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Sep 14, 2012
There are quite a few banks in Charleston, each as you with its own advantages and drawbacks. As the financial crisis has led many Americans to have a healthy distrust of the larger national banks, regional and even smaller community banks have grown in number and strength. Because these regional and community banks are very different from the big banking institutions and their glossy corporate images, many people who are thinking about moving to one of the smaller banks in Charleston might be a bit hesitant.
Choosing the right bank can have a lot of influence on your life — literally, it can mean the difference between getting a mortgage and moving into a house or being a renter for life. It can mean the difference between getting a startup loan and becoming an entrepreneur or having to take a second job to support a growing family. It will also determine which options and services might be available to you.
For example, some banks have free checking and savings account with no minimum deposit. Others also offer online banking and a variety of other online services to make things more convenient for the customer. Which bank you choose to do business with also directly affects whether your money goes to invest in good things in your immediate vicinity or get shipped halfway around the world.
Big Banks in with a Charleston Office
Of course, Charleston has branch offices of each of the national ‘big four’, as well as a few larger regional banks that do business in a manner meant to emulate those corporate giants. The major advantage of these Charleston banks is commutability — in other words, you can leave Charleston, or even South Carolina, or even the East Coast, and still find a branch of your bank that has the same policies and access to your account information when you are away from home. They also offer ubiquity-you can find branches of these banks in nearly every city, town, and village; they appear in supermarkets that are open later hours, standalone locations, and even in shopping malls. That’s a huge convenience.
The downside of big banks is that they invest all over the world. In a very real sense, putting money into a bank account at one of the big banks in Charleston (or anywhere else, for that matter) is indirectly supporting businesses in China, India, Mexico, and other places around the world where the big banks invest and lend money.
Community Banks in Charleston
The biggest advantage to working with a community bank is the leveled hierarchy of command. In other words, it’s much easier to talk directly to an executive of a community bank than it is to get a hold of the CFO of a big bank. That leveled hierarchy also generally leaves front-line tellers with more discretion and authority than a big bank. In general, this is beneficial for the less wealthy, because they can meet directly with someone that matters to discuss their unique circumstances and work out a solution agreeable to both parties. The general atmosphere of personalized service and empathy is something many community bank clients greatly appreciate as well. Finally, there’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing that the community banks in Charleston tend to reinvest in Charleston rather than out of state or overseas.
On the other hand, there’s simply no likelihood that a community bank will be able to give you a multi-million dollar startup loan for your new business, and in many cases they don’t offer investment advice, insurance services, or other some other types of financial products that may be found at the big banks. In the end, deciding which of the banks in Charleston are the best for you, your business, and your family comes down to matching your current and anticipated needs to the capabilities of the bank.
Sep 12, 2012
Ever noticed that since the big financial meltdown, banks have been pulling back a lot of what were once considered ‘basic’ benefits? Interest rates are down for savings accounts, up for credit cards, and special perks like free-to-use ATMs have all but vanished from the market. One of the casualties of the battle of the buck has been free checking accounts: today, free checking banks are few and far between.
Not long ago, free checking accounts with no minimum balance were the norm. That’s because, even though it costs the average banking institution about $250 every year to maintain each and every no minimum deposit checking account they possess, they were making enough money to pay those costs easily. The average checking account made them more than $250 in annual interest, so they felt they could make more money by offering customers free checking than by charging for the accounts.
Today, the average checking account makes less than $150 in interest each year, because so many of them spend so much time essentially empty. The best free checking banks haven’t rescinded the offer, however — trying to draw enough people under their umbrella that they can use economies of scale to pay for the money they’re not making by charging finance fees.
It didn’t help (from the bank’s perspective) that they weren’t allowed to put mandatory overdraft protection on debit card transactions starting in 2009. That single change cost the big banks nearly $40 billion every year — money that used to subsidize free checking accounts and other bennies.
So if your bank has revoked your free checking — or is threatening to — look around. Charleston, South Carolina has some of the best free checking banks on the East Coast. They’re not the big banks, either — but the local community banks around the south are some of the greatest financial institutions in the country.
You do need to make sure when you check into moving to a community bank that you make sure you’re going to get the features you need. Most local banks offer the same kinds of products and services you’ll get from a big bank, but some of the higher-end features might not work the same way. Make sure you know what you’re getting into.
That said, you’ll find that when it comes to personal service, treating you like a real human being, and doing what’s best for the community, they’re the best. Free checking banks or not, the banks that actually invest their money locally — in Charleston — are much more likely to support locals when they need to do things like take out mortgages or start up small businesses. That goes a long way.
