Friday, September 5, 2014

What's a better investment? A mid-range bath remodel or stocks?

In this review of where people might invest their money, I'm not considering tax advantages of the investment strategy.  But the data sets below gleaned from data published by Qualified Remodeling Magazine have been repeatedly reported by other published sources including CNN Money, Kiplinger, Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports and many others who cite the source for published industry data used by companies and inspectors in the home remodeling and building industry to estimate a mid-range bathroom remodel project (defined as a 5'x7' standard size bathroom including 4x4 ceramic tile floor, new one piece sink bowl and top, new standard toilet, new 30"x60" standard porcelain on steel tub, new tub wall surround with 4x4 ceramic tiles, positive temperature pressure balancing valve and shower head for the tub, ceiling light and paint on walls) at around $16,000 in South Atlantic Region around Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia where I reside.

My money would be on the bathroom remodel if it needs to be done.  The reason is because this exact same project 12 years ago only cost around $10,000, and the price has only gone up since then.  As home values rise again it is only going to go up even more from here.  I would only invest in good quality materials that will last a lifetime installed by good qualified contractors with an established track record.  Materials such as the closed cell non-porous Sentrel Bath System synthetic stone material which has the appearance and characteristics of natural stone without the need for any maintenance and comes with a lifetime warranty is where I would likely invest my money.  I might also consider investing in an acrylic bath and wall system that does not require any maintenance and comes with the Good Housekeeping seal of approval if I could accept the look of shiny plastic veneers on my bath walls at more or less the same cost as the synthetic stone material.

I might also invest in good quality tile craftsman that specialize in setting tiles who build beautiful mosaic patterns with porcelain, glass, natural stone and ceramics for a little more money.  I base it on the reasoning that if I plan on selling the home, I am going to recover almost 99 cents on every dollar invested in the remodel project based on industry data in my Washington, DC region.  Over time, I can actually see the value APPRECIATE for a gain if the work done lasts and looks good 12 years later and is covered by manufacturer's warranty!

It is interesting to note that during the greatest recession in our country's history since the Great Depression, the cost of bathroom remodeling actually went up or stayed the same rather than going down, while stocks lost value by almost half over that same 6 yr period measured.  Over time the same stock picks recovered and returned almost 40% over a 12 year period, so there is great gains to be had in stocks vs the more modest return on investment of only around 11% gain or appreciation on the investment in the bathroom remodeling project.   However, the bath remodel project didn't really have any risk associated with it in the short term.  So if getting a value with less risk is something that matters to you and makes you feel better in terms of maintaining your living space, I'd recommend the bathroom investment.  If you don't want to see the value of your investment dollar risked on something that could lose value by almost half, then the safer bet is in the bathroom remodel project.

To find a qualified remodeler in the Washington, DC area that can install any material you want and build a bathroom for your to your exact specifications and is licensed, bonded and has an A+ rating with the DC, MD, VA region's Better Business Bureau, visit for more information.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Affordable Care Act tax credits may provide the incentive needed to turn more Americans into "job creators"

Despite the 3 panel judge ruling this week that the tax credits in states relying on the Federally-facilitated Marketplace will not be allowed, the full panel of judges or supreme court will rule that they are allowed and Americans will still begin choosing their qualified health plans on the Federally-facilitated Marketplace and their state facilitated marketplace in earnest between Nov 15 and Feb 15 (all individuals and small businesses who are not covered by another qualified health plan will select a plan through these marketplaces going forward), they will find that they like what they see.  Lowered costs for coverage and tax credits as incentives for both individuals and small businesses!

In some cases the individuals who qualify because they fall within 138% of the Federal Poverty Level in the chart above, they maybe eligible for tax credits of as much as $800/mo that can either be applied directly toward their health insurance premium, or taken as a tax credit on their tax returns when they file.  Small businesses with under 25 employees and at least 70% of eligible employees participating in their group will also be eligible for tax credits up to 80% of the costs for providing qualified health plans through the marketplace to employees. They only need to have one employee to qualify!  See a knowledgeable tax advisor or insurance broker for more information on this subject (this post and the author is not providing tax advice, and the examples cited is hypothetical based on current guidelines).

The root cause of almost half of US bankruptcies being due to medical expenses is far less likely to occur going forward.  It is also not going to be a contributing factor to poor credit scores any longer.  The most cited reason given by individuals surveyed with credit scores lower than 600 was lack of stable or enough income to service the household debt and living expenses of the household.  Health issues of primary wage earners or family members was a causal driver to job absenteeism which led to loss of income from wage or business proprietorships.  That problem is solved with the Affordable Care Act, and once Americans understand and get used to the law, they are going to thank this administration for implementing the law.  Even Republicans and Tea Party members will look back and realize they were on the wrong side of the issue when the economy is booming with job creators.   The 2014 and 2015 tax credits triggered by the Affordable Care Act may actually inject a much needed stimulus into the middle class to shake the US economy loose of the economic malaise from stagnant wage growth in the middle class. That has led to weak consumer demand on goods and services typically picked up by middle class consumers (such as specialty retailers and casual dining which have been particularly hit hard).  Only time will tell.

