Tuesday, July 3, 2007

10 ways to get the best out of your credit card

Buying something expensive is no longer a problem. From that designer outfit to the most recent gizmos, you can get it all with a swipe of a credit card. But is it as simple as it sounds? Should you get carried away with those flashy ads and promos telling you how easy it is to buy stuff? Let's find out.
Whether dining at a restaurant, doing your grocery shopping or making the latest purchase, the most convenient mode of payment today is the credit card.
But wait a second before you swipe it -- do you know how to make the best use of your card? Which brings me to another question -- do you ever wonder why so many banks chase you with the offer of a free card? The answer is simple; it's the hefty interest rate (as much as 36 per cent per annum) that they charge when you don't pay your credit card bill on time. This interest is a lucrative source of revenue for them.

Understanding credit cards
A credit card is issued by a bank or a credit card company; it permits you to make purchases or pay your bills without using physical cash. The most important benefit is that you get a leeway of 20 to 50 days to make your payment after you use the card. Your bill is calculated from the date of billing. The time between each billing cycle -- which is the billing date between one month and the next -- is known as the 'interest free period'; however, if you do not pay your bill on time, you will be charged a hefty interest.

The second flexibility that you get is the choice to make the payment either at one go or on a monthly installment basis. Though this option becomes more feasible in terms of easy payment, watch out for the interest rate that can go up to 35-43 per cent annually.

Ask yourself basic questions
~ Why do I need a credit card?
~ Is it because it is easier not to have to deal with cash or is it because everyone else has one?
You must realise there is no such thing as a 'free lunch'. Why would anyone offer free credit cards or even free add-on cards? Add-on cards are offered to you if you pay your bills regularly or have a good payment history. These cards can be in the name of your father/ mother/ spouse/ child; they can use the add-on card for making purchases. It functions exactly like your own credit card. Of course, the purchases are billed to the main credit card owner's account.

Whenever you swipe your card, it comes to you at a cost. You use the credit card to your advantage when you clear your bill within the 'interest free period', which is generally between 20-50 days (depending on the billing cycle).
Credit cards broadly fall under four categories -- regular, silver, gold, platinum. Each offers more facilities and each is more expensive.
Before you make up your mind to own one, do not forget to run a search on the maximum benefits you could avail of under a particular card. For instance, some credit cards offer discounts on airfares, retail shopping, etc.
So, while choosing the right card for yourself, know the costs involved and the benefits you can enjoy.
What else should you know
Once you start using your credit card, the card company sends you a monthly statement list of the purchases/ payments you have made with the card. You will have to pay this bill within a certain number of days. Don't ever forget that you will be charged a high interest rate if you don't pay your bill on time, that is before your due date.
Generally, a credit card finds a place in your wallet because of its 'free credit period', also known as the 'grace period'. This means you don't actually pay for something as soon as you buy it using your card. You pay for it when the credit card bill is delivered to you.

The number of 'free' days that you get depends on the statement date and the transaction date. Generally, a time frame of 20 days is given, but if you plan purchases smartly, you may end up getting even 50 days of credit. This means that, if your billing date is today and you buy something tomorrow, you could get 50 days of credit. However, if your billing date is today, and you bought something using your credit card two days ago, you will only get a benefit of 22 days.
Make the best of your card
1. Pay your bill before the due date. If you are not able to do so, use the transfer balance facility through which you can transfer the balance amount on your bill to another credit card issuer and pay fewer charges.
2. Do not use the cash advance feature (where you can withdraw cash against your card just like an ATM) unless it is very crucial; the amount you withdraw does not qualify for an interest free period. The interest rate charged on such withdrawals ranges from 25-30 per cent per annum.
3. Know your credit card's billing cycle, the actual date of when it begins and ends. Make your purchases in such a manner that you get maximum free credit days.
4. Don't own multiple cards. Stick to a maximum of two cards. More than that and you will find it difficult to keep a track of how much money you are spending.
5. Always clear your credit card bills at least seven days before the due date to avoid being hit with a late fee.
6. Before you choose your credit card, take suggestions from your friends/ relatives.
7. Keep the receipts you get when you use your card; use these to check your bill when it is mailed to you.
8. Keep your card and your 16 digit credit card number confidential.
9. If you have more than one, carry only those that you think you will need when you leave the house.
10. Look out for cards that give you the highest free credit period.

