Top 10 iPhone Apps for Personal Finance

There are many applications for the iPhone that give users the ability to make personal financing easier than ever. While solving one pain-in-the-neck issue, it creates another – which app to buy? Because of the popularity of these headache-reducing apps, there is an overwhelming amount of options available in the App Store. Deciphering which app is the best available is almost impossible. Add in the fact that so many aren’t free, and choosing the right one the first time around could save time and money. Before downloading anything, it’s important to know if the functionality of the app (money transferring, budget tracking, etc.) fits your needs. Provided is a list of ten apps including the price and primary function that can make tracking personal finances much easier.

Mint – There are tons of finance apps available that focus on budget tracking. Few are as popular as Mint, which allows users to manage multiple financial accounts from one simple user interface. With user-friendly features and no price tag, there is little wonder why this app has so many users.

Loan Shark – Dealing with loans is never a pleasant experience. The Loan Shark app helps ease some of the pain endured while handling loans without having to pay anything. It simplifies the process of calculating loans by a great deal and also has many features including a full amortization table, a one-tap extra payment option, and a “favorites” feature.

MoneyStrands – This app is another free option for tracking your budget. With features like alerts, analysis, security, and support, it is one to compare to Mint.

PageOnce – Planning long-term investments can be easy to put off. This app also assists in budgeting your current finances like MoneyStrands and Mint, but really excels in planning for the future. It gives you the ability to look at your 401k, IRA, and stocks all at the same time, while not costing you a cent.

Toshl – Toshl incorporates cloud computing into every day financing with this free app. The cloud feature allows users to automatically sync their mobile movements online. Additionally, there is a premium upgrade ($19.95/year) that allows users to export to Excel, PDF, or Google Docs among other features.

MoneyBook – MoneyBook is another addition to the long line of apps for budgeting. This one, however, comes at a price. Promoted as “Finance with Flair,” the app costs $2.99 and is loaded with features to make financing easier.

SplashMoney – At $4.99, what differentiates this from the free apps is its ability to connect wirelessly to most online bank accounts.

Square – The price is right for this free app that makes credit card purchases simpler than ever. By signing up, Square, Inc. will provide a credit card reader that can be attached directly to the iPhone. Once connected, users have the ability to swipe all major credit cards with only a 2.75% charge per swipe.

PayPal – Ebay-owned PayPal provides users a secure, simple way to send or receive money wirelessly.

General Banking – The bulk of major banks have available apps for free. These provide easy-access to any and all bank accounts in a secure fashion.

This is only a small example of the many, many apps that can help make financing easier. With the continuous release of new applications and updates to old ones, banking from your iPhone will continue to simplify; finding the app for doing so may not. This list is a great place to start looking.

For more information about iPhone application development, visit Magenic Technologies who have been providing innovative custom software development to meet unique business challenges for some of the most recognized companies and organizations in the nation.

Providing Quality, Productivity and Efficiency

When I came back from the U.S., I went onto one of the international teams, primarily working in IT, so I was responsible for working throughout Europe and India rolling out IT developments. Left there after 12 years when I got the choice of spending 18 months on the road going around the world, off spending some time with my family, the family came first. Left GE, went to work for a company called Abbey, anybody heard of Abbey National? Yeah, a few people. I signed on the dotted line for Abbey on a Friday. I found out in the media on Monday that Abbey had been just been bought by Banco Santander.

So my career at Abbey was very short-lived-I think I had about five months there. Three of which was on Garden (ph) leave and redundancy. I then went on to join a company called Cattles that had an effect and a loan shark. Now in loan shark they basically lend money to people who cannot afford to pay it back and then go and get the money off of them by taking the property away, breaking their legs, whatever it needs to get the money back. Did not like that very much. So I joined Norwich Union, where I have been for three-and-a-half years working in the top industry, which is Norwich Union Life.

Now this brings us on to the earlier point, which is about Aviva. Aviva is the parent company of all of the Norwich Union businesses, and it is the international arm. So those of you who are not from the UK, anybody seen Aviva advertise? Now you have seen it on the ING presentation earlier because they are one of our competitors. Has anybody else come across Aviva? Shows hands. No! Absolutely nobody. Interesting!

