Shopping For A First Credit Card

Long before we are old enough to carry credit cards ourselves, advertisers make sure we know about the power of plastic: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” “It pays to Discover.” “What’s in your wallet?”While using an ad campaign to choose a card is a terrible idea, the slogans have one thing right: A credit card can be a powerful thing. For teens and 20-somethings looking to pick a first card, taking the time to choose carefully can save money and offer a boost in establishing and building a credit history.An excellent credit score will be helpful when you start to think about buying a car or getting a mortgage. Even if you do not plan to take out a large loan in the near future, your credit information can be a factor in renting an apartment, obtaining a membership at a club or getting hired for certain jobs.Lenders use credit reports to determine how risky it is to give a borrower – that is, you – a loan. All in all, the lender just wants to know if the borrower will be able to pay back the loan. If the borrower has bad credit, then he or she probably made some major or ongoing financial mistakes and is more likely not to repay. On the other hand, if the borrower has good credit, then he or she has a history of paying back debt, and the lender will most likely grant the loan.Credit cards are effectively short-term loans that need to be paid back within a short grace period. Getting the first credit card can be tricky. Credit card companies do not have any basis for your credit history since you have not borrowed any money in the past. So how are you supposed to establish and build your credit rating without a history?One way is to apply for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are backed by a deposit that you make upfront. Usually, the amount you deposit will be the same as the card’s credit limit. Everything else is like a regular unsecured credit card: You use the card to buy things; you make monthly payments; and you incur interest if you fail to pay off the full balance. A secured credit card should be only a temporary step to building credit. Try to pay off the total balance every month to show that you are financially responsible. After all, not only do you want to build a credit history, you want to build a good one.Another effective way to start your credit history is to become an authorized user on someone else’s card. Many parents will designate their children as authorized users on their credit cards so that the children can build credit without the legal obligation to pay the balance every month. However, if the person whose account you are authorized to use does not handle the account properly, their mistakes could end up hurting rather than helping your credit.Once you establish your credit history, you can shop for your first unsecured credit card. You will quickly discover that there are many to choose from. A number of factors can help narrow the search.The most important of these is how you intend to use the card. Are you going to use it only for emergencies? If not, will you pay in full each month, or will you carry a balance on the card? Once you decide how you will use the card, follow your self-imposed rules. It is very easy, and dangerous, to continually swipe the card and tell yourself it is for a good reason. But it is crucial to be stubborn about establishing good spending habits, even – or maybe especially – early in life.If you plan to carry a balance on your card, you must be aware of the interest rate of each card you are considering. The interest rate used by credit card companies is the annual percentage rate, or APR. There are cards with variable APRs, which are based on a certain index (such as the U.S. prime rate). There are also nonvariable APRs, which are usually fixed-rate credit cards. As a beginner, you will usually want a low-rate, nonvariable APR credit card, because knowing your interest rate will give you a sense of how much money you will need each month to pay at least the minimum amount due. A low-rate, nonvariable APR card will therefore help when you create a monthly budget.In addition to interest rates, pay attention to penalties and fees. Reading the fine print in a contract can save you from owing avoidable charges. The most common fees include balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, fees for requesting a credit limit increase and online or mobile payment fees. Many cards also impose penalties for not paying your bill on time or going over your credit limit. You should hold out for a card with minimal fees and reasonable penalties. Even if other features of a particular card seem attractive, avoid the potential for exorbitant fees and penalties that could hurt your cash flow and your credit history.Understanding your spending habits will help you determine which incentives will be important to you. Most cards offer rewards programs to their customers or offer cash back for certain purchases. Many cards offer 0 percent APR for the