Finance

Need Cash for Retirement – Consider a Reverse Mortgage

Many people aged 62 or older are “house-rich and cash-poor”. In other words their mortgages are paid off but they are living on limited fixed incomes.  Reverse Mortgages offer a way to continue owning and living in your home, while at the same time getting extra cash to live on.

You can take your cash as a regular monthly payment, as a single large lump sum, or as a line of credit that you can draw down as you need it.   You can use the money for anything you want. The loan is guaranteed by the equity you have in your home.

The important points to know about reverse mortgages:

Reverse mortgages are loans.  The lender pays you while you continue to live in your home. The amount you are eligible to borrow generally is based on your age, the equity in your home and the interest rate the lender is charging.  You retain title to your home and you are still responsible for paying property taxes and upkeep on the home.

You can live in the home until you die.  Depending on your reverse mortgage, repayment of the loan is due if you die or if you move or sell your home, or if you reach the end of the predetermined loan period. Usually if you die, the lender does not take title to your home, but your heirs must pay off the loan. Generally they will do this by selling or refinancing the home.

Your home value will always cover what you owe. Your legal obligation to repay the loan is limited by the value of your home at the time the loan is repaid. You cannot be liable for more than the value of the home.

Reverse mortgages use up the equity in your home. The loan amount does goes up over time though. Interest is added to the principal loan balance each month, because it is not paid on a current basis.  You will have fewer assets to leave your heirs.

Reverse Mortgages are regulated by the federal Truth in Lending Act. This requires lenders to disclose the costs and terms of reverse mortgages. This includes the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and payment terms. If you choose a credit line as your loan advance, lenders also must tell you of charges related to opening and using your credit account.

There are three types of reverse mortgage – FHA-insured, lender-insured, and uninsured. Each type has different costs and features and you should consult with family members, your attorney, or financial advisor before deciding which is best for you.

Reverse Mortgages can be a great way to add to your monthly income during your retirement years.

Check out the following great sponsored links for Reverse Mortgages:

Finance

Life Insurance – Know The Basics

Content provided by InsWeb –  Most people buy life insurance to replace income that would be lost if a wage earner passed away. Life insurance proceeds are tax-free, and can play a role in estate planning, cash accumulation, retirement funding, and the transfer of wealth to beneficiaries. There are quite a few types of life insurance on the market today.

The cost of a policy and the features it offers can vary tremendously depending on the type of insurance you choose. Here’s a rundown of the major types of life insurance. There are also differences between insurance companies. For example, not all companies will charge the same price for the same type of policy. So it’s good to shop around.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance covers you for a period of time you select (for example, 10 or 20 years) and pays benefits only if you die during the time you’re covered. Term life is often referred to as temporary insurance. These policies do not accumulate cash value, which means if you do not die within the time you’re covered, your estate does not collect any money from the policy when it ends. However, most companies offer conversion privileges to permanent policies, which means you can turn your term life policy into a “permanent” one under some circumstances. With permanent policies, a portion of your premium goes to building cash value with interest.

Benefits of Term Life Policies

Term life insurance typically costs less than permanent insurance. Proceeds are not taxable to your beneficiaries. They supplement employer-sponsored life plans, or older policies that may be inadequate due to inflation. While in effect, you typically can convert to a permanent policy without evidence of insurability (that’s an official statement proving you’re an insurable risk).You can buy a large amount of term insurance to complement your permanent policy.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance provides lifetime protection, and lets you build cash value over time. You can use your cash value to take out a loan for emergencies, fund a major purchase, or send children to college.

Benefits of Permanent Life Insurance

With permanent life insurance, your premiums remain constant over your lifetime. Death benefits will be paid when you die. Also, some insurance companies will advance death benefits to pay for nursing care or terminal illness expenses. These features are also available for some term life policies. You can accumulate cash value, tax deferred. Also, you can withdraw or borrow accumulated cash value.

How Much Life Insurance Coverage do You Need?

Your life insurance needs may vary depending on your particular stage in life. This means that an unmarried person who doesn’t own a home may not need as much life insurance than someone who is married with children. As none of us want to leave financial trouble for our loved ones, you should ask yourself what you need to make sure your dependents can continue to live the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.