Married? 7 money tips you must know

Managing finances is furthest from the mind when wedding bells are tolling. But, once the honeymoon is over and couples start the business of day-to-day living, money begins to matter.
And if you aren't in step with your partner when it comes to spending, savings and investment, money can become a major marital issue in a marriage.
Here are seven tips on how couples can avoid arguments over money and plan for a secure future together.

1. Set common objectives
Once married, you have to plan a common future with your partner. Agree on the broad goals: buying a home, children's education and marriage, and retirement.
Once you've agreed upon this, you can work out the details -- how big a house you want, how big a loan you can afford, and how much to save for the downpayment.
You may not see eye to eye with your spouse on many of these details, but they can be easily ironed out in pursuit of common objectives.

2. Share information
In many cases, it's usually one partner who plays the primary role in managing finances.
Nadish Bhatia, group accounts director, Lintas, takes the investment decisions for his family because his wife Deepika, who works at Mumbai's National Centre for Performing Arts, "is just not inclined towards it and believes that I will do a better job of it."
Regardless of who takes the decisions, both partners must discuss all investment and spending decisions and be equally aware of the shape of their finances.
Take the case of Ujjal and Aparna Bhattacharya, who have been married for five years and work in software and production engineering respectively.
While it's Ujjal who takes most of the financial decisions, he keeps Aparna in the loop as he thinks it fosters mutual understanding.
Responsible spending and accountability is a must for married people. Tell your spouse when you're spending something. You don't need to show him/ her your purse before you step out, but returning home with an LCD TV or a diamond ring one fine day without informing your spouse is a no-no.

3. Bank on togetherness
Do you need to keep separate bank accounts or go in for a joint one?
Separate accounts are good for couples who want a degree of independence and not be in one another's way all the time, which can be a liberating experience. But a joint account has distinct advantages. For one, it creates a sense of togetherness and unity, which is vital for a successful marriage.
There are some practical advantages as well. For instance, both partners can operate it to spend on household expenses. And, since all the records are in one place, it's easier to keep tabs on spending.
It's also helpful when either partner is irresponsible with the finances. You can immediately find out if your spouse has spent huge amounts and curtail such spending. Most couples we spoke to swore by a joint account for household expenses.
Another option is to take the middle path, and have separate accounts and a joint one for some expenses. You and your partner can decide on how much each puts into the joint account, depending on how much you earn and your monthly expenses. This way, you have a degree of independence while retaining that sense of togetherness.
Suparn Verma, debutant director of the just-released film Ek Khilaadi Ek Haseena, shares the household expenses with his wife Radhika, an HR consultant. The two put in a predetermined amount into a joint account that's used to meet expenses. "One of us may put in smaller amounts sometimes, but that's never been an issue between us. It's a marriage after all, not some business relationship," says Verma.

4. Manage differences
Often partners may have different investing styles. While you may be a high-risk, high-return investor, preferring to invest in stocks, real estate, company deposits and the like, your partner could be conservative and prefer safer options like bank and post office deposits.
Devang Shah, Mumbai-based certified financial planner, points out the example of a client who favoured the stockmarket, while his wife was into art.
Says Ujjal: "I go for the stock market when I want to invest, while my wife likes to play safe with LIC policies and fixed deposits. Of late, however, she has taken an interest in stocks and asked me to invest some of her money in them."
"It's not like it's your money or my money. It's our money and we are working towards making it grow. Ideally, there should be openness between partners. When one partner comes up with a smart idea, the other should be open to consider it. There shouldn't be any ego hassle," says Bhatia. "If you are able to complement each other financially and can help your partner in turning his or her dream into reality, then it's simply great!" he adds.
If conflicts do arise, the smart thing to do is to keep separate investment kitties. Shah says men and women may have unique investing styles. "Women have a holistic approach to financial planning, while men are keen on making fast gains," he says.

