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Top Websites to Start an Online Business

The Internet offers nearly endless ideas for new businesses. In fact, the Internet offers so many opportunities that 571 new websites are created each minute. If you want to take advantage of online business, you are not alone. Here are some great resources to get your online business up and running quickly.

WordPress
WordPress is a content management system, or CMS, used to power roughly a quarter of all websites on the entire Internet. There is a good reason for that. WordPress is free, open-source, well supported, easy-to-use, and has thousands of people building free and premium themes and plugins to customize your site to do nearly anything you can imagine.

WordPress was initially developed as a blogging platform, which is still a core feature of the software. However, plugins have expanded the features to include online stores for digital and physical goods, membership websites, and invoicing systems that can integrate with popular payment gateways and accounting software. (For more, see: The Best Online Accounting Systems for Small Business.)

To use WordPress, you do have to register your own domain name, at a cost of roughly $10 per year, and have a website hosting account, which can start around $3 – $5 per month. You can download WordPress and learn more at WordPress.org. (For related reading, see: Getting the Most Out of Your Web Presence.)

SquareSpace
Some would-be business owners look at phrases like “domain name” and “website hosting” and get glassy eyed. WordPress is easy to setup and use if you are comfortable with computers, running a website, and technology in general. But not everyone is, so there are other options like SquareSpace you can use.

SquareSpace allows you to create a website very quickly with no code, hosting, or advanced technical knowledge. SquareSpace allows you to create a website with drag-and-drop features. The site also offers pre-made templates and the ability to integrate a store.

For these features, you must purchase a recurring monthly plan that will likely cost more than a WordPress site, but takes less time and knowledge to setup. Learn more at SquareSpace.

Shopify
If you want to create an e-commerce store and do not want the hassles of setting up hosting and payments, you can use Shopify (SH.TO). Shopify is filled with features to create an online retail experience if you are selling a product that needs to be shipped to customers.

Shopify features include a website builder, store designer, and even the ability to integrate with a point of sale system for in-person purchases.

Shopify charges a monthly fee plus a payment processing charge. Expect to pay more than a comparable site at SquareSpace. However, you have many more tools at your disposal designed just for online retail stores. Learn more at Shopify.

Bigcommerce
Bigcommerce is a competitor of Shopify, as the services the two sites offer are fairly similar. Bigcommerce is set apart by its apps and integrations that you can use to add more power to your online selling experience.

Not only can you create a store, you can integrate with a large number of free and paid services, including Salesforce (CRM), shipping services, print on demand fulfillment services, loyalty programs, social media integrations, customer support software, and vendors who can create a mobile app for your store.

Bigcommerce allows you to choose your favorite credit card processing vendor from a list including stripe, PayPal (PYPL) and Square. Plans start at $29.95 per month. Learn more at Bigcommerce.

With Etsy, you do not need to build a website of your own, you can operate your online business on the Etsy site. Etsy allows you to sell handmade goods, vintage items that are at least 20 years old, and craft supplies. No other items may be sold on the platform.

Etsy is a fully global marketplace that allows you to reach customers around the world. Sellers pay a listing fee for each item, and then a 3.5% fee on the sale price. Learn more at Etsy.

Amazon
You can buy pretty much anything on Amazon (AMZN). Whether you want a book, gadget, or even a maid or plumber, buyers around the world head to this massive site and can have whatever they need delivered right to their door.

What many people do not realize, however, is that they are not buying everything right from Amazon. Amazon Marketplace allows people like you to sell new and used goods right alongside the items sold directly by Amazon.

Sellers can choose to ship items themselves, or send the items to Amazon for automatic shipping when a purchase is made. If you sell on Amazon, all you have to do is register an account, select a selling plan (some have fees), and setup your account and items for sale. Learn more at Amazon.

How to Use a Liquor License as Security for a Loan

A liquor license can be a valuable asset; however, whether the license can be used as collateral to secure a business loan differs among states. The market value of a liquor license can vary according to geographic location of the business. In areas where the number of licenses may be limited, the market value of a license is likely to be much higher. Lenders providing financing to a business involved in the distribution or retail sale of liquor may be willing to include the liquor license as part of the collateral pledged to secure bank financing. Still, a borrower needs to research several factors beforehand.