Is the life insurance company I am considering financially secure? Companies, such as AM Best, and Standard and Poor’s, rate insurance companies on the basis of their financial situations. The more financially sound a life insurance company is, the less chance you will have a problem getting the funds you are entitled to.

Shopping around for a life insurance policy with InsWeb.com can help you find the coverage you need. It’s safe, secure, and you’ll be able to compare multiple quotes in minutes.

Finance

The Marijuana User’s Quick Guide to Life Insurance

By Liran Hirschkorn

With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states (recreational usage, too, in four of those states), the country’s opinion of the drug is steadily changing, and life insurance companies are reacting accordingly. Where any drug usage whatsoever would have resulted in a quick and firm denial of coverage 10 years ago, marijuana users can now get a comprehensive life insurance policy without hassle. Just keep these few things in mind when sitting down with an agent.

Honesty is always the best policy.
It’s tempting to simply lie about marijuana usage, and certainly many users have become accustomed to doing so — given the stigma associated with it — but hiding information from your insurance company is never a good idea.

The least of the potential consequences of lying to an insurance company is that you can be denied coverage. This is a small price to pay when you consider that lying could actually be considered insurance fraud, a punishable crime.

Worse still is that your insurance company can deny a claim if you die. This means that, though you think your family will be compensated to cover the expenses associated with your death, when the time comes, they’ll get nothing. This is a terrible shame considering what you now know: There’s no real reason to lie.

Work with an informed agent.
When sitting down with a life insurance agent, be sure to ask the right questions. If this particular agent is unsure of most companies’ policies regarding marijuana usage, you might seek an agent with more experience.

For example, does your agent know specifically which companies are most accepting of marijuana usage? Prudential is one of the go-to companies for such situations. In fact, it will offer nonsmoker rates to marijuana smokers as long as they don’t also smoke tobacco products.

This is where choosing the right agent and company is imperative; a company that doesn’t have this policy might charge smoker rates regardless, which are two to three times higher than nonsmoker rates.

Avoid marijuana use a week or two before your insurance health exam.
Despite the loosening attitude toward marijuana usage, daily users will still find it difficult to obtain insurance. Some companies will approve a client as long as he doesn’t test positive for THC (the main psychoactive component found in marijuana) in the urine sample provided at the time of the health exam.

While avoiding usage before the exam might seem as dishonest as flat-out lying about using, remember that admitting to marijuana usage is still the key to finding your best coverage. Then, your agent can help you identify and work around stipulations; the industry is still biased toward occasional users.

Don’t be discouraged by restrictions on life insurance for marijuana users. The taboo is losing steam in the U.S., and many insurance companies are following suit. Remember to find an agent who’s well-informed about the difference between insurance companies in regard to marijuana usage, and being honest about your usage is the best way to get that comforting peace of mind for you and your family.

Liran Hirschkorn is an independent life insurance agent and founder of BestLifeQuote.com, a national life insurance agency. His mission is to help individuals across the U.S. find the best rates on life insurance, specializing in helping those who have previously been declined coverage. Liran’s expertise is in high-risk life insurance and understanding the unique underwriting guidelines of more than 30 life insurance companies.

Finance

New Program Can Make Most of Your Credit Card Debt Go Away

As Washington continues to spend billions bailing out banks and corporations, little is being done to help consumers drowning in credit card debt. Even the credit card bill of rights, recently passed by Congress, will do little to help consumers already being pressed to the brink. Credit card defaults are up 45 percent and consumer relief is a must.

Some people continue to make these minimum payments under the misconception that this will maintain or preserve their credit rating. The reality is credit card companies are now looking at a consumer’s total debt, not credit scores as the means to extend future credit. As an example many consumers who have never missed a payment are now having their cards reduced or canceled.

Many families now find themselves struggling to make their minimum payments every month, barely reducing their balances and feeling hopeless about ever getting out from under their debt. By some experts’ calculations, it will take many people over more than 30 years to pay off their credit cards if they only make minimum payments.

Bankruptcy is not a good option

When you declare bankruptcy your credit rating takes a major hit, making it hard for you to get credit in the future. You may also end up paying more for things like car insurance and other services that take your credit score into account when determining your coverage costs. In addition, some employers will not hire a job applicant with a bankruptcy on record, increasing the financial hardship caused by debt.