I believe that Aviva is a company that was developed by Norwich Union purely for the purpose of giving us a global brand. Within the U.K., Norwich Union is split down into many businesses, it is a complex animal. Norwich Union Life sells life insurance, deals with investments and with bonds. So in the current climate, we are getting absolutely screwed. A colleague of mine bought 3,000 pounds worth of Aviva shares when they were 4 pounds per share because he figured they could not go any lower. About 12 hours later, they were worth 2.50 pounds. Well, I cannot do the thing-the sums are in euros, but basically he lost half of his money, and he has been on the cascade ever since.

Now what this means for the business is pretty severe, because in this kind of climate anybody who has investments very rapidly tries to take them out. So we have got a massive increase in work load and it is uncovering a lot of processes that are not perhaps quite as Lean as they should be. So there is a fantastic amount of work to be done in the Lean Sigma area that has been highlighted by the current crises.

Norwich Union Insurance is a more traditional insurance company. They sell car insurance, they sell motorcycle insurance, house insurance, often direct to customers.

Norwich Union Healthcare, which we are going to come back on to in a while, is primarily around selling health insurance, little bit like BUPA for those who know the U.K. companies. And there are many other Aviva companies around the world. One of which is Aviva Canada. Aviva Canada has a Lean Sigma team of about three people. There is also a Lean Sigma team in the U.S., so the whole of the United States, fantastically big business, big area has one Lean Sigma person based in Iowa, I believe. So that is another area for expansion for us.

Because Norwich Union is such a convoluted business and because Aviva is even more convoluted, it is very difficult to get a good view as to how many Lean Sigma type resources we have. But I can certainly talk to the bottom end of this stuff, which is over the past 18 months, me and my team have trained 52 Green Belts who come primarily from the business areas. We have trained another 10 Black Belts who were primarily internal, but we have also started training people from other Norwich Union businesses, from insurance, from healthcare, etc. And since 2004, I joined Norwich Union in 2005, and I managed to get back to a few of the old records, the total strengths that we have within Norwich Union Life is somewhere in the region of about 30 Black Belts and about 300 Lean Green Belts.

Now the Black Belts, some of them are in the central team-there are about seven or eight Black Belts in the central team. The rest are scattered throughout the various business areas, because not only do I have Norwich Union Life, Norwich Union Insurance and Norwich Union Healthcare, within Norwich Union Life we have multiple businesses as well in multiple business areas. So those 30 are scattered about as well.

As of about two weeks ago, we have stopped doing any further training of Black Belts or Green Belts, primarily because we have got enough, and it is really now up to the business to start delivering the benefits. However, we are continuing to provide coaching and mentoring to enable the people that are actually out there in the field doing process improvement projects to get the projects delivered in a proper and timely manner. That is really the main focus of what my team is doing now.

OK, the structure of the rest of this rather short presentation is based around the four questions that IQPC asked me to answer. So I put them in there as challenges. The first challenge was around getting buying from senior management and the rest of the business, providing Return On Investment in business and transactional environments. Quite a convoluted question. So I could easily avoid it, very easily as it turns out, because I think-what I have seen over the last couple of days is everybody that seems to be doing presentations, they say more or less the same thing. Yes, it is important and there are lots and lots ways of doing it, but one of the things that hit me quite a long time ago is this question of transactional versus manufacturing, and it does not really seem to make a lot of difference.

Manufacturing businesses have to have transactional processes in that they have to have HR, they have to have finance, they have to talk to customers, they have to deal with ordering, they have to deal with invoicing. So there are still transactional and service based functions within a manufacturing industry.

And so-called transactional businesses like mine, like insurance, we do produce things, despite popular belief. We produce policies, we produce reports, we produce letters, we produce credit cards. So in the end, the requirement to improve processes is the same. It does not matter, it does not matter whether they are manufacturing or transactional, the same things apply.

