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April 19, 2017

Should You Use a Credit Repair Company?

Many of us will get into credit card debt at some point in our lives. Some will amass huge debts where the interest payments each month can be higher than what they make in salary. They no longer can tread water when this happens. When people get desperate they may be tempted to turn to credit repair companies.

Debt Ball and Chain

If you get phone calls or emails from credit repair companies, keep in mind they are not authorized to remove any adverse rating or item from your credit report. If you find a company who claims they can wipe out your bad credit, you should view this as a potential scam.​

Another potential time bomb to be aware of is credit forgiveness. Credit repair companies will work with your creditors to get a part of your debt forgiven. They will do this for a percentage of the forgiven amount. That’s great, except you can usually do this yourself by calling the creditors. Credit card companies are charging hefty rates. It won’t take much for them to knock off a few thousand dollars from the amount you owe them. It’s in their best interest because it’s better than you defaulting on the full amount owed.

Everything is negotiable and you can negotiate on your behalf rather than having a debt repair company do it for you. If you do get a deal, there are two situations to be aware of:

· Your Credit Rating May Still Take a Hit

· You May Be Liable for Taxes on the Forgiven Amount

If a credit repair company charges you before they provide any services, you should stay far away from that company. The Credit Repair Organization Act makes this practice illegal. These companies also have to be upfront about what they can do for you.

Your debt situation may lead you to declare bankruptcy. This isn’t an easy decision, but it could help you gain some breathing room for your debt management. You will need to hire a lawyer for this process and the court handling your case will likely require you to seek out a legitimate credit counselor to define a plan during your bankruptcy.

Keep in mind that bankruptcy does not remove the credit obligations. It just temporarily stops creditors from taking action to collect their debts. This period is usually for three years and you will have to repay them at least some of what you owe. The bankruptcy stays on your record for 10 years, so make sure you keep that in mind when deciding on the best plan of action.

Try to seek out alternative solutions that protect your credit rating. For instance, if you have family members that you can hit up for the money, this is a better solution then the topics discussed earlier. If your family does not have the money or is unwilling to provide it, take out a loan or a home equity. You will get a better rate than what you owe on credit cards and your payments will be fixed for the duration of that loan.

Before considering any debt management program, take some tips from the FTC. You can find more about this issue at their website.

April 17, 2017

Yahoo Finance Is Free – Or Is It?

Yahoo Finance is Free – Or Is It?

If you want to value your portfolio without logging in to your brokerage account, you could set up a spreadsheet and download prices from Yahoo Finance. They don’t charge any money for this service. It is completely free. They do have a daily limit to how much data you can download per day. But, the average person will never reach that, especially when you are using the data to value your portfolio. After all, if you have thousands of stocks in a personal portfolio, you are likely doing something wrong. Most people have much fewer stocks than that in their portfolios.

Stock Market Chart Data

What happens if you decide to publish your portfolio? Perhaps you’d like to brag to your friends about what a great financial guru you have become. Or, you have people suddenly willing to pay you for your investment advice because your portfolio is kicking butt. Here, is where you may find yourself in hot water.

Yahoo Finance specifically states that you are not permitted to publish the data you receive from their website in any form, whether it is for commercial use or not. This even includes a simple stock quote. You may think that Yahoo does not check this, or they simply turn a blind eye to anyone doing this. However, even if that were true, it may not remain that way forever.

Yahoo could start cracking down, if they haven’t already. Copyright infringement comes with hefty fines. It’s not likely that courts would rule in your favor if you are served with an injunction. Even if they did, you would still have to go through the trouble of going to court in the first place, and that usually means hiring a lawyer.

You also need to understand that Yahoo doesn’t own the financial data they provide on their website. They subscribe to services that allow them to republish financial data, for a fee of course. They aren’t permitted to allow others to republish because it’s not within their rights to grant this.

What Can You Do?

Perhaps you still need ways to publish financial data. Technically, you could publish returns on your portfolio without giving specifics on how many shares are involved. No one can derive a stock price simply from the returns of your portfolio. If you include the number of shares, they could reverse engineer those returns to come up with the price you used to value the shares. Therefore, avoid any information that may allow people to derive the price.

If multiple data providers publish the same data, e.g., closing stock prices, etc., you may believe they won’t know how you obtained your quotes. To some extent, you are correct. It’s not worth it for Yahoo to target a blog that publishes one or two quotes on occasion. However, if you download frequent updates, they will track your activity via your IP address. If you publish stock prices, this information could imply a quasi-contract, which would be the basis for using it against you.

I am not a lawyer, so you should not misconstrue this information as advice or suggestions on what to do. Anytime you plan on publishing data in any capacity that doesn’t belong to you, seek the advice of professionals. This may cost you some money upfront. It is likely to be much less than what you would pay if you were hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Another possibility is to link to a website from your blog. In other words, if you are writing on your blog about a particular stock that has increased in value, and you want to include a chart to show the impact of the increase, you could include an image from a stock charting service and give credit to the service.

Even here, you should concern yourself with a concept known as fair use. Copyright law allows for small segments of works from others to be included in what you publish. They don’t give any exact guidelines of what fair use entails. There isn’t a specific word count, nor is there a predetermined limit on the number of images you can include. The courts would probably use a ratio of words that are original against the amount of copied text. Again, there is no hard-set number they will quote. It gets even trickier for images as you have the dimensions of the image to consider as well as the number of images that you include.

If you must republish financial data, you should obtain a subscription to a data provider. These don’t come cheap. EODData.com, for instance, costs $750 per month for a commercial license. Hopefully, if you have recurring payments from subscribers, it will cover the costs of your subscription. You will need to ensure that you add value when publishing this data. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to retain these paying subscribers.

One piece of advice I do feel comfortable giving is to make sure the data provider you choose, truly has rights to allow republishing. It’s easy for anyone to set up a website and charge for access to data they have no right providing. Your best bet is to choose direct providers, i.e., ones who capture data directly from the market. This is provided by the exchanges themselves.

After reading this article, if you still feel that you can use financial data from Yahoo or any other data provider, please don’t say I didn’t warn you if you get sued.

May 5, 2015

Welcome to Financial Markets Education

I extend to you a warm welcome to my website. Financial Markets Education is dedicated to helping people learn how to invest better. My commitment to you is to obtain or create only the best resources that truly can help you get more from your financial education.