Little-known programs do exist to help consumers slash their debt

One company, Preferred Financial Services, offers consumers an alternative to filing bankruptcy by helping consumers settle their debts with creditors. The company’s success is due to its substantial industry experience, as well as longstanding relationships with creditors.

Unlike nonprofit credit counseling companies, who work for the creditors, Preferred Financial Services works on behalf of people who are burdened by their unsecured debts (debts not linked to property that could be repossessed). The key difference is that nonprofit companies work to find a figure that creditors are happy with, while Preferred Financial Services works to secure a settlement that has the consumer’s best interest in mind. In fact, clients of Preferred Financial Services get out of debt and restore their good credit faster than credit counseling or bankruptcy.

Keep more cash in your hand within 24 hours while saving more than 50 percent

Preferred Financial Services has helped thousands of people settle their outstanding debts by negotiating lower payoffs with creditors. Although individual results can vary, you can expect to save at least 50 percent, sometimes more. Essentially, Preferred Financial Services works out a payment structure that is in line with each client’s unique financial needs.

Consumers can enroll multiple debts into the service as well. If you are buried in credit cards payments, utility bills and other debts, you may be able to take advantage of this company’s services.

Free consultation with a certified debt specialist

Preferred Financial Services has a staff of certified debt settlement experts that you can speak with confidentially. They will quickly assess your debt challenges and inform you of all the options available to you, and the phone call is absolutely free.

With professional help from Preferred Financial Services, you can put money back into your pocket and begin living without the stress of credit card debt. Log on to PFSDebtRelief.com to find out how.

Finance

How To Legally Erase Up to 60% or More of Credit Card Debt

Millions of Americans struggling with credit cards and other debts are wondering if there is a debt bailout program for consumers.  There is some good news to report:  Debt relief is available to consumers who get in over their heads, often through no fault of their own. 

Relief from Credit Cards and Other Debts

While the government is not able to extend a credit card debt bailout for millions of consumers, credit card companies are.  Why are they willing to do this?  It’s simple:  To protect their bottom line! For consumers who can’t afford to pay their debts in full, credit card companies will often agree to reduce interest rates, waive fees and penalties, or even erase or forgive up to 60% or more of your debt.  It all depends upon your financial situation.

How Much Could Debt Relief Save You?

For consumers who are struggling in debt, The Debt Relief Center provides a convenient way to learn the debt relief options available to you.  With a free debt relief analysis, you can quickly receive a free debt relief savings estimate.  It’s fast, convenient, and it’s a great way for consumers to see the potential benefits and savings of debt relief, with no obligation.

Credit Card Companies Finally Giving Consumers a Break

It’s ironic to consider that credit card companies, who for years have been aggressively targeting vulnerable consumers, now hold out an olive branch to some of those same consumers saying in effect, “what can you afford to pay?”  There are many consumer advocates that would say this turnabout is fair play – thinking back to the sky-high interest rates, late fees and penalties, and impossible to decipher cardholder agreements that contributed greatly to the problem in the first place. That’s why credit card firms are willing to provide a credit card debt bailout for consumers.

Finding Your Way Out of Debt – Stress Free!

If you’re stressed over debts, imagine what it would feel like to have that weighted lifted off your shoulders.  You don’t have to face your debts alone. The good news is, The Debt Relief Center can help provide you with much needed relief – and not only remove stress from your life, but possibly help you save you thousands of dollars as well.

To see your debt relief options and receive a Free Debt Relief Analysis, at no obligation visit: www.debtreliefcenter.org

 

Finance

How to Get a Business Loan

Small businesses are the economic lifeblood of this country, and the majority of them began with help in the form of a small business loan. Very few small business owners have the funds available privately to start or expand their enterprise, so most are forced to seek out loans to move their vision forward.

But there are some things that everyone should know before applying for a small business loan. It's always important to know what the bank or lending institution is looking for, what factors go into their decision to either grant or reject your loan. By playing to these factors, you can better your chances of securing that money for your business.

What is your personal story?  Firstly, the bank will want to know about you. Your credit history, experience and education will all be factors preliminarily considered in the process of your application. These things speak to who you are as a business person, your credibility for running your own business.