first six to 18 months that your credit card is open. These cards are great if you plan to carry a balance from month to month. Some cards even offer anywhere from 1 to 5 percent cash back on all or certain types of purchases. If you know how you plan to use your card, then certain cards’ rewards programs can save you a lot of money.As a first-time cardholder, once you have chosen the card that is right for you, you may find it exciting to be able to swipe the piece of plastic and not have to pay in cash. But while credit cards can be useful tools, it is important to not fall into the black hole of credit card debt, which can be all too easy for an inexperienced user. Make sure to know how your credit score works and how to avoid penalties so that you will be able to make larger purchases and secure loans in the future.Your payment history, the amount of credit you use and the number of negative marks on your credit history have the highest impact on your overall credit score. If you can, pay off your total balance on time each month, ensuring that you have a 100 percent payment history. Paying off your card every month comes with the added bonus of saving you from being charged any interest on a carried balance.You will also want to use as low a percentage of your credit limit as you can. This ratio is called credit card utilization, and most experts recommend that you try not to go over 30 percent at any time. Credit card companies want to know that you are responsible with your spending and that you will be able to pay off your balance each month. You can either spend less each month or increase the credit limit on your card to lower the percentage used. You can also pay more than once per month.Obviously, you should avoid any negative marks on your credit history. These can include collection accounts, bankruptcies, foreclosures, civil judgments or tax liens. Although someone applying for a first credit card typically will not have had time to worry about bankruptcies or foreclosures, keep in mind that such problems can severely damage your ability to secure credit in the future.As a first-time applicant, you may find that the length of your credit history, the total number of accounts open or closed in your name and the number of credit inquiries also have an adverse rating on your credit score. Your credit history will be short. You will not have many open or closed accounts. Your first credit inquiry will most likely be from the company where you applied for your first credit card. Be patient. Building a credit history takes time, but as a young adult, staying on top of your finances, and especially your credit cards, will help you in the long run.Credit cards can be both powerful and dangerous, but they are also a convenient part of everyday life for most of us. A first credit card offers a great opportunity to establish positive financial habits that will serve you well for a lifetime.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

Insurance Agents Name Choices – Insurance Specialist, Financial Planner, or Life Advisor?

Are you one of the plain insurance agents? Agents often prefer to upgrade their title as an insurance specialist or financial advisor on their business card. Names like life advisor reflect positive experience and knowledge. Which of these different terms distinguishes you from being just one of the insurance agents? Here are 101 top choices to pick from.There is a lot more to a name then may realize. Calling yourself an agent or sales agent makes you sound run of the mill. It also projects the sound of a salesman trying to sell you something. Few people enjoy feeling a person is selling them anything, it stinks of pressure. This is why in this list of different terms you will see how high words like specialist, expert, and professional rank. The prospect gets a completely new perspective, just by the title you give yourself! Prospects closely take notice when an agent jointly works with them in reaching a decision on what is the best plan of action. Prospective clients want to feel like they are part of the decision process.Important internet search tip: to get an accurate count use quote marks around your term, “insurance specialist” will only give you that term in that exact order. Without the quotes you would also get all instances of people searching terms such as specialist insurance, specialist in writing insurance claims, specialist in automobile insurance sales, etc.To give this article value, in front of each of the insurance agents distinctions is the number of current Google listings. This way you can easily see how often internet views “insurance agent ” look-up terms like specialist, planner, representative, and. advisor. Please remember the Google count figures often change daily.1. 10,600,000 = financial advisor2. 6,690,000 = insurance agent3. 4,280,000 = financial planner4. 2,120,000 = investment advisor5. 1,780,000 = insurance agents brokers6. 1,600,000 = investment adviser7. 999,000 = insurance guide8. 735,000 = insurance specialist9. 