So as I start looking answering the question, maintaining senior management buying, and to be perfectly honest, has been an absolute nightmare. It has worked and it has not worked, and if I can purposefully click back, we had, when I first joined the company in Norwich Union Life, a very senior, very, very supportive, he was a “Head of” then, he is now a Director. And we were doing really well, we were fantastic team, very well-supported, we were getting the correct buying that we needed and things were going brilliantly. Unfortunately, because he was so good, he got promoted. So he went off to work for a different area. He was looking after us and that was a team called Process Excellence. Simon got promoted and went to look after one of the investment arms.

Well, guess what happened? We started taking a bit of a nosedive, but the investment arm went ballistic, very fantastic stuff. He rolled out process improvement within the investment area that he was in, and they were doing really well. They became one of the best teams that were actually operating within Norwich Union Life, and because he did so well there he got promoted again. And he went on to healthcare, and I would say that currently within the U.K. and within Norwich Union, the most successful process improvement Lean Sigma team is very definitely in healthcare 100 percent because they have got that buy-in. Well, no, not 100 percent because they got that buy-in, but probably 80 percent because they have got that buy-in.

The other advantage that healthcare has is that they are a single silo. So whereas my area of Norwich Union Life has about five different businesses within it, that means five different directors to handle, it means probably 15 or 20 different “Head of-s” to handle; within healthcare there is only one.

The other thing that would come out of all of this that we will be doing is that we have trained the best part of 300 people over in the past four or five years, and it is very, very clear that one of the ways to get buying is to actually let the people who do the work handle process improvements. So something that I will have back on a little bit later on is that we have become catalysts for a change, we do not actually do change, we help people change themselves, that is absolutely vital. The gains you buy in and it also solves one of the problems that I think someone have mentioned earlier around making sure that the control phase actually sticks. If people want to do the change and if the change is their idea, it will stick. So what we need to do is enable them to go about it; it makes our job easier.

It also gives this a bottom of deployment so the people at Ground Zero on the shop floor are making these improvements in doing these projects. So it leaves us to try and get the top-down support, and again that is the problem that we have in the top-down support.

What they have managed to do in healthcare is they have actually managed to get KPIs on change into the Directors and the “Head of-s” bonusable objectives. So the objectives that senior people have in healthcare, one of them is actually around process improvement, and their bonus and their success and their salary for next year actually depends on that. That gets you a fantastic amount of buying.

So much so that the plan for healthcare for next year leading into 2010 is that the process improvement team will be self-funding. So the benefits that they are going to achieve will be feeding directly into that cost, and they will basically be a self-funding entity, they are not going to be a cost on the business at all, which is brilliant.

Final thing on that slide I think is the last one, but do not get hung up on a name-Six Sigma Stigma. You mention Six Sigma and people just dive under a desk somewhere. They do not want to know, it is all about statistics, it is all about tool heads, it would not work here, it does not work in transactional environments; it is complete rubbish is a polite way of putting it. It works fine, but you cannot use the name half of the time. The same with Lean, people do not want to do Lean.

My team has been a Lean Sigma team, it has been a Lean team, it has been a Process Excellence team, it has been a Process Improvement team. Currently we are a Service Transformation team. We are doing the same things, we are using the same tools, but we are using different names. It is important that you do not get hung up on the name, it does not matter what you call it as long as you are using the tools and you are using them in the right way. So I guess basically it is a case of being pragmatic…on that one.

The second challenge that IQPC asked me to look at was embedding process improvement principles that suit the culture. A bit more challenging, but I will go through a few good things that happened to us and some of the things that have not gone quite so well.

It all started before I joined Norwich Union. So it started sometime back in about 2003, and it has been very progressive. In the early days we were looking at Lean and Six Sigma as two completely separate entities. The training was provided by two of three different external consultancies. They were training up Lean specialists, they were training up Lean Green Belts and they were training up Black Belts. The problem that they gave us was if ever we had a project we had to get rather a lot of peopling or people were deciding is it a Lean project or is it a Six Sigma project.