What is your Business Plan?  The meat of your proposal will be in your Business Plan. This is an outline you will present to the bank detailing your business idea while providing answers to the questions that the bank has.

How much are you applying for? This figure should be all-encompassing. It should include costs for startup and overhead as well as operations costs like payroll and inventory. It is very important to you and the bank that this number be as accurate as possible.

Where is this money going? Again, accuracy and detail are important here. Your business plan should have a detailed breakdown of how much is going where and for what.

When can you repay your loan? This is the question that anyone, from the bank to your wealthy relative will want an answer for. Be professional. Use financial statements and cash-flow projections to illustrate how your business will generate profit and be a good investment for the bank.

Check out these great resources for obtaining a small business financing:

Finance

How Homemade Gift Baskets Can Save You Money and Show You Care

Gift baskets can be made for every occasion and every person. They can be costly to make or buy, but with a little planning and creativity, you can craft the perfect gift–even if that person has everything.

When you personalize a gift, it says a lot about you. It says you cared enough to put love and effort into creating something for someone who’s important to you. And, that special someone will be impressed.

Sure, you can buy gift baskets from a professional and spend any amount you want. They look good and come in a variety of themes and containers. But, wouldn’t a basket fashioned personally by you send a more meaningful message? Not to mention it’s a lot cheaper and more fun. Homemade foods from your kitchen (for example) are the perfect gifts for your basket.

Ask yourself three questions before you get started: Who is it for, what are their interests, and how much am I willing to spend? A gift basket fits the bill for everyone, regardless of age or gender.

Choose a theme based on their interests, hobbies, or an upcoming event in their life. You can spend as much as you want, but assuming you’re on a limited budget, your basket can still be something you can give with pride.

Wicker baskets are probably the first choice to use, because they’re easy to work with and can be found inexpensively at dollar stores and even yard sales. Other containers work as well, such as trays with an edge, plastic pails (best for kids), coffee mugs, flower pots, and if the person you’re giving to happens to enjoy cooking, use a baking pan, bowl, or even a colander.

Let your imagination run wild utilizing various shapes and materials. For instance, if the recipient is a cowboy, put your items in an old boot, a tackle box for a fisherman, or a sewing basket for a seamstress. Choosing the container and the gifts can be almost as much fun for the giver as the receiver.

Place your main theme gift in the center or high enough that the eye is drawn to it. Additional gift items go around the sides, and then add filler material such as colored paper or straw available at hobby stores. If you have a paper shredder and colored paper, make the filler yourself and save. Remember, an overflowing basket looks better than one that’s sparsely filled.

Set your basket inside a cellophane bag and tie a bow with colored streamers flowing down. Attach a card and you’re good to give. If you need to secure items inside the basket to keep them from flopping around, clear tape works well–or use a glue gun. Be neat with your work, not sloppy.

Give genuine thought to the appropriate theme to make the basket more expressive. Consider the person’s personality, whims, and passions. Fashion something you would like to receive and be assured others will like it too.

 

Finance

How to Find Your Lost Government Money

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, every U.S. state, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada have unclaimed property programs that actively and continuously find owners of lost and forgotten assets.

Unclaimed property laws have been around since at the 1930s, but have become much broader and more strictly enforced in the last 25 years. Unclaimed property is one of the original consumer protection programs.

Over 2.5 million claims totaling $2.25 billion dollars was returned to rightful owners in 2011; with the average claim around $892. Currently $41.7 billion is waiting to be returned by states unclaimed property programs. Claims can be made into perpetuity in most cases – even by heirs.

Could some of those billions be yours? Most states participate in MissingMoney; start your search there.

What is unclaimed property? Sometimes referred to as abandoned, unclaimed property refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

What happens to these accounts that have no activity? Acting in the best interest of consumers, each state has enacted an unclaimed property statute that protects your funds from reverting back to the company if you have lost contact with them. These laws instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who will then make a diligent effort to find you or your heirs. Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner.

How do I begin my free search? Companies are required by law to send funds from lost accounts to the state of the owner’s last known address. That means you could potentially have unclaimed property in every state that you have resided. The MissingMoney website contains the official collective records from most state unclaimed property programs. NAUPA will link you to every state unclaimed property program Web site where you can search. Both sites are free.

