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Tips you need to know when refinancing

House refinancing

Are you losing money every month?  “Some 58 percent of homeowners who have mortgages—that’s about 28 million households—pay interest rates that are higher than today’s bargain rates, ” says Consumer Reports. “Trading in a higher-rate mortgage for a cheaper one has become almost ritual in the past two decades.”

Is it wise to refinance with a shaky economy, or worse yet, if your finances aren’t that stable?  It’s important to get wise counsel on whether you should take the plunge.

What might hurt your chances in refinancing?  Low equity, reduced income or unemployment all play a significant part in this important financial decision. Read the full article here:

But when is the best time for you?  “Most lenders agree that the greatest gain in refinancing your home occurs when the current interest rate stands at least two percentage points below your existing mortgage loan interest rate and refinancing costs are affordable, ” says the University of Minnesota Family Extension. Be careful, though, and know your timing!

“In general, refinancing is not a good idea if doing so won’t save you money,” continues U of M’s teaching.  The article states the Federal Reserve Board’s three reasons why you might not benefit from refinancing.  You can see the entire article by clicking here:

In other words, be wise and do your homework.  It could save you thousands in the long run.

SBA Announces National Small Business Week

National Small Business WeekThe U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet announced that this year’s National Small Business Week will be held from May 1-7.  This year’s theme will be “Dream Big, Start Small.”

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Set as the first week in May, National Small Business Week includes events across the country and educational webinars on a variety of business topics.

Entrepreneurs are many things. They are gritty, resourceful, and creative. They are also students, parents and community leaders. Entrepreneurs are frequently thought of as national assets to be cultivated, motivated and remunerated to the greatest possible extent. Entrepreneurs can change the way we live and work. If successful, their innovations may improve our standard of living. In short, in addition to creating wealth from their entrepreneurial ventures, they also create jobs and the conditions for a prosperous society. Entrepreneurs:

  • Create new businesses;
  • Add to the national income;
  • Create social change; and
  • Develop communities.

Businesses interested in taking advantage of webinars during National Small Business Week should visit the SBA website.

Sources: U.S. Small Business Administration and Investopedia.

Some out-of-the-box investments that might just work out great!

CowI stopped by to browse at a Goodwill store and ended up with a few knick-knacks before I left. As I was chatting with the cashier, I nodded toward the artwork on the wall. “Did you ever have any pricey stuff donated?” I asked.

“Funny you should ask that,” she said as she handed my my receipt. “A gentlemen comes in here monthly and scours our paintings. Last week he bought some artwork for about twenty bucks a picture and immediately got on his cell phone.  Before he left the store he had sold one of the paintings for four thousand dollars.”

I was amazed at the windfall he enjoyed, and it got me to thinking about the many offbeat but potentially profitable investments a person can make. Artwork is one such area of opportunity. For generations, art has been a popular investment strategy – if the investor does his homework. Looking for good composition and perspective in a budding artist could pay off handsomely. You don’t need to buy a Van Gogh; just look for potential out there!

You might also consider pets – seriously! Huffington Post reports that “Pet stocks like PetSmart, the largest publicly traded pet supply retail, and MWI Veterinary Supply are up 55 percent and 30 percent on the year, respectively.” Remember, pets never go out of season!

You can be creative, if you’re careful. CNN Money reported that Rajeev Kotyan was looking for ways to get a better return on his money, and found such a way in cows. While chatting with a dairy farmer and hearing his woes about getting governmental loans, Kotyan agreed to invest $25,000 into buying 10 cows. CNN reported the unusual but profitable situation: “The farmer agreed to lease the cows for five years, giving him the time to make enough money to then acquire the cows for a fixed price. From acquisition to sale, Kotyan made a 25% return — receiving annualized returns of about 12% from what he fondly calls his “cash cows.’ ”

Some investments might seem pretty far fetched, but a smart and thoughtful lookout for opportunities just might yield great results!

Work smarter, not harder

Angela LoweWork smarter, not harder – that’s what will get your company ahead.

Well, if you’re looking for a smart business move, it’s having QuickBooks in your office. QuickBooks is a top-level business accounting software for small to mid-sized business owners, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the ease and speed with which your staff can adapt to the QuickBook method of business.

Numerous time-consuming bookkeeping tasks are part of the automatic QuickBooks’ service, freeing up valuable time for you!  QuickBooks generates reports so you can keep tabs on your business’ financial health, and the Online Payment Program gets you quicker payments from customers.  It’s affordable and adaptable – all in all, a smart move for your company!

As QuickBooks ProAdvisors, Certified Public Bookkeepers and Certified Payroll Specialists, Cornerstone Bookkeeping is here to personally train you or your employees — at your location — on bookkeeping, payroll, and QuickBooks financial software.

For a complimentary consultation on your needs for QuickBooks Training, simply complete our Online Form or just call us at 865-363-6916.

Watching your dollars at every turn should include grocery shopping

Piggy BankAt Cornerstone, we know that you’re particularly careful to be smart when it comes to saving and shopping. However, many people who watch the stock market every other hour may not take a careful approach to spending when it comes to groceries. We have a few tips to help you save at the supermarket:

Make shopping a chore, not a hobby.