Instructions

  1. Find out if the state in which your business is located considers a liquor license to be intangible property and whether lenders are willing to extend credit based on the value of the liquor license. In some states, a retailer may use a liquor license to secure a loan under certain conditions, provided that the loan has been approved. Other states consider a liquor license to be a privilege and not a property right and therefore do not allow liquor licenses to be used as collateral.
  2. Inquire about obtaining a loan to purchase a liquor license if you don’t already have one. Depending on the state and municipality as well as the type of establishment, the fees for a liquor license can vary. Licenses must also be renewed annually. You may be able to put up the liquor license itself as collateral for a loan to purchase the license. Naturally, the lender will want to know how much the liquor license is worth.
  3. Contact a lender to discuss your needs and find out what the specific requirements are in your state. If state law defines a liquor license as an intangible asset, you may be able to use it as security to finance a loan.
  4. Collect all the required documentation before applying for financing. Be sure to provide a copy of a current state or county liquor license. The lender will assess the value of the liquor license as an asset and advise you if the license can be pledged as collateral to obtain a loan. Be prepared to present bank statements, sales tax returns, income tax returns, general ledger reports and other financial statements. The lender may be more interested in the cash flow generated than in the collateral. If you can prove that business is strong and that there is the potential for increased profitability, you may qualify for financing regardless of the value of the liquor license.
  5. Be sure your lender includes the liquor license in the description of collateral being used to secure financing. Generally, the lender will request a copy of the license as verification that the borrower is actually the owner of the license. Even though some lenders will use a liquor license as collateral for financing, a primary issue of concern may be whether the liquor license will be renewed. The owner of the liquor license is expected to honor all obligations as required by law. Renewal applications must be filed with the local licensing authority when renewal comes due.

How to Prepare a Financial Feasibility Study

Financial feasibility studies are used to support or reject a project.
Financial feasibility is another way of saying financial sense and there are a number of ways to test for financial feasibility. At its core, financial feasibility is a function of revenues and costs. If the cost of a particular project outweighs the potential revenue or return, then the project is not financially feasible. Most financial analysts are taught to assess financial feasibility on the basis of the present value of future cash flows. They also like to look at something referred to as the payback period. This is the time it takes to pay back invested funds from the project.

Instructions

  1. Identify the costs associated with the project. These are the costs associated with the project from labor, to inventory, to equipment and utilities. Try to obtain estimates where historical data is not available. Determine all monthly costs and then sum for the year.
  2. Estimate the cash flows received from the project. Projects may not have cash flow in the beginning. In this case cash flows are zero. Estimate cash flows on a monthly basis and then total for the year.
  3. Calculate how long the project will be able to generate cash flows without another investment or injection of capital.
  4. Walk through an example to calculate the payback period. Assume the estimated monthly costs for the investment are $500 and the cash flow for the project are $1,000. This means that you are making $500 every month. Assume the initial investment is $5,000. Divide the total initial investment by the monthly profits for the number of months it will take to make back the investment. The answer for this example is $5,000 divided by $500 or 10.
  5. Analyze your data. You now know the costs, revenues and monthly profit associated with the project. You also know how many months it will take to pay back the investment. Compare the results with other projects in order to help determine the best project.

A Buyers Guide For Housing Loan Prepayment Charges

As a holistic guide for home loan buyers, it is important to offer useful and actionable insights to them.Prepayment charges on housing loans have always been there. However, there is a greater awareness about the subject in today’s market. Therefore, explore this concept thoroughly so that you can fit this strategy into your housing loan repayment scheme profitably.

What are prepayment charges?

When you opt for a house loan, you are expected to pay a certain amount as EMIs for the next 20 to 30 years. Most borrowers can, however, save sufficient additional fundsby repaying more than this set amount. This additional repayment is known as prepayment. Since, prepayment allows home loan borrowers to repay the principal amount sooner, they can save substantial amount of interest. For most housing finance companies in India, this is not a profitable practice, as their return on investment is lower than anticipated. So, to discourage this practice, there are minor charges levied on these repayments, which are known as prepayment charges. The percentage of prepayment charges varies from one housing finance company to another, nonetheless, it is applicable in 99% of the cases.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these charges?

There is no advantage of the prepayment charges for housing loan borrowers. You have to pay more to repay early. However, housing finance companies in India need this kind of charges to operate profitably and continue their services. So, in a way, it is an advantage that you can prepay your house loan and spare some funds that would have been spent as the interest otherwise. In financial terms, the main advantage of using the prepayment charges to prepay the loan is that these charges are way lower than the interest that you would have ended up paying eventually. So, if you are in a position to prepay, it is a great deal because, in spite of the prepayment charges, you are saving cash and lowering your account payables.

What are the current standards for prepayment charges?

Since May 2014, RBI has made an announcement that banks are not allowed to levy any prepayment or foreclosure charges on floating interest home loans. So, if you have opted for a floating interest on your home loan in India, you can prepay your loan without any prepayment charges. It is great news for people, who have access to disposable funds, which can be channelized to repay their home loans sooner than later.

So, equipped with this information, the borrowers can evaluate their finances and identify the amount of prepayment that they can make efficiently.