The best free checking account banks these days aren’t the big 5 — at the risk of sounding slightly nutty, their corporate overlords are too profit-focused to let them be the best anymore. Check out the local banks around Charleston, and you’ll find something you may never have expected – a bank that’s worthy of doing business with.
Sep 12, 2012
When you think about high-end banking services like zero APR introductory rate credit cards and advanced small business checking accounts with loads of entrepreneur-friendly options, you may not think of a local Charleston bank. Those kinds of offerings are generally thought of as part and parcel of a corporate financial institution’s repertoire. But as the recession has driven many conscientious consumers away from the all-powerful arms of the big banks, local and regional banks with a Myrtle Beach branch and atm have responded by stretching hard to reach the bar that the big banks have set.
If you’re thinking about moving to a smaller bank for your needs, you don’t necessarily need to be worried about a lack of elite functionality. Of course, you’ll have to research each specific Charleston bank in order to find the ones that offer precisely the services you’re looking for; not all will offer everything.
One thing that you can count on with local and even regional banks is mortgage rates and services that are on par with — or in some cases superior to — those provided by a big bank. When the subprime mortgage market collapsed and brought the hyper-leveraged derivatives market down with it, the bigger banks had to tighten their belts to protect themselves, which resulted in them turning away even qualified customers. Smaller banks, particularly some of the smarter managed Charleston banks that hadn’t over-leveraged, remained much more able to service the remaining mortgage market.
This can be very important for a potential home buyer, because it means that their local Charleston bank won’t tie up their mortgage into something exotic like a synthetic collateralized debt obligation and sell parts of it to investors in other countries — a common practice in the world of the bigger banks. Smaller banks are much more likely to hold on to a mortgage rather than get rid of it, and that can prevent a lot of confusion and give the banks greater security. Many are the horror stories of homeowners whose mortgage products were sold by the holding bank right in the middle of a sale or a foreclosure, with the result that chaos rained down upon everyone involved.
Of course, that doesn’t just apply to mortgages, either. Charleston banks have a vested interest in keeping wealth right here in the south, unlike big banks who make most of their money moving wealth away from the community and even the country!
By taking the money they make collecting interest on loans and mortgages, and giving it right back to the community in the form of startup loans, personal credit, and other cash infusions, the local banks of Charleston perform a powerful service to their community — and that’s something that everyone should be able to get behind. More money in the community means a better standard of living all around, and that’s something that no big bank can offer — only a Charleston bank can give you the satisfaction of knowing that your deposits, mortgage and car loan payments are helping people right down the street from you.
Aug 29, 2012
The rising popularity of cosmetic surgeries abroad is due to an array of reasons, such as:
- Seeking treatment by a specialist cosmetic surgery expert
- Needing an affordable alternative to pricey home-country cosmetic surgeries
- Not having to be on a waiting list for cosmetic surgery procedures
- Combining cosmetic surgery and recovery with a holiday
- Being able to have multiple cosmetic surgeries at once
Although cosmetic surgeries in countries such as Turkey, India, and Poland are favourable for all these reasons, those interested in exploring these treatments and areas may benefit from researching the country’s medical standards and regulations, registration and expertise of the practising surgeons, and facilities.
Certain cosmetic surgery clinics or practices in one’s home country may recommend treatment facilities abroad, or a particular cosmetic specialist renowned for their skill and success in certain procedures. Find out information from patient testimonials – those who have visited these destinations, attended the cosmetic surgery and experienced the procedures.
Individuals seeking cosmetic treatments abroad who have not adequately researched prospective providers do run the risk of complications with their cosmetic surgery procedures. An example is that experienced by women who have had breast implants.
Receiving lower cost cosmetic surgery, whether for weight loss, facial lifts, nose jobs or breast augmentation, may not always mean quality if being received. The thrill of having an exciting holiday abroad or the desire for an immediate treatment solution to look good may divert an individual’s attention from properly researching cosmetic surgery provisions abroad.
Another aspect that people often do not consider when having cosmetic surgery abroad is the aftercare. When returning home and distant from the experts who have performed the surgery, patients may not always have access to these professionals when needed. Greater costs may incurred if contacting or having to return to the overseas destination for further treatment.
