Investing 
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Introduction to FOREX Investing

500 Euro BillForeign exchange has been a hot topic lately with the weakness of the US Dollar and has always been an area rife with scams and rip-off artists (even the SEC warns about it on their website for forex transactions). Trading in foreign currencies works off the same principles are trading anything else, you want to buy low and sell high. Scammers would like you to believe FOREX is magic, that there are sure-fire trading systems that work 100% of the time, but Forex isn’t magic and there are no sure-fire trading systems… it’s just another way to invest.

So for years, the Foreign exchange market has been a secret and somewhat of a mystery to many traders, including myself. If you thought about investing, you mostly looked to the stock market or to bonds as places to invest. If you were like me, you knew about people trading in currency on the foreign exchange market but you never knew much more about it.

While I’m not advocating anyone jump into Forex investing today, I think there’s value in understanding how it works, even if you never plan on investing in it. To help demystify the Forex market, I thought I’d write a Foundation article about the basics of FOREX.

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 Government 
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Medicare & Medicaid Health Insurance Programs Explained

I’ve never had the need or the opportunity the learn about Medicare or Medicaid, two government programs that garner a lot of attention every two years, and that have recently been in the news because of President Obama’s attempts to bring about health care reform. Like many people, I didn’t understand how either program worked so I decided to do some research and put together this Foundation post.

The biggest difference between the two is eligibility based on financial need. Medicaid is designed to help low-income, financially needy individuals and is administered differently in each state. Medicare is not based on need and is entitlement based, through your payments into the program through your taxes. Medicare is administered nationally and the rules are the same everywhere.

If you’re curious to learn more, read on plucky adventurer because it starts getting a little more complicated. :)

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 Education 
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Basics of Online Education

University of Phoenix StadiumIf you go back a ten or fifteen years, there were two things you could do online that would get you laughed at: finding a date and getting a post-secondary degree.

With dating sites flourishing and online education popping up everywhere, the stigma associated with the “online” versions of both have all but been washed away. Meeting someone online no longer means you’re meeting someone capable only with interacting with a computer and getting a degree online no longer means you took some cupcake classes and paid for a diploma.

However, just as how you still want to be careful with who you choose to meet in person from an online dating site, you’ll also have to be careful which online university you choose to attend. Like dates, not all universities are created equal.

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 Debt 
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How Debt Settlement Works

List of Credit Card Debt Everything I’ve ever read about debt settlement has been extremely negative and, for the most part, ugly. It’s because debt settlement is designed for people in very dire circumstances.

A friend of mine recently got into the debt settlement business since he was working with a lot of individuals in weak financial situations. We spent the better part of three hours discussing how debt settlement worked, why debt settlement made sense to some people, and why the business had such a bad reputation. My friend is a stand-up guy, I trust him, and so it was refreshing to hear about the business, warts and all.

In this Foundation series article, I hope to pass on some of that knowledge to you.

Disclaimer: I’m not in the debt settlement business, I’m a personal finance blogger. I know debt settlement is fraught with scams, frauds, and other unsavory characters and so I’m writing this for educational purposes only. I’m not advocating anyone use debt settlement and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of anything in this article because I’ve never been through the process.

Please consult a lawyer and an accountant before making any decisions based on the information you read here.


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 Investing 
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Buying Municipal or State Bonds

Last week I was volunteering at Meals on Wheels when one of the other volunteers, Cheryl, asked me about buying state bonds. Until last week, I hadn’t really given it much research because the idea of buying individual bonds was never tremendously appealing. There is a big barrier to entry when you’re buying individual bonds and it’s with the minimum purchase amounts. In Maryland, if you buy the bonds from the state through a broker, your minimum buy is for $5,000 and your purchase must be in increments of $5,000. However, you can buy them in smaller increments on the secondary market so I thought I’d give it a look for this Foundation series post on buying municipal and state bonds.

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 Credit 
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Understanding FICO Credit Scores

For the first twenty years of your life, the most important measure of your future were your grades in school. Scored well, you got into better schools and tougher classes. Scored poorly and you didn’t. Just about the time I thought grades stopped mattering, I learned about my FICO credit score.

This little three digit number has caused so much consternation in its lifetime you’d think it was invented hundreds of years ago. Would it to surprise you to learn that the FICO score, for all its flaws, is actually an improvement on its predecessor? Before the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1971 (full text of the FCRA), credit reporting agencies did whatever they wanted.

They collected whatever information they could find and sold it to whomever was willing to pay. The idea of a “credit score” didn’t emerge until the 1980s when Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) put the data through a magical black box equation and spit out a three digit FICO score.

Pique your interest? Enough of the history lesson, let’s learn about FICO scores, how they are calculated (as best we know), and get on with this Foundation Series post!

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 Credit 
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How to Pick the Best Credit Card

Smiling Girl, Happy with Credit CardsDepending on who you ask, a credit card is either a very useful financial tool or an incarnation of the devil. Your perception of credit cards is often colored by your personal experience, as it should, and it’s easy to see how a mountain of debt could make one despise credit. I’ve always seen them as useful tools, powerful in the hands of a responsible credit card user, and dangerous in the hands of someone unfamiliar with how they work. If you want a primer on credit cards, I invite you to read the Foundation series post, Basis of Credit and Debit Cards Explained.

This Foundation Series post will explain how to pick the best credit card for your needs. (after a discussion of whether you should even get a credit card!)

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 Personal Finance 
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How to Budget

April is Financial Literacy Month and to help kick off this month of financial education, I thought I’d go back to the basics with this edition of the Foundation Series. This post explains something that I think everyone should integrate into their personal finance routine – budgeting. Budgeting is one of those activities that sounds like a hassle, even if you’re a numbers person, but I guarantee that you will benefit tremendously from learning how to and implementing your own budget.

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