5. Talk while you spend
While partners look at many factors to figure out whether they are compatible or not -- physically, temperamentally, mentally -- financial compatibility is the last thing on their minds. Aparna, for example, feels that Ujjal sometimes spends too much. She balances it by saving a bulk of her earnings in low-risk options.
Says Shah: "Both partners should understand the financial decisions taken by them as a couple, since their implications are felt by both." He encourages his clients to visit him along with their spouses. An open talk with the financial advisor, he says, will "spur healthy discussions at home."

6. Stick to a budget
There are many advantages of having a monthly budget. The most important is that you can keep expenses in check and find out when you are straying from your financial roadmap. It also helps you stick to your savings target, since your spending has already been predetermined.
Network engineer Yezdi Rabadi and his fashion designer wife Amrita meticulously maintain an account of their monthly expenses and stick to a budget. "We fix a ceiling for our expenses. Though we exceed the figure more often than not, it allows us some kind of control over our money," says Rabadi.

7. Plan your estate
Estate planning is important for couples, says Shah. Make sure you have a will. Most people avoid making a will or procrastinate over it, causing problems for their successors.
In addition, name your spouse as a nominee for every investment you make individually. "Put your will in place and decide on a power of attorney for your spouse in case of untimely death. Most importantly, plan all this when you are in the best state of mind".

Top 5 career mistakes

1. Going by scores
This is the most common and biggest mistake one can make.
"Many factors determine one's choice of career -- aptitude, personality, interests and skills -- apart from scoring high marks in one subject or the other.
"You may score good marks in a particular subject like Math. But can you visualise yourself crunching numbers for the next 20 to 30 years?" asks Parveen Shaikh, head psychologist with YoungBuzz, a career counselling and manpower development organisation that runs a state-of-the-art career development centre in Mumbai.
This, coupled with a laidback 'let the results come' attitude, can lead to wrong career moves, says Shaikh. "You cannot let your one-time marks decide your whole future."

2. Succumbing to parental/ peer pressure
Your best friend has decided to study engineering and you blindly follow suit without taking into account your interest or aptitude for such a technical stream.
Or your parents are doctors so you want to become one as well.
But that is no reason to choose your career.
"These days, I think it is more often the herd instinct or peer pressure that influences one's choice of career rather than parental interference," observes Manju Malkhani, head of HR, HDFC.
She adds, "Most parents are liberal and educated enough to let their children choose their own area of interests.
"If you want an MBA in Finance or Personnel, what are you doing at an engineering college [assuming your friends are doing engineering]?"
Also, a wrong career move based on peer pressure may lead to disastrous results. "You are often stuck in a groove and stagnate for want of better options or motivation to change for the better,"

3. Lack of focus or back-up plans
You must have clarity of vision or a fixed goal when it comes to pursuing career plans, feels G Vedamani, CEO, Retailers' Association of India.
Vedamani has worked as a management expert in retail operations in corporate houses like Bata India, Shoppers' Stop and Crossroads among others, and has also taught at Welingkar's, Mumbai, and the Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad.
He bemoans the lack of well-planned career objectives and a back-up plan among today's youth.
"Simply put, one can singlemindedly aspire to pursue medicine if one so wishes. But if you don't get an admission into a course of your choice, you should have alternate plans and not drift aimlessly into something or the other.
"Planning -- be it for the future or a viable back-up plan -- is the key factor in planning your career in today's job market," he says

4. Resistance to change/ non-flexibility
This is a given: Change is a constant factor in your career; you must be prepared for it.
Subhrojit Mullik is a consultant for business development at BEA Systems. An IIM-Calcutta alumni, he has moved from consumer marketing to the financial sector to the IT sector to consultancy over the last 17 years.
He believes change is a key factor for progress and adds, "Several factors determine one's decision to change -- the need for a bigger creative/ challenging field, monetary incentives or the sheer necessity to survive."
When you plan to take the plunge, you must have the answers to the following questions:
1. Will this lead to a greater professional/ personal growth?
2. Am I good at learning new skills and delivering fast?
If you can sniff out the right opportunities and incentives within the prevailing conditions, you need not look beyond your immediate sector of specialisation.
Change need not be only lateral or only vertical. It can combine both, and more!