Individuals may receive safe and successful cosmetic surgery abroad if they do their homework. All surgeries have risks regardless of the country in which treatment is received, however individuals having surgery abroad reduce these risks by:
- Choosing a cosmetic surgery expert renowned for their quality and specialism
- Seeking referral from a cosmetic surgery or clinic in one’s home country where possible
- Ensuring the cosmetic surgery facilities are of high standard, such as those on home soil
- Adequately preparing for the cosmetic surgery abroad and making provision for aftercare
- Taking into consideration the possibility of complications and management thereof
- Properly weighing all costs that may be incurred in the event of a medical emergency
- Having insurance in place for travel and researching insurance provided by the clinic abroad
- Not sacrificing quality treatment in one’s home country for inferior care abroad even if it means having to wait
Each person’s experience of cosmetic surgery treatment abroad may be different. Getting to know more about options in overseas cosmetic care can make all the difference.
Aug 28, 2012
Lots of people are going to read that title and think that Charleston banks are looking to find people to work with them in the commercial banking industry — but that’s not what they’re up to. You see, Charleston has grown a lot in the past couple of decades, and a lot of the profits from that growth have been taken by the big banks in the area, shipped overseas, and will never see the south again.
But then the economy tanked, and citizens started seeing the effects that the big banks had on their community, and they’ve turned to Charleston banks in droves. The result is that the area banks have suddenly found themselves with more money than they’ve dealt with for the past few decades, and they’re looking for business partners — that is, businesses to partner up with in order to turn their windfall into even more money for the Charleston community.
It’s one thing to go to your local bank because it’s convenient and because you (rightfully) don’t trust the big banks anymore. But if you’re an entrepreneur or a businessman, there’s another much better reason to turn to the area banks around Charleston, and it has to do with the financing programs they offer your business.
Charleston banks understand — much better than the big banks that treat their business loans like a cold calculus — that they are the partner of each and every entrepreneur and corporation that they loan money to. They don’t up and sell the debt of every loan that turns bad to some investor in China. They keep those loans on the books and wheel and deal until they can work out a payment arrangement — because keeping the money in Myrtle Beach means they are much more likely to see that money come back through the doors another day.
Area banks used to be shunned because they didn’t offer the same variety of fancy new services and financial instruments that big banks and lenders did — but now they’re being embraced for exactly that same reason. They’ve already modernized enough that even the smallest generally have online banking and bill pay and walk- or drive-up ATMs — but they don’t have the kinds of dangerously unstable financial instruments that recently cost Americans upwards of three trillion dollars when the financial bubble collapsed around them. Add to that their desire to keep money invested in local businesses and act as their partners to keep them profitable and afloat, and you have the makings of a financial pillar that has remained stable through an unstable market.
That makes area banks a trifecta: modern services, local interest, and safe investment. The next time you walk into your bank, ask yourself if you feel that way about some of the larger bankers in the state. If the answer is that you’re not too sure, then it may be worth checking out your local Charleston banks.
Aug 3, 2012
A roof over your head, the comfort of your own bed, a nice yard, the barbeque pit out in the back- that is the stuff of life. But with prices rocketing, the markets plummeting and real estate demands peaking, the dream of the dream house gets elusive indeed. Those who can afford a house, do so using home loans.
Loans may be fixed rates where the interest rate does not change for the entire duration of the loan repayment. You may also choose floating or variable rates where the interest rate depends on market conditions and go up or down, accordingly. In this loan option, you can choose some advantageous features like additional repayment, so when you come into some extra money, you can divert it to the loan amount. You can redraw on these extra funds or enjoy a 100% interest offset facility. The fixed rate loan does not offer any of these. The most common issue isthat you cannot get out of your fixed home loan unless you pay a hefty penalty. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
If you are considering a home loan, always find one that suits your needs and situation and not a common, one-size-fits-all one. For this you will need to do a cost analysis, keeping in mind future costs and whether they will escalate or reduce. This budgeting exercise will allow you a certain degree of control in the home loan when you finally go in for one.
If you are already repaying a loan, think about why you took the loan in the first place. Often a fixed loan is great security against rate increases and enables you to pay at a particular time, every time. If you are now looking to shift from fixed to variable, do find out what the break costs will be. If the penalty is too much, you could look at reducing the rate by increasing the loan repayment amounts. The break costs are calculated by working out the difference between wholesales rates from when you applied and when your loan will be repaid. This difference is then multiplied to the loan amount and the remaining period left on the repayment of the loan. So increasing your loan amounts could mean less penalty fees.
Or you could consider breaking out of the fixed loan and splitting it between fixed and variable rates. A fee applies for this too, so check what the rates are and whether they are competitive or not. When you choose such an option, you get the security of a fixed loan and the flexibility of a variable loan.
The dream of a house need not turn sour by the sometimes bitter experience of a fixed home loan. There are some choices you can use, so do explore them to ensure a happy home for your family and loved ones.