638,000 = financial expert10. 604,000 = financial professional11. 590,000 = financial specialist12. 513,000 = life pro13. 433,000 = insurance professional14. 431,000 = health insurance agent15. 322,000 = insurance expert16. 271,500 = insurance salesman17. 269,000 = life professional18. 268,000 = life insurance agent19. 253,000 = insurance consultant20. 252,000 = insurance advisor21. 244,000 = insurance sales representative22. 219,000 = insurance manager23. 218,000 = estate advisor24. 217,000 = insurance executive25. 189,000 = estate planner26. 186,000 = independent insurance sale27. 179,000 = insurance sales agent28. 155,000 = insurance seller29. 130,000 = insurance producer30. 126,000 = investment representative29. 120,000 = insurance authority30. 119,000 = insurance representative31. 112,000 = life agent32. 107,000 = life insurance specialist32. 104,000 = life specialist33. 102,000 = insurance adviser34. 89,900 = insurance sales manager35. 86,200 = licensed insurance agent36. 85,200 = insurance manager37. 71,000 = health agent38. 66,600 = insurance pro39. 65,100 = insurance sales rep40. 60,000 = insurance designer41. 59,400 = insurance sales person42. 55,600 = life consultant43. 54,500 = group agent44. 52,200 = ins agent45. 50,100 = estate adviser46. 50,000 = insurance pros47. 46,800 = insurance counselor48. 43,800 = financial pro49. 43,400 = insurance salesperson50. 40,200 = insurance sales specialist51. 37,700 = life producer52. 37,000 = insurance sales executive53. 35,400 = independent insurance brokers54. 34,700 = long term care professional55. 34,500 = financial planning advisor56. 33,900 = medical insurance specialist57. 31,300 = health insurance professional58. 29,300 = life insurance expert59. 29,000 = insurance rep60. 28,900 = financial planning advisor61. 27,500 = health insurance specialist62. 26,000 = health insurance advisor63. 25,500 = independent insurance professional64. 24,700 = employee benefits specialist65. 24,000 = life advisor66. 22,900 = life insurance advisor67. 21,800 = life insurance sales specialist68. 19,900 = life insurance professional69. 19,300 = insurance producer70. 19,200 = licensed financial planner71. 16,200 = health insurance producer72. 14,900 = insurance sales consultant73. 14,000 = term life insurance broker74. 12,800 = long term care specialist75. 12,700 = annuity specialist76. 12,500 = estate planning specialist77. 12,200 = insurance marketer78. 11,950 = life insurance representative79. 11,900 = insurance planner80. 10,600 = insurance sales professional81. 10,400 = life insurance advisor82. 10,200 = insurance writer83. 9,650 = insurance recruiter84. 9,480 = financial planning advisor85. 9,030 = estate planning advisor86. 8,570 = annuity broker87. 7,520 = insurance general manager88. 7,070 = insurance trainee89. 6,800 = long term care insurance specialist90. 6,670 = term life insurance agent91. 6,440 = long term care insurance agent92. 5,870 = licensed life agent93. 5,300 = financial insurance agent94. 5,270 = annuity agent95. 5,080 = ins professional96. 5,030 = medical insurance professional97. 5,010 = disability insurance agent98. 4,990 = employee benefits professional99. 4,430 = mortgage insurance agent100. 4,200 = disability insurance specialist101. 3,900 = long term care agentFor your own sake, never tell prospective clients that you are one of 1,500,000 insurance agents licensed to sell life, health, annuities, and financial policies. The term insurance specialist or insurance professional immediately makes your prospect more confident of your abilities. However, please do not use the overused and abused terms of financial planner or estate planner unless you actually are qualified to be one.If case, you are interested, here are more titles with over 1,000 Google entry occurrences that did not make the top 101 list. They include group health professional, ins specialist, insurance marketing representative, health insurance adviser, ins representative, term life insurance specialist, mortgage life insurance agent, insurance marketing specialist, disability insurance broker, life ins agent, term life agent, senior market specialist, life investment adviser, MDRT insurance agent, and insurance saleswoman.Should you want to get more attention on major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Ask, here are some tips. On the front of your website entry page, use the title and first line to put a more descriptive term about the services you provide. Rather than announcing “insurance agent for many products”, try this, “medical insurance professional and disability insurance specialist.” Both these titles only have about 5,000 competing entries, which could include 3,500 to 4,000 weak ones each. Now it depends on following the advice given, and internet search engine skills you possess. An internet searcher might now find you in the top 100 listings for each of the terms! On an “insurance agent” search, with well over 6,000,000 listings, it might take a 24/7 week to find you listed toward the end of the heap.