Rachel Ray reported one study that noted the people who view shopping as a leisurely activity could spend up to 23 percent more than if they viewed grocery buying as a planned work activity. Schedule your time and make it a point not to loiter and you may be surprised at the nice results in your budget.

Aim for in-season produce.

It may be chic to have some specialty fruits on your table, but the cost might be pretty hard on your wallet. Look for fruits and vegetables that are in-season. explains: “For example, pears are in season during November and December and are less expensive during those months than they are throughout the rest of the year. Therefore, pears make great Thanksgiving and homemade Christmas decorations as well as delicious, affordable staples in your holiday meals.

Buy bulk … but do your homework first.

Don’t assume that bulk will always be the best savings. Many a time boxed groceries can give you a better deal, so be sure to look at labels. Stores may offer seasonal sales for bulk items, so keep a sharp eye out for any specials that might come your way.

Be smart with what you put in the cart.

Bear in mind that every dollar you save in groceries can help you in other household needs such as repairs or purchasing furniture.  Take careful shopping steps when traversing the grocery aisles – in the long run you’ll be glad you did.

What are some of the most common tax filing mistakes?

Tax mistakesIt’s true that we’re in a better age that that of the pencil-and-adding machine era. The tax work that we used to spread across the kitchen table for days on end has come around to be a more efficient task, thanks to computers, calculators, and specialty software.

Those tools, however, don’t give us a guarantee of crisp, error-free tax returns, and a fairly high percentage of people lose their rightful refund or deduction because of simple but evident errors. says that bad math can really hurt you. “Using a tax software program to file your return can help reduce math errors. The built-in calculators do the work for you, adding, subtracting and inserting numbers on additional forms as needed. But you still have to make sure your initial numbers are correct. Entering $3,500 when the real figure is $5,300 makes a lot of tax difference.” Bankratre reminds you that though you may miss it, the IRS certainly won’t. warns about submitting the wrong address. “An incorrect address can lead to a delay in processing your return, or worse, IRS correspondence and refunds being sent to the wrong address.” The remedy? “If you choose to file a paper return, be sure to use the address label off the tax return the IRS sent you. (You can make any necessary corrections right on that label).”

U.S. News and World Report sounds the alarm on improperly claiming (or not claiming) dependents: “A dependent is someone who depends on you financially, like a spouse or a child, and who you can claim on your taxes for credits and exemptions. It may seem straightforward, but a parent in a blended family knows how it can get confusing. Generally, if the mother or father or other relative provides more than half of the child’s support, that person can claim the youth as a dependent.” They suggest going to the IRS website and getting specific answers.

Doing a little homework and re-tracing your steps where necessary can save you grief and, more importantly, a bit of cash. Better yet, seek out professional help for added peace of mind.

Preparing your college student for the world of finances

Financial calculator

When your child takes the first steps into college life, they won’t have you in the same household, giving advice on managing money.

Your child’s first year in college can be a marvelous time to discover new academic opportunities and make new friends. No doubt this budding young freshman will be making memories.

But one of them, sadly enough, could be the memory of making financial mistakes that could hurt them for years.

When your child takes the first steps into college life, they won’t have you in the same household, giving advice on managing money. How can you help them make wise decisions? Here are a few valuable points to remember:

1. Don’t be Santa Claus. By that we mean responsibility is important on both your end as well as your child’s. If you send a casual note about dropping $1000 into their checking account without guidelines on how to spend it, you’re giving the impression of being a living, breathing ATM that’ll bail your child out if they overspend. If you don’t have rules on how the money is to be spent, you’ll run the risk of getting a call for book money before the first semester is halfway through. You never told your child that eating out (and even paying for everyone at the table) every night was not economical, did you? It’s best to give stipulations on how your money is to be spent on campus.

2. Start saving now … and we mean now. Even putting aside an extra $500 can take a chunk out of bills owed at graduation time. Any money coming in from Grandma, or a summer job, or a refund should be tucked away in order to prepare for the onslaught of financial needs in the years to come. Plan on ten or twenty percent of your child’s after-school job paycheck to be set aside. It takes self-control to be able to resist spending on a fashionable sweatshirt or new purse, but the long-term rewards will be worth it. Remind your child of this often.

3. Discuss the small gremlins of college finances. Sure, everyone is aware of tuition, room and board, but don’t forget the other little gremlins that’ll eat away at your savings, like calculators and cold medicine. What if a particular class requires a special textbook/workbook that cannot be purchased used, since it is to be annotated and marked up with your child’s notes? What if a special software is needed for a class? What happens if your child’s computer needs repaired? From toiletries to cell phone bills, your child needs to be aware that financial challenges arise often on campus, so it’s best to be prepared.

Get your child ready for the university experience without the financial panic. Help your child pursue any available financial assistance for which they qualify, whether grants, scholarships, loans, or even work-study programs. Your child’s educational future can be cleared of the many money obstacles that many students encounter.

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