How to Negotiate Social Security Disability Benefits with a Buyout

Managing your Social Security Disability helps to build your financial nest egg.
An increasing number of people are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). News agencies state that many people who previously struggled to work, despite disabilities, are now applying for SSDI. Most people will be denied the first time they apply, but with a lawyer’s assistance, many will be approved. One option when drawing SSDI is to negotiate a buyout. A buyout results in a one lump-sum payment rather than monthly SSDI payments.

Instructions

  1. Check your Social Security yearly statement to see what your present monthly SSDI payment would be. The statement will list the present SSDI amount, if disabled. It will also list what amount your dependents will receive.
  2. Check an actuary table to determine your average life expectancy. Multiply your monthly proposed SSDI amount by 12, then multiply by the number of years stated on the actuary table. This would be your lump-sum settlement amount, minus attorney fees.
  3. Determine the total amount you would receive in a buyout. Some consider a buyout a gamble. Whether a buyout would be beneficial depends on how many years you will actually live after receiving SSDI. It is a calculated risk between expected payout and expected life span.
  4. Contact an SSDI attorney. According to Structured Settlement Payouts.com, hiring a lawyer offers the best chance of getting a buyout. The attorney will be able to negotiate the buyout if it is decided it is in the client’s best financial interest.

How to Improve Your Chance of Getting a Mortgage

Buying a home is probably the largest single financial investment you’ll ever make and, if you’re like most people, you’ll need a mortgage to make it happen. While there are no guarantees that you’ll qualify for the mortgage you want, there are certain steps you can take that will make you more attractive in the eyes of lenders. Read on to find out the best tips for improving your chances of getting a mortgage.

1. Check Your Credit Report
Lenders review your credit report – a detailed report of your credit history – to determine whether you qualify for a loan and at what rate. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the “big three” credit rating agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion –every year (see, What’s On A Consumer Credit Report?). If you stagger your requests you can get a credit report once every four months (instead of all at the same time), so you can keep an eye on your credit report throughout the year.

2. Fix Any Mistakes
Once you have your credit report, don’t presume everything is accurate. Take a close look to see if there are any mistakes that could negatively affect your credit. Things to watch out for:

debts that have already been paid (or discharged)
information that is not yours due to a mistake (e.g., the creditor confused you with someone else because of similar names and/or addresses, or because of an incorrect Social Security number)
information that is not yours due to identity theft
information from a former spouse that shouldn’t be there anymore
out-of-date information
incorrect notations for closed accounts (e.g., it shows the creditor closed the account when, in fact, you did)
It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least six months before you plan to shop for a mortgage so you have time to find and fix any mistakes. If you do find an error on your credit report, contact the credit agency as soon as possible to dispute the mistake and have it corrected.

3. Improve Your Credit Score
While a credit report summarizes your history of paying debts and other bills, a credit score is the single number that lenders use to evaluate your credit risk and determine how likely you are to make timely payments to repay a loan. The most common credit score is the FICO score, which is calculated from different pieces of credit data in your credit report:

Payment history – 35%
Amounts owed – 30%
Length of credit history – 15%
Types of credit in use – 10%
New credit – 10%
In general, the higher the credit score you have, the better the mortgage rate you can get, so it pays to do what you can to achieve the highest score possible. To get started, check your credit report and fix any mistakes, and then work on paying down debt, setting up payment reminders so you pay your bills on time, keeping your credit-card and revolving credit balances low, and reducing the amount of debt you owe (e.g., stop using your credit cards).
4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
A debt-to-income ratio (see Debt Management Ratios) compares the amount of debt you have to your overall income. It’s calculated by dividing your total recurring monthly debt by your gross monthly income, expressed as a percentage. Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio to measure your ability to manage the payments you make each month, and to determine how much house you can afford.

If you have a low debt-to-income ratio, it shows you have a good balance between debt and income. Lenders like to see debt-to-income ratios that are 36% or lower, with no more than 28% of that debt going toward mortgage payments (this is called the “front-end ratio”). In most cases, 43% is the highest debt-to-income ratio you can have and still get a qualified mortgage. Above that, most lenders will deny the loan because your monthly expenses are too high compared with your income.

There are two things you can do to lower your debt-to-income ratio, and both are easier said than done:

Reduce your monthly recurring debt.
Increase your gross monthly income.
The single most important thing you can do to reduce your monthly recurring debt is to buy less. Take a careful look at where your money goes each month, figure out where you can save and make it happen.

While there’s no easy way to increase your income, you can try to find a second job, work extra hours at your primary job, take on more responsibility at work (and get a pay increase) or complete coursework/licensing to increase your skills, marketability and earnings potential. If you’re married, another option to increase your household income is for your spouse to take on additional work – or go back to work if one of you has been a stay-at-home parent.