When I came on board, we started looking at slightly different things, and we thought that maybe we could actually combine the two together. Now the idea was, a Black Belt would be full-time employed on process improvement type projects, but the Green Belt would dedicate about 25 percent of their time to the process improvement projects within their business area, but rest of the time they will be doing their day job. Now to a large degree that has actually worked.

What Norwich Insurance also did was to recruit people like myself externally to support the central team. So now we are in a situation where we have central team with external recruited, accredited, certified and certifiable in many cases Master Black Belts and Black Belts. There are some internally-trained Black Belts but not necessarily accredited working within the business areas, and quite a lot of Green Belts are very definitely business area based. So any of the improvement work is mostly carried out by the people who work in the business, which comes back to the point I made earlier about, if the people in the business do it the people in the business own it and it will continue successfully.

100 Financing Investment Property

100 financing of investment properties refers to 100% financing from outside for your investment in real estate. Funds that are brought from one’s own savings, on loan from friends or relatives are in a way not much different from capital whereas real debt or Investment property financing comes from financial institutions. These entities – banks, mortgage firms and lending organizations like credit unions — lend funds to the applicant on the trust of a collateral security or based on the income, credit-worthiness and repayment capacity of the individual. Even if these criteria are satisfactory, an investment property financing institution may ask to be shown the business plan of how the applicant means to generate income using the pieces of property he or she means to buy and consequently pay off the loan or conclude the mortgage. The lender has the right to know how the business is going to be conducted because the revenues of this business determine how fast the loan is going to be repaid. With the turn in the economy, 100% financing investment property has almost been done away with.

100 financing investment property

In the United States, there are three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, that maintain records of the lines of credit extended to each individual and how they are being handled. The credit reports formulated by these bureaus reflect how many credit card accounts a person has, how many times he or she has defaulted in payment or gone over the credit limit; other forms of financing availed by the individual such as home mortgage, auto finance or student loans, are also listed. Lenders and creditors have access to these credit reports and use them to check if an applicant is worth the risk of being given a loan. The exact features that point to an applicant as being risky can be found out after a professional analysis of one’s credit report. A high Debt to Income ratio and loan to value ratio are some of the red-flags. These areas have to be improved so as not be saddled with an exorbitant rate of interest and terms that are not favorable to the borrower. Some unfavorable terms are floating interest rates that send the finance charges through the roof upon a single defaulted payment. To prevent this eventuality, it is better to choose a deal with a fixed (flat) interest rate or a low ceiling rate on the interest rate slab.

Lending fees, high interest rates, discount points (another form of lending fees paid upfront to prevent the interest from racing up) can actually break the bank. In fact, there are many cases in which discount points have been deceptive and one ends up paying more for them, than the actual interest (finance charges) that would have been paid if the interest rates did go up. To prevent such goof ups, it is a good idea to take estimates from two or three lending organizations, compare their offerings and then choose the one that appeals most to one.

The worst pitfall to guard against is when some lender tells you that you are eligible for 100% financing of investment property. Those idyllic days are over. In fact, they are past their sell by date because there were not so idyllic. There may be such plans available on subsidy from the government for the exclusive use of first time homeowners who belong to the low income group. But this does not include investment property dealers. Traditional methods of 100% financing are now called owner financing and are still available but they are not an attractive option. It is not surprising that requests for owner financing are viewed with suspicion of default by lenders and therefore, that avenue is best avoided.

5 Best Android Tablet Finance Apps

For Android tablets, the common reason for buying them may be for entertainment and leisure. Did you know that Android tablets are also proven useful in the financial world? Android has offered so many finance apps in the market which are very much relevant and useful to your every day financial needs. Whether you want the latest finance news or you need to make monetary computations, finance-related Android apps have got it all for you. Here is a list of the five best Android finance apps in the market:

1. Finance

Ever wanted to have a personal financial planner but you just can’t afford to pay for one? Simply called Finance, Android has come up with a powerful app which strips you of the need to hire a personal planner. Finance is an app which is capable of providing you with the most recent updates about the stock market. The best feature of this app is that it provides you with stock quotes which are very much reliable because they are quoted real-time. This app also syncs well with your stock portfolios which are loaded in Google Finance.

