Archive for the ‘Financial Services’ Category

By Donald Plunkett

While Montana is the fourth largest state by size, the population remains at slightly less than one million people. About 70 percent of the residents of the state own rather than lease their home. With mountain ranges, valleys, rivers and other scenic vistas, Montana’s beauty is matched by few states. As such, many wealthy business leaders and celebrities have purchased farms and ranches in the state, which has in some cases influenced the price of real estate upwards. Additionally in recent years, homeowners’ insurance rates have increased significantly. Finally, without a statewide sales tax, the Montana government relies heavily on property taxes as a source of funding for its operations. All of these factors make Montana homeowners very conscious of the need to save money when buying or selling homes in the state.

For Sale By Owner sales transactions have always taken place in real estate. The most common reason for selling by owner is that sellers do not want to pay the steep commissions typically involved in listing the property with a broker. Other reasons might include the desire to have more control over the marketing and sale of the home or the ability to negotiate one’s own contract. In many cases, For Sale By Owner transactions take place between people who know each other and oftentimes the property is not formally marketed for sale. Several factors make it difficult to market a Montana property as a FSBO. For one, many people are relocating from out-of-state and are simply not going to be in the neighborhood driving around every day following new for sale signs as they pop up. Another factor is that newspaper classifieds, be it the Billings Gazette or the Missoulian, no longer benefit from the strong readership that they once had. There are simply too many alternative ways to get ones news (e.g. the Internet) and to find products and services to buy. Finally, FSBO properties do not benefit from the most powerful marketing tool ever created, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and the hundreds of websites such as that exclusively pull MLS data into their search results.

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Realizing that the FSBO sales process can be difficult but still wanting to minimize commissions, more and more for sale by owner sellers in Billings and beyond have turned to flat fee MLS listings. Basically, rather than listing the property with a traditional agent, the FSBO seller instead lists the property with a flat fee listing company for a prepaid flat fee. The seller pays no listing commission at closing, however, continues to offer a selling commission to a buyer’s agent in the event that they represent a buyer that closes escrow on the property (if no buyer’s agent is involved, then the pay no commission whatsoever at closing). In this way, Montana sellers benefit from the best aspects of the For Sale By Owner marketing method as well as the exposure granted from listing a property on the MLS. Presently, there are few firms that offer this service beyond the Billings market. However, there will likely be more options available to For Sale By Owner sellers as this business model, and other Internet-powered business models take hold.

About the Author: Donald Plunkett is the President of Congress Realty, Inc., a $299 flat fee MLS listing company which serves Billings, Montana, and many other Western markets. His firm’s services have been particularly popular among Montana For Sale By Owner homesellers.


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By John Kaighn

This newsletter has been developed to provide insights into the operation of the financial services industry, and to help individual investors make decisions concerning the type of advisement that best suits their needs. While there are many professionals who provide investment advice in one form or another, there are certain credentials and licenses financial professionals should possess before you entrust them with your savings. We will explore the various licenses and certifications to determine which type of professional might be best suited to your needs.

Financial Advisor, Financial Consultant, Investment Advisor, Financial Planner, Registered Representative, Stock Broker, Variable Products Agent or Insurance Agent are many of the terms used in the financial services industry to describe the professional duties performed. Fee based or commission based compensation are terms which get thrown into the mix, causing client confusion. In reality, a licensed professional can have all of those titles, perform all of those services, which we just identified, and work in a fee or commission based capacity with a client.

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The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) is one of the associations which self regulates the securities industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the government agency which oversees the NASD and the exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The NASD licenses Registered Representatives, while the SEC or individual state bureaus of securities register investment advisors (RIA). Financial Planner, Financial Consultant or other terms used to describe financial services professionals are other ways to describe an RIA. Insurance Agents are licensed by individual state Departments of Banking and Insurance. If the agent sells variable products, such as variable annuities or variable universal life insurance, they must also have an NASD License.

The NASD has many licenses, but many professionals have at least a Series 65, which is an NASD license needed to be a Registered Investment Advisor in many states. This is the minimum, short of having no license at all. In order to be a Registered Representative, the minimum license needed is a Series 6 from the NASD. This entitles a Representative to sell mutual funds, and obtain an affiliation with a securities firm. An insurance license to sell variable products enables the representative to also provide variable annuities or variable universal life insurance.

In order to advise and transact stock, bond, REIT and limited partnership sales, as well as mutual fund, ETF’s, variable annuity and variable universal life sales, a Registered Representative needs to attain a Series 7 license, as well as a variable life license. By obtaining a Series 63, disclosing all investment advisement relationships to their broker/dealer and by registering with their state Bureau of Securities or the SEC, if assets are over 25 million, a registered representative can have a dual registration as a Registered Representative and Registered Investment Advisor. Once this stage has been reached, an Investment Advisor can demonstrate to a client whether fee based or commission based compensation is best for the client.

About the Author: John Kaighn is a Registered Investment Advisor with Jersey Benefits Advisors, Registered Representative of Transamerica Financial Advisors and writes articles on various business and investment information, ideas and opportunities. For more information about this and other topics you can visit



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By Susan Willis

Only a wife who no longer feels loved by her husband knows what it is like to spend the whole night with someone and yet still feel cold and lonely. Being with a man who does not seem to love you anymore can really feel like you are already living your life alone. Sure, the two of you still share a house, financial concerns, and maybe children – but your lives are basically being lived apart.