5. Go Large with Your Down Payment
Nothing shows a lender more that you know how to save like a big down payment. A large down payment reduces the loan-to-value ratio, which increases your chances of getting the mortgage you want. The loan-to-value ratio is calculated by dividing the mortgage amount by the purchase price of the home (unless the home appraises for less than you plan to pay, in which case the appraised value is used). Here’s an example. Say you plan to buy a house for $100,000. You put down $20,000 (20%) and seek a mortgage for $80,000. The loan-to-value ratio would be 80% ($80,000 mortgage divided by $100,000, which equals 0.8, or 80%).

You can lower the loan-to-value ratio by making a larger down payment: If you can put down $40,000 for the same house, the mortgage would now be just $60,000. The loan-to-value ratio would fall to 60% and it will be easier to qualify for the the lower loan amount. In addition to increasing your chances of getting a mortgage, a larger down payment and lower loan-to-value ratio can mean better terms (i.e., a lower interest rate), smaller monthly payments and less interest over the life of the loan.

When you’re setting your down payment, remember that a 20% or larger down payment will also mean that g you won’t be subject to a mortgage insurance requirement, all of which can save you money.

How to Start a Finance Company in India

A finance company in India is known as a non-banking financial company (NBFC). It must first be registered under the Indian Companies Act of 1956 before applying to the Reserve Bank of India for registration as a finance company. There are three types of NBFCs in India: asset finance companies engaged in asset-backed financing, such as equipment leasing; investment companies engaged in the securities industry, such as investment dealers and brokers; and loan companies engaged in general financing activities.Finance companies must register with the Reserve Bank of India before commencing operations.

Instructions

  1. Incorporate your company under the Indian Companies Act of 1956 if you have not already done so.
  2. Apply to the Reserve Bank of India to be registered as a NBFC. You must have have unencumbered capital, or net-owned funds, of at least 20 million Indian rupees.
  3. Submit the application online by accessing the Reserve Bank of India’s website. Download the NBFC application form, fill it out, and upload the form, making sure to enter the correct regional office code. A reference number will be provided to you.
  4. Submit a hard copy of the application form indicating the reference number, along with the supporting documents, to the same Reserve Bank of India regional office that you indicated in the online form.
  5. Make preliminary plans to start operations. The Reserve Bank of India will issue the Certificate of Registration after ensuring that the conditions outlined in Section 45-IA of the Reserve Bank of India Act of 1934 have been met.

Do You Pay a Retainer Fee Up Front With a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

Paying a retainer fee upfront for a bankruptcy lawyer is standard practice. Generally, lawyers will not begin any work for the client or consider themselves the client’s legal representative without receiving some form of payment. Bankruptcy lawyers are particularly careful about the payment fee structure because their fees must be disclosed to the court. The upfront fee payment varies depending on the lawyer and the amount of work required to successfully handle the case

Carefully review the bankruptcy lawyer's retainer agreement before paying retainer fees.

Consultation

  • Set up initial consultations with different bankruptcy lawyers. Many bankruptcy lawyers provide free initial consultations with potential clients. Find out if there is any paperwork that should be brought to the meeting or any forms you need to fill out beforehand. The more information the attorney has regarding your financial situation, the easier it will be for him to provide an estimate of the legal fees he will charge.

Retainer Fees

  • Ask the lawyer to explain the difference between the retainer fee and total amount of attorney fees for the case. Discuss the amount of the retainer fee, the type of work the attorney will start to perform once he receives the fee, and acceptable methods of payment. Some attorneys may require a small retainer fee upfront to start fielding calls from creditors and start collecting documents needed for the bankruptcy case. Attorneys may not begin working on the case until they receive a substantial portion of the total fee. Find out the attorney’s refund policy before giving him any money. It is advisable to know how much money you will get back if you decide not to file for bankruptcy or if you decide to change attorneys.

Payment Plan

  • Bankruptcy lawyers know that many people interested in bankruptcy do not have enough money immediately available to pay for legal services. Talk about the possibility of setting up a payment plan to cover the retainer fees and any additional fees associated with the case. Provide full disclosure to the attorney regarding any pending lawsuits, wage garnishments or foreclosure proceedings that may occur. Those facts could affect how soon payment must be received to file the case and start bankruptcy proceedings.

Retainer Agreement

  • Carefully review the retainer agreement after choosing a particular lawyer. The retainer agreement should provide a breakdown of each fee amount, what it covers and the legal services the lawyer will provide during the case. Make sure the payment terms included in the retainer agreement directly reflect the arrangements discussed with the lawyer. Maintaining clear communication with the lawyer will help prevent any future misunderstandings.