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Jul 30, 2012
Managing your finances in today’s economic climate can be an imposing task at times. Even if you are disciplined at saving money, there may come a time when you wonder just how far your paycheck will go. What if you have an emergency that warrants a need for unbudgeted funds? What happens when you have to pay unexpected medical bills or make mandatory home repairs? Here are three options you might want to consider.
Home Equity Loan
If you own a home and it is worth more money than you owe on the mortgage, you may be able to get a home equity loan. A home equity loan, or line of credit, can supplement the money you need for unplanned expenses such as medical bills or a new furnace. With this type of loan, you will be borrowing against the equity that you have accumulated in your home to pay for more urgent financial obligations. In return, you will make a monthly payment to the bank or lender for several years. One advantage of using a home equity loan is that the interest you pay on the loan is tax-deductible. In order to qualify for a home equity loan, you need a decent credit score and proof of a regular, steady income.
Auto Title Loan
If you live in Texas,or one of the other 16 states where it is legal, considering the option of a Texas car title loan is another way to get cash quickly. These types of short-term loans are easy to qualify for, as they do not require a credit check or proof of regular income. According to the loan experts at TitleMasters, the only thing you need to qualify for a title loan is a paid-off vehicle, the accompanying documentation and about an hour of your time.
The lender will base the loan amount on the value of your car and will write you a check for a percentage of the car’s value, up to $7,500. A benefit of obtaining one of these Texas auto title loans as a means of generating extra cash is that you still get to drive your vehicle. Essentially, you are using your car as collateral to borrow money. Once you have completed your scheduled payments to the lender, you are free and clear of the loan, you still own your car, and you are able to use the cash for your unexpected expenses.
As a third option, if you have a regular, steady income you may be able to qualify for a cash advance. With this type of arrangement, you work with a lender to borrow against your next paycheck. The lender gives you money, and then you pay it back the next time you get paid. Cash advances, also known as payday loans, vary from state to state, so you will want to research the options where you live. In some cases, you may even be able to ask your employer for a cash advance against your forthcoming paycheck.
We are all aware that life can throw us curveballs, many of them in the form of financial difficulties. The three options discussed above are just a few of the many ideas for earning cash quickly when you encounter unforeseen circumstances. The next time you find yourself in a panic, wondering how you will pay your bills or get caught up with some much-needed home repairs, take a deep breath, close your eyes and think outside the box. Remember, financial stress is temporary and can be remedied in more ways than you have probably yet to consider.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5437288053/
Small business owner and writer, Karla M. Somers is a contributing author for the Texas lending team at TitleMasters. The loan professionals of TitleMasters help residents of Texas and Georgia find solutions to their unexpected financial challenges.
Jul 30, 2012
There are a lot of great reasons to consider online banking – the convenience and speed that banking websites provide is hard to beat. But when you have the option of going to a Charleston community bank and using their website to do your banking, why would you ever choose an online-only bank?
The answer that many people will give you is that the online bank offers a higher interest rate on its CDs and savings accounts. That may be true — but let’s take a close look at what you give up when you choose that slightly higher APY from an online only financial institution:
Lousy Customer Service
Have you tried to get personalized customer service from an online national bank lately? It’s like trying to cut through the Devil’s own red tape. You’ll email, get replied to with a link to a “live” chat, go to said live chat, find out that the automated agent can’t help you, and get redirected to a real live agent. Then you’ll find out that the live agent can’t help you, get a phone number, call the phone number, get bounced through seventeen different menus, get a recording. Call back, follow different menus, get a second number, find out that they’re closed for the night because they’re on UK time, etc. At an area community bank, they know you — and that’s the point.
Checks Don’t Clear
If you get checks from anyone for any purpose, you have a second very solid reason to avoid online banks: checks can take anywhere from a week to a month to clear when you try to deposit them in your online checking account. There are also many more things that can go wrong when trying to clear a check that way — adding potential mail problems to the list is just the beginning. Unless you’re comfy waiting around for 10-30 business days to get your money, you’re far better off working with local Charleston banks.
Spending Virtual Money is Hard
No, really — if all of your money exists solely in the form of ones and zeroes, it can be quite challenging to buy, say, food with it. Most online banks offer credit cards that will connect to your account, but online-only debit cards are just starting to become a thing of the present. Until they resolve that issue, there’s really no way to make an online bank competitive, in real-world terms, with a ‘brick-and-mortar’ institution that you can walk into and walk out cash in hand.