Living in what feels like a loveless marriage is in many ways harder to bear than being actually single. Of course, actually getting a divorce and living alone means facing a number of harsh realities. But, when the love seems to have left a marriage, you have to ask yourself: why go on in your marriage? And: is there any way to get the love back?

If you find yourself saying to yourself or friends, “I feel like my husband doesn’t love me anymore,” here are 5 questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you still love him?

Of course, with this and each of the other questions posed below, it is very important to be 100% honest with yourself. Now, here goes: do you still love your husband? If you do not love him but just feel you should be married because it is the thing to do, you need to seriously examine whether your marriage is worth saving.

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2. Has he done anything to make it impossible to respect or trust him?

If your husband has done one or more things – such as cheating on you, being physically abusive, or draining your family’s savings to feed a gambling problem – to make it impossible to respect or trust him anymore, your relationship already may be past the point of no return.

3. Do you suspect he is distracted by something outside the relationship?

Sometimes, a lack of interest in a marriage on the part of the husband or wife is due entirely to outside factors not related to the marriage itself. For example, if your husband is having financial problems, challenges at work, or is having health-related issues, he may come across to you as being much less warm and loving than he otherwise might be.

4. Does he have interest in sex, even if it is not with you?

One way that couples keep the momentum of their relationship going strong is by maintaining a healthy sexual relationship. If your husband has lost interest in your mutual sexual relationship, one question you should be asking is whether he has lost his sex drive overall, or just with you. If you believe that he has lost his overall sex drive, it could be a sign that he has a condition called Low T or low testosterone. Or, he could have depression problems. Both of these issues have nothing to do with you.

5. Does he have friends and other outside interests that make him happy?

Apart from his seeming relative lack of interest in your relationship, does your husband have other areas in his life that make him happy? For example, does he have hobbies, friends or activities that put a smile on his face? If not, one of your husband’s problems could be just a general lack of excitement about life or even depression (see above). Getting him to take the time to enjoy himself a bit more could do wonders for your marriage.

Based upon your answers to these 5 questions, you probably have a better idea now about where your relationship is and what other potential causes there could be in your husband’s seeming lack of interest in your marriage.

Now, if you still feel you want to fight for your marriage, it is time to get an action plan together to revive the love in your marriage.

About the Author: Get your difficult marriage back on track with expert relationship advice from someone who has saved thousands of marriages at:

Bring My Husband’s Love Back



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By Debbie Dragon

The majority of Americans carry some sort of credit card debt. Unfortunately, many of us carry so much debt at such high interest rates that it becomes difficult to make a difference in the amount we owe, even when we send a payment to the credit card company each month. Falling behind just makes it worse, with late fees and finance charges added on to your next statement- and often a late payment will result in an increase in your interest rate. High interest rates quickly add up and result in our monthly credit card payments doing little or nothing to reduce the balance. It’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to get out of.

One effective solution for getting off the credit card rollercoaster if you are currently a homeowner, may be to obtain a home equity loan and use it to pay off your high interest credit card debt. Homeowners often take home equity loans to make home improvements, figuring that the improvements will increase the value of their home and therefore make the loan worth it, but why not take a home equity loan to eliminate high interest debt and make it easier to pay your monthly expenses?

The Benefits of Refinancing Credit Cards with a Home Equity Loan

There are a number of benefits of credit card refinancing, with the most obvious one being the decrease in interest rates you are paying. The other primary benefit is the fact that you aren’t incurring more debt when you pay off your credit cards with a home equity loan – you’re keeping the amount you owe the same and moving the debt to a more affordable repayment method. If you had previously been struggling to make several individual payments every month, using a home equity loan to pay off your credit cards will result in a consolidation of your debt, making it easier to pay.

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Additional benefits of refinancing credit cards with home equity include:

eliminating variable interest rates and getting a fixed interest rate obtain a tax benefit with an interest rate tax write-off on home equity loan interest that could not be done with credit card interest consolidate a number of monthly payments into a single, often lower, payment easier record keeping, write and mail one check a month and make one transaction in the check register rather than multiple.

Disadvantages of Paying Off Credit Cards with Home Equity Loans

Like everything good in the world, there are also some disadvantages to using a home equity loan to pay off credit cards, that you’ll want to consider, though. For example, once you pay off the credit cards, you suddenly have lots of room on them to charge new purchases! This can be extremely tempting, and if you’re not disciplined, you could end up charging more debt and making your situation even worse (because now you have the home equity loan PLUS the additional high interest credit card debt!)

It’s a good idea to either get rid of the credit cards by cutting them up, or by placing them in a fire safe box in your home so that you aren’t tempted to pull them out of your wallet when you’re out shopping. Refinancing the credit card debt with a home equity loan can give you the opportunity to live credit card-debt free. Most financial advisors do not recommend calling to physically cancel the accounts right away, because reducing the amount of ‘available credit’ will often have a negative impact on your credit score.

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