If searching is free, why do I receive notices that there is a charge to search? Several business firms have used the states’ freedom of information acts to obtain owner information. These firms notify individuals that they will conduct a search for unclaimed property in their name for a fee. Many states do not even provide complete records to these firms to protect your privacy. The bottom line is that you may pay them to search if you wish, but all the information is accessible free of charge by searching the state databases or MissingMoney, or by contacting any state unclaimed property office.

I have received a notice that property has been found, but there is a fee to obtain it. There are many businesses, sometimes called finders or locators, which find legitimate lost property for owners and offer to inform them of how to obtain it for a fee, usually a percentage of the total (some states limit the fee to 10 percent). Sometimes, companies will hire these firms to find you before they turn the funds over to the state. Ultimately the finder will ask you to sign a contract. The majority of firms that provide these services work within the law, but there are also many unclaimed property scams across the United States. Before signing any contract from a firm of this type, we recommend that you be cautious and contact the unclaimed property office in your state for more information.

How do I keep my property from becoming lost in the future? Remember, property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. For security reasons, most financial institutions do not forward mail. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits.

Cash all checks for dividends, wages, and insurance settlements without delay. Respond to requests for confirmation of account balances and stockholder proxies. If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.

Finally, prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.

Finance

5 Things to Know Before Investing

The in’s and out’s of investing can seem like some mysterious cloak and dagger world not meant to be understood by the average person. Figuring out what to do with your money can feel like the most daunting task–almost too complicated to have the energy to deal with.

While it may be tempting to simply hide it all under the mattress or in the freezer like a drug dealer,  but actually there are some basics to the whole investing thing, and President and Wealth Advisor Jeff Griswold of Merit Wealth Managment, located in Bend, Oregon shares with us his ideas for where to put your money to keep it safe and  how to possibly even make a bit more.

1. Markets Are Efficient

Public information is of little fundamental value. New information is so quickly incorporated into asset prices that use of this knowledge cannot be expected to consistently produce superior risk-adjusted returns. Information that is not public is also of no value, because it is illegal to trade on it. In other words, you can’t game the system; that’s gambling not investing.

2. Risk and Expected Reward Are Related

Investors who expect or need to achieve higher returns must accept the associated risk. Equity-like returns do not come without commensurate risks. When it comes to investing, there’s no such thing as a “free lunch”; there is no promise of high returns without high risk. Anyone who tells you different is peddling a “free meal” you don’t want to eat.

 3. Diversification Works

Global diversification across a variety of imperfectly correlated asset classes is the most effective way to reduce risk. (Correlation is how similarly different investments perform. The higher the correlation, the more similar the performance and, thus, the lower the diversification.) AKA Don’t put your all your eggs in one basket!

Diversification is always working, whether we are pleased with the immediate results. Diversification should be thought of as the equivalent of buying insurance against having all of one’s investment eggs in the wrong basket.

4. Markets Are Unpredictable in the Short Run and Even in the Long Run

In the short (or even long) run, anything is possible. In the long run, we expect that equity markets will rise more than fall. Individuals who correctly predict short-term market movements should likely attribute their results to luck rather than skill.

5: Discipline Is Key to Successful Investing

For far too many investors, the variable that ultimately determines the results of their portfolio is not investment returns but investor behavior. Emotions can lead us all to make poor decisions at the wrong times. It is easy to remain disciplined during strong markets. However, it is far more important to do so in down markets and avoid the far-too-human propensity to sell at market bottoms. Thus, the role emotions play in the success of an investment strategy cannot be overemphasized.

As Griswold explains, understanding a few of these basic concepts,  will keep you well ahead of the majority of the investing public. No matter where your plan goes, it’s important to continue to evaluate your individual risk tolerance, build a diverse portfolio and implement regular and disciplined techniques. Having such knowledge changes the way you invest.

Finance

Prepaid Debit Cards Offer Huge Advantages Over Checking Accounts

Are checking accounts about to become obsolete? They may well be.  A new financial innovation from a company called AccountNow effectively eliminates the need to keep a checking account.