Affordable Care Act marketplaces will require everyone to choose a qualified health plan unless one works for a large multi-state employer, or the government, or is covered by a spouse's or parent's plan or eligible in a government health plan like Tricare, VA, Medicare or Medicaid.  The country may soon find it is being transformed into a country of "job creators" starting with the low wage individuals creating the first jobs for themselves.  For the first time in a long time, low wage earning Americans will be incentivized with these tax credits to quit accepting low wage jobs and compete openly to service customers or deliver products and goods directly as self employed agents and entrepreneurs.  The cost of affordable health care as a benefit provided by large employers is off the table as an excuse as to why individuals can't quit and follow their dreams to do better than work in a low wage job for a large employer.  The remaining hurdles for individuals will be availability of credit from suppliers, access to capital to either educate themselves with a particular set of skills to service customers or actually deliver products and services on time and as promised.  Access to investors, banks and suppliers will be more important than ever, and individual credit scores will play a major role in the cost of money for entrepreneurs.   It may be time to start talking to credit repair service providers who specialize in credit repair (attorneys are a great source of information).  The process can take a year to go from a 500+ FICO score to an 800+ FICO score, but the rewards will transform lives of individuals for the better, which will in turn help the country become a booming economic engine with manufacturing, skilled labor and very low unemployment.

There are specialists who can educate individuals on business models with a business model canvas, successful franchise systems for sale, business brokers selling main street businesses, management consultants with MBAs ready to step in and guide owners, skilled trades training programs at community colleges, certification courses for in-demand skills in IT, healthcare and software, computer language training academies, free courses at MIT, Coursera, and our public school systems.  This leaves no excuse for Americans to not get healthy (physically and with skills) and to no longer accept low wages from employers.  You can find mentors willing to help by taking the first step and share information.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Protecting your identity is more than just credit repair issues

Visit to protect your family in the US or Canada from this happening to you or anyone you know.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Where do you turn after you find out your social security number has been stolen?

As a member of LifeLock since 2012 at about $89/yr, I was not concerned about my social security number being stolen because they would tell me that it was being used or stolen.  But when I thought about it, it was sort of like a smoke alarm.  It tells me there is smoke, but I have to do something to figure out where the smoke is coming from, and then if there really is a fire, I have to put it out or call the fire department to come and put it out, then call the insurance co to report a claim, then hire a contractor to repair the damage done.  I asked LifeLock if their service would take care of fixing my identity once it has been compromised, and the answer was surprisingly no.

After hearing too many stories now related to credit repair, and learning of the the hours of calls and copies of records and the general damage that can be done to your reputation from a breach of secure data, I decided to check out costs on something called fraud restoration services.  There is a company, Kroll Fraud Solutions Group working through LegalShield, that specializes in actually restoring a person's identity with law enforcement, federal trade commission, social security administration, IRS, motor vehicle administration/DMVs around the country, creditors and the reporting bureaus, medical insurance companies and others.  They fix everything about a person's compromised identity after a breach occurs with an insurance policy that includes a power of attorney upon discovering a breach so they can represent you and fix what's been damaged for a low price of around $15/mo. The plan is called Identity Theft Shield which is an insurance policy that saves people close to 600 hours.

The fact that we rely on our social security number, address, phone number and drivers license number for identification is scary.  It is easy enough to compromise that data and assume someone's identity by either creating or obtaining a fake driver's license (someone else's picture, on your name and license number and use that when pulled over by cops or involved in more serious crimes).  If not sure about how easy it is, ask any 16 year old in this country if they know someone who can get them or make a fake ID for enough money.  In most states, driver's licenses or occupational licenses are obtained through published procedures and can be compromised by simply figuring out how to defeat the system's process. 

We rely on the security of our private data, and if it is breached, find we have a lot of hoops to jump through to fix it.  There are numerous news stories and ample crime data that shows identity theft crime is far more prevalent and lucrative for organized criminals to trade in identity theft then it is to engage in the actual trafficking of illegal drugs.  This crime has been growing at the fastest pace for the last 10 years or more, and most Americans are oblivious to the risk to their children's social security number, driver's license number or their own data until they are faced with evidence of a data breach and are then looking at about 600 hours of time on the phone, emails, regular mail, and filing reports and following up on those filings to fix the issue.

I was very pleased with the peace of mind that came with the Identity Theft Shield which covers my whole family including spouse, minors and unmarried children up to age 26 not living at home if they are enrolled in school full time, or up to age 26 unmarried if they are still living at home for the same $15.  LifeLock is $89/yr per person or social security number.  For the peace of mind that comes with this insurance, I feel better about sharing it with people.  You can learn more at by completing the quiz questions related to identity theft and be taken to more information to learn more about it and sign up.  Or just click here to learn more.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Share your stories and win $100

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers Share your credit related stories in a collection of short stories we are publishing on the realities of managing credit, income, and assets in the US.  Selected stories will be published and the authors paid $100 via Paypal by the publishing arm of Raj Dwivedi Consulting partnered with CreateSpace/Amazon. The wildest stories have the best chance of being published.  We are looking for the realities of employment opportunities; life after bankruptcy, collections, judgments, reposessions; creditors calling your place of employment to attempt to collect on debts.  We will publish the collection of short stories with permission and payment authorization obtained. 
Please submit your story in Word or PDF format by clicking here.