percent,” states Rice.

If you take the money that the student has saved up for college and contribute it to a 529 college savings account, you can make a big difference in how much need-based aid you are eligible for. This may seem strange, since that money is intended for the student to use during school, but 529 accounts are technically parental assets, which you will disclose in question 91.

“Notice that the question asks how much the student’s savings and investments are worth ‘as of today,’” states Rice. “That means you have until the day you fill out your FAFSA to move the student’s money into a 529.”

This brings us to question 91, which is where one of the most common and expensive mistakes can happen. That error is mistakenly reporting parental assets as too high by double reporting certain assets as being owned by both the parents and the child. If the student’s parents are divorced or if they meet other separation criteria, the student needs to include only the assets of the parent they live with most of the time.

Another important thing to keep in mind with this question is that retirement savings and the net value of your home are exempt according to FAFSA’s fine print. This means that while you do need to include the value of 529 savings accounts and other taxable investment accounts, you do not need to include pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs or the value of life insurance plans.

Even though college hasn’t started, this is one questionnaire that it truly pays to take seriously, so keep these tips in mind when it comes time to fill out your FAFSA application.

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

Tips for Getting the Best Car Loan

Get the best loan possible

As with any big purchase, NewCar_Featuredwhen purchasing a car you’ll want to make sure that you get the best deal possible, and that requires being smart about getting a car loan. Many people tend to overlook certain things during this process — they want to get in and out and on the road — but even a small oversight could cost you big bucks.

“When you buy a car, make sure it’s something you can afford, something that truly meets your budget,” adds Senior Director of Auto Finance Melinda Zabritski at Experian Automotive. Otherwise, you could risk running into financial problems in the future.

To make sure you’re making the right choice regarding an auto loan, here are five tips to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line:

Know your credit score – It’s a good idea to check your credit by getting a preapproved car loan. Your credit score helps determine your car financing interest rate and is based on your credit report. If you have a high score, you qualify for a better car loan rate than if you have a low score. Thus, if you don’t know your credit score beforehand, you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a good rate.

“Most people think their credit score is worse than it is,” says Senior Consumer Advice Editor Phil Reed at Edmunds.com. “When people don’t know their credit rating, the dealer can tell them almost anything.”

Avoid add-ons – Often you can finance add-ons — anything from leather seats to chrome wheels — separately. And while it may seem convenient to purchase them on the spot, your wallet might not agree.

Car salespeople “are really there to make extra profit for the dealership by increasing interest rates and selling extended warranties and add-ons such as fabric protection and paint sealant,” Reed says. “Dealers can write other fees into the contract and give them official-sounding names. These fees are another attempt to take profit on the back end of the deal when the buyer’s guard is down.” If you’re really aching for upscale window tinting, check with other companies, which may offer it for less money.

Do your homework – Know that lenders aren’t obligated to offer you the best possible rate for which you qualify. In general, new cars typically offer lower interest rates compared with used cars. In 2007, for example, car dealers marked up loans by an average 1.8 percent on used cars and 0.6 percent on new ones. To avoid overpaying on your loan, inform the lender that you’re looking in various places for your vehicle or that you already have another offer. That may help you get a better rate.

Keep quiet about what you can afford – You don’t want to go to a dealership and announce the exact monthly payment amount that you’re willing to pay each month. That may cause car dealers to use the longest auto loan term available to figure out your potential rates for monthly installments. For example, a car that costs $25,000 with a five-year loan may require the same monthly payments as a $16,000 car with a three-year loan — but you’ll end up paying more in interest for the higher-priced vehicle. Sometimes, if the car salesperson knows how much you can afford per month, negotiating a lower purchase price may be harder to do.

Go for the shorter-term loan – Most car buyers tend to lean toward longer loans because the monthly payment is smaller. However, in the long run you’re actually paying more the longer the loan runs due to interest.

“You definitely pay more in the long run because these long loans typically have high-interest rates,” says Mike Quincy of Consumer Reports Autos. Is there a perfect loan time for your vehicle? “Try to limit your car loan to about 48 months,” advises Quincy. “That’s the optimal amount of time you should pay for your car.”

Stop by today to find out more about what rates we can offer so you can shop with confidence.

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