This is great news not just for those who are unable to open a checking account, but also for people looking for convenience and savings.

The solution is called a prepaid debit card and it not only gives you most everything a checking account provides, but so much more.

Prepaid Visa and Prepaid MasterCards from AccountNow work just like a checking account. You can easily make deposits into your account, including direct deposits of your paycheck.   And deposits are FDIC insured, just as with an old-fashioned bank account. The Prepaid Cards you get from AccountNow allow you to shop & pay bills online, make hotel & car rental reservations, and purchase goods & services wherever Visa or MasterCard is accepted.  They can also be used to withdraw cash at virtually any ATM or bank.

Take Control of Your Spending:

What’s most exciting about using Prepaid cards rather than a checking account is that it allows you to immediately take control of your finances and never have to worry about overdrafts or bounced checks.  So many of us have gotten into trouble taking on more credit and debt that we can handle.  AccountNow Prepaid cards are the perfect way to let us live within our means on a daily basis.  They also mean no more finance charges, late charges, or overdraft fees potentially saving you hundreds of dollars a year.

Best of all, anyone can get approved, even if you have had poor credit or banking problems in the past. 

Build Your Credit History:

AccountNow Prepaid Visa and Prepaid MasterCard cards also help you build your credit history in two ways. First, use the system to pay your bills online for free which will save you time, money, and demonstrate your credit worthiness. Second, the company offers an iAdvance Line of Credit, a way to get access to cash from your pay checks even before you deposit them.  This is alike a short term loan that is automatically paid back when you deposit your paycheck, but it’s cheaper than a payday loan.   Because you are constantly paying back the loan, AccountNow will report your payment history to the major credit bureaus, building your positive credit history.

Safer than cash:

Lastly, carrying an AccountNow Prepaid Visa or Prepaid MasterCard card is safer than cash. You are fully protected from unauthorized charges made to your prepaid card account in case your card is lost or stolen.

If you’re looking for financial freedom, check out Prepaid Visa and Prepaid MasterCard’s from AccountNow today, click here

Finance

How Paying More on Your Mortgage Can Save You Money

It's the American dream to own your own home and dreamers will go to any lengths to accomplish this even if it means borrowing thousands of dollars to be paid back over a 30 year period. It's quite an obligation to make 360 payments month after month with the bulk of the money going toward interest, at least in the beginning.

The interest on an average home over a 30 year period can account for twice the cost of the home. Interest is working against you 24/7/365. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could pay off your debt years sooner and save thousands of dollars?

You can. It just takes discipline and perhaps a little budget adjusting. It's no secret that paying the mortgage twice a month, instead of only once will save you thousands and pay off your debt years sooner. Some call it the bi-weekly mortgage plan.

For example: Let's say you paid $80,000 for your home and got a 7% loan for 30 years. If you divide the payment in half and pay it every two weeks you should save $25,000 in interest payments and reduce the term by 8 years.

Not bad for a little extra work. Of course, the higher the loan and interest, the more you save. You're paying less interest and more on the principal. The extra payments bring down the principal and interest faster.

Can just setting up a shorter mortgage term in the beginning accomplish the same thing? Essentially yes. But many people cannot qualify for a shorter term mortgage because of the higher payment. With the bi-weekly plan, you can take control yourself and enjoy the flexibility.

There are many companies who will set this up for you for a fee ranging from $100 to $400. Or, some will do it free but charge a transaction fee each time you make a payment.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but talk to your lender and read the fine print in your contract. You may have a pre-payment penalty for paying off the loan ahead of time. Some lenders also tack on a service fee each time you make the extra payment.

Banks can also provide you with a bi-weekly calculator to let you determine how much you would save and how soon you would actually own your home. You'll also save on private mortgage insurance (PMI) by paying off the loan early.

By paying bi-weekly, you're actually paying one extra payment a year and that makes the difference. You can accomplish the same thing by making an extra payment whenever you can of any amount. When you do this, write a separate check with a note that states the money should be applied to the principal and not the interest.

Most financial institutions are happy to help you with saving money on your mortgage but it's up to you to get the financial ball rolling. For about the cost of dinner and a movie for you and your family each month you can be debt free years sooner and save thousands of dollars.