2. Real Estate Droid

If it is your dream to be a real-estate businessman someday or to be a licensed real estate broker, then this finance app is the best deal for you. Real Estate Droid comes with features which can, for one, search houses for sale. Once you find a catch, you can search information about its neighborhood with real-time updates. With this app, you can also check out mortgage quotes made by real lenders and compute for mortgage loans. You can always take advantage of the built-in loan calculator.

3. Financisto

Financisto is a finance app that is very much capable of doing many things. For one, it lets you add multiple types of bank accounts and even a multiple number of accounts per type. This means that you can add checking and savings accounts together into your file manager. For both types, you can add more than one account. With Financisto, you can also monitor which among your payments are recurring. Once you see the pattern, you can schedule them to make sure you don’t lag with your payments. This app can also help you create either a short-term or long-term budget.

4. Karl’s Mortgage Calculator

If Real Estate Droid is not enough for your mortgage needs, then you can always opt for a more specialized finance app, which is Karl’s Mortgage Calculator. By using this app, you can calculate how much mortgage you should be paying in the future and you can even visually see the results with its easy-to-read charts and graphs. This app can help you compute for your future payments, given the principal loan amounts, interest rate and terms. Karl’s Mortgage Calculator, however, is limited to supporting interest-only amortization and Canadian computations.

5. PayPal

Almost everybody knows of PayPal now. With the PayPal Android app offered in the market, you can do all things you normally do on your PayPal account. The bonus point here is that apart from being able to pay an item, you can also help hasten its delivery process. So, if you’re dying to take hold of that most recent Victoria Secret scent, then you don’t have to wait for the normal number of shipping days just to have it. You can always make it two or three days earlier with this app. With PayPal app at your reach, you can always access your PayPal account anytime you want.

Be Prepared for the Problems in Used Car Financing With Solutions Before You Start

Financing properly is more important in financing a used car than when buying a new car. Most problems that occur in buying a used car are due to there being a problem connected with the financing. Getting the used car financing worked out properly is the key to a successful used car purchase.

Most buyers aren’t aware of how important the paper work is to making the deal a successful one or a failure. They view it as paperwork that should be completed as quickly as possible so they can drive away in their new car.

To start with, it’s very important to get the deal agreed upon by the salesman to be put in writing in the contract. This often involves determining monthly auto loan payments based on an interest rate. Sometimes, the interest rate a customer qualifies for is inflated so the dealership can make extra profit.

This headache can easily be avoided by obtaining independent vehicle financing before going to the dealership. This means the consumer can proceed as a “cash buyer” and negotiate only the price of the car. Car salesmen prefer customers to be “monthly payment” buyers because, in this way, it is easier to obscure the total cost of the vehicle.

Independent car financing can be obtained from a bank, credit union or on-line lender. With the popularity of the internet, applying for used car refinance is proving to be simple and very easy to do. Many on line lenders respond very quickly – sometimes as short as 15 minutes by email or telephone. If the application is approved, the borrower is given a credit limit at an established interest rate. Sometimes a blank bank check is issued with no obligation to use it.

“For the majority of consumers, even if you know you have good credit, there is a little apprehension and tension around applying,” one lender said. “So instead of going into a dealership and giving them your information and being sent to the coffee machine to wait for an answer, you can apply on-line, 24/7.”

Most people familiar with how used car dealerships operate confirm that obtaining independent car financing is beneficial to most consumers. .

The most common problems that have a negative impact on a person trying to finance a used car –and their solutions – to ensure that things go smoothly are the following:

Problem #1: Many consumers don’t know what their credit rating is when they apply for an auto loan. The strength of their credit score largely determines what kind of interest rate they will receive. Therefore, it’s critical to make sure your credit report is in the best shape possible before shopping for a car.

SOLUTION: Order a copy of your credit report and look for items that may stand in the way of you getting a good rate. Correct any issues or errors promptly. Are all of your lines of credit in good standing? Are there any signs of identity theft? The credit bureaus will tell you how to correct errors when they send you the report. The following numbers and Web site addresses will assist you in checking your credit.