5. You need not work before you specialise
Gaining some work experience before enrolling in a specialised course might not be extremely popular in India, what with the current scramble to enroll in management, computer and other institutes catering to specialised streams.
But this is very much a global phenomenon.
"If you want to study management -- any aspect of it -- why not work in a company for a few years, gain practical knowledge and then learn to apply them in a better way?" asks Hima Bindu, manager-admissions at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
"Management study focuses greatly on practical case studies. Mere theorising does not really help you get there."
Similarly, if you want to join a designing or a hotel management course, it would help if you have worked as an apprentice or an assistant at a good hotel/ restaturant/ fashion store before deciding to pursue a full-time career course in the same.

Video resumes: Make an impression!

Video what?
Why would anyone ever want to send a video to a prospective employer? In the past, there may have been reasons why people did not send video resumes, but in an age where qualifications come by the dozen, the only way to grab attention is to employ a unique method of showcasing your skills.
Video resumes have been around for a while, but are only now gaining popularity. With the acceptance of the online medium, there are those radical professionals who have uploaded their resumes on various sites, many which are open to all, YouTube being one of them.

Why go video?
It's time to break tradition and change perceptions. I'm not saying that the immaculate white piece of paper, which summarises your life's achievements, should be thrown away. But wouldn't it make twice the impact if your resume were accompanied with a more personal showcase?
Video employs audio as well as the visual medium; which stimulates a greater interest in the viewer. And just by making the video, you have already conveyed your determination and effort level to an employer. This does not guarantee you a job, but it does say you will go that extra mile.
This is also a welcome change for HR departments. After reading repetitive text, sometimes when the summary of qualifications is presented in another manner it breaks the monotony. It gives the employer a chance to see, hear and have a greater experience of what to expect from you -- all before even meeting you. Monster.com (an online job site) has recognised the impact a video resume can have and provides its users with this convenience. So now, along with uploading your normal resume, you can upload your video resume.

Making your own video resume
Action speaks! And this is no rocket science. All you need is a good script (to make sure your video resume doesn't put them to sleep) and a smart editor (in case you want to make it a little film or an ad of yourself).
There are many ways of doing this. You can shoot it yourself, have friends help you or go to professionals if you see fit, but ideally it is best to try it yourself. More than anything, this will boost your confidence and prepare you for future interviews. Moreover, you can watch your body language and tweak it to convey and inspire confidence.
~ Step one: Draft a script, decide what you want to say and how you want to say it.~ Step two: Get your camera ready. Arrange for a handycam if you don't have one.~ Step three: Start shooting. You can take as many shots as you wish, if you plan to edit the video.~ Step four: Edit out the flaws and make your video perfect (or as close to it as you can get).~ Step five: Send it out or post it on the internet.
While shooting, look at the camera and do not let your vision drift. If needed, practice before the shoot. It is imperative that you get it right. The wrong words and dodgy body language will have a detrimental effect.
After all this effort, you will have learned a lot more about yourself -- you can view yourself as you would be viewed by your employers. So, modify your approach to what you think would be appreciated by a would-be employer.
Remember, keep your video resume as short as possible, preferably under two minutes. And if you can say everything in 30 seconds, that makes it even better. This is based on the fact that it takes about 30 seconds to peruse through a resume, and a video resume may not be too well received if it takes up extra time.

See more on video
Like all coins, this too has its flip side. With video resumes, one of the drawbacks is that it leaves room for bias, or can create the existence of one. But this is an insignificant issue. Bias, whether you use a video resume or a more conventional one, can creep in at any point.
There are those who have impressed employers and bagged their dream jobs. There are also those who have faltered, but don't let that hold you back. Video resumes are the future, just as e-mail succeeded the postal service and mobiles have revolutionised the communications world.
We have to constantly move forward, and in a world where the competition is constantly improvising, video resumes seem to be the logical evolution of the simple paper resume. The theme to your video could highlight the creativity inherent in every one of us. So, get those cameras rolling because there is a world of opportunity waiting for the picture-perfect employee

How to remotely connect through Program

How to remotely connect through Program

string sCommand = System.Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("SystemRoot") + "\\system32\\mstsc.exe";
System.Diagnostics.Process.Start(sCommand, " /v:machinename /w:1024 /h:768");
System.Diagnostics.Process.Start( sCommand, " /v:machinename /w:1024 /h:768");