The one thing that unites every single website in the world is that sometimes, you just can’t view it. Maybe your computer is broken. Maybe your power is out. Maybe some trunk between you and the bank’s site got cut. Maybe the bank’s power is out. Whatever the case, when you need cash, you need it now, and online banks simply cannot guarantee that.
Move your money into a local, Charleston bank, where it will stay in your community and help your neighbors start new businesses, buy new houses, and drive new cars. There’s no better way to say you care about Charleston – and of course the local community banks offer online services as well, so you can have the best of both worlds.
Jul 30, 2012
For decades, the local banks around Charleston have had a bad rap when it comes to helping area people with their mortgages and particularly with their foreclosures. Compared to the large national banks and mortgage companies who have their fingers in dozens of pies, local banks appeared to be weaker. But as the subprime collapse has sent thousands of lenders into tailspins and sent the big banks scurrying away from the housing markets, it’s once again time to look at local banks.
When a big bank gets a hold of your mortgage, they immediately categorize it according to their estimate of how likely you are to pay it back. Then they group it together with thousands of similar mortgages, perform a complex financial operation called tranching wherein they divide the total of all of those mortgages into different categories of risk, and then they sell those tranches to various investors, mostly overseas.
A local bank will take your mortgage, hold it, and collect your payments. The money you pay on your mortgage goes directly to fund local businesses and entrepreneurs who receive loans from the local banks. Should you go into foreclosure, you will receive the personal attention you deserve. Instead of being beholden to a variety of overseas investors who each own a tiny percentage of your loan, you can walk up to the local bank manager and talk about your situation in human terms.
Because community banks benefit when the community gets richer, a local bank has every reason to cling to the hope that you will repay your mortgage however you are able; if they sell that debt to someone else, it leaves their sphere of influence. That means that if you do end up in foreclosure, they’re much more likely to work with you rather than coldly dump you out of your house and then turn around and sell it for 40% of the amount you owed them.
If nothing else, Charleston banks are — well, they’re in Charleston. They’re not a national bank with a few locations and services in Charleston. That means that when you need to talk to someone at the top of the food chain, you can drive there and do so. They don’t have a thousand employees, they don’t have ‘loss mitigation departments’ or multiple layers of middle management whose sole purpose is to tell you that you have no hope of keeping your home or setting up a checking or savings account with them.
They also don’t have the latest, shiniest financial and investment instruments with the highest (or lowest) rates — and that’s a good thing. After all, it was shiny new financial instruments that caused the financial markets to collapse in the first place — and it was local banks, including those in Charleston, who didn’t participate in what the big banks were doing.
All in all, working with Charleston banks is better for individuals and it’s better for the community.
Jul 30, 2012
We saw little data out of the UK yesterday, though plenty said about the Libor enquiry, but GBP did seem to make some gains following on from the risk asset sell-off on Friday. GBP hit a high of 1.26 vs. the Euro, along with gaining 0.2% against the US dollar yesterday. There is still a slump in growth within the UK’s domestic market, along with a slowdown in the demand for UK goods, both internally and from European and global markets. The £50Bn cash injection into the UK’s economy didn’t have the anticipated weakening affect on Sterling as many had predicted, although the foreign exchange markets may have factored in this boost some weeks and months ago. Perhaps, too, the pound’s resilience is down to the sovereigns underlying strength. Manufacturing figures are expected to rise 0.1% when released today which, if so, will show small, though inconsistent, signs of economic activity.
On the European mainland, speculation was rife that the Greeks would amend their austerity measures in an attempt to make them more agreeable to the population along with being easier for the Greek government to actually bring into effect. We’ll soon find out what the case is though with another round of funds due to the Greeks shortly. The other problematic country – Spain – has now seen its bond yields hit records highs and the pressure is on them too to find long-term fiscal solutions to their problems. Rumours were afoot yesterday that the ECB were looking at prices of European debt – specifically of Italy and Spain. If the ECB were to buy bonds it would surely drive the prices of bind yields down which would offer a much needed reprieve. Key data releases today from France and Italy and their production figures are anticipated to show that production has fallen.
We saw the US dollar fall slightly in trading yesterday against a number of its peers following Friday’s dollar rally. This doesn’t seem to dent the fact (too much) that USD has been higher than most of its counterparts as who have succumbed to concerns over growth and global risk appetite. Friday’s drop off may be related to the recent implementation of Operation Twist by the Feb with shorter-term bonds replaced by longer ones. Further Quantitative Easing is still a possibility though – this would certainly be to the dollar’s detriment is this is the case. A weaker USD would, however, be good for the Greenback’s growth.