Tips for Reducing Credit Card Debt

Have you found yourself swimming in credit card debt? Do you lie awake at night wondering how you’re going to make the payments? Whatever the circumstances or choices were that landed you in this predicament, know that there is a smart way out. It won’t be fast and it won’t be easy. But the ensuring the process of getting out of debt should certainly serve to stave off any temptations of succumbing to the seductions of credit cards as income in the future. Follow these recommendations from the financial planning professionals and you’ll soon find yourself debt free.
Avoid the temptation to have your debt written off or written down by unscrupulous companies that suggest the credit card companies will forgive your errs. This could not be further from the truth. You will have scars on your credit report and your credit rating will suffer for years. Take advantage of the awesome deals offered by Groupon coupons and select a book on financial planning from the huge selection available from Amazon and brush up on the basics of financial planning for future reference.

The first step is to make a commitment to not make any credit card purchases that can’t be paid off immediately during the debt reduction phase. The second step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances, minimum payments due and due dates. There are several schools of thought on how to proceed from here. For the purposes of this article, list your debts in ascending order from smallest to largest. Prioritize pay down of the smallest balances first. You need motivation and a sense of accomplishment and this is the simplest way to achieve that.
Know how much discretionary spending you have available after your fixed costs have been met each month. This is the basis for a simple budget. Forgo the luxuries, whether they are $2 or $10 per day. Earmark these funds for pay down of your debts in the order outlined above. Forgo discretionary shopping, dining, entertaining and gift giving until your debts are paid in full. Best of luck to you!

US Treasury Sells More of its GM Shares

The U.S. Department of Treasury has sold more of its General Motors shares as it began the third phase of its plan to de-invest in GM. The Fed’s ultimate goal is to be completely out of the American carmaker by April of next year.

Presently owning 7.3 percent of GM, the Feds have already sold around 400 shares to drastically drop its share of GM from the 33 percent it owned in November 2010. The past purchasing of shares was part of the $49.5 billion bailout loan that GM received from the Feds after it went bankrupt in 2009. Since then, GM has been primarily owned by the U.S. government, the Canada government, and the United Autos Workers retiree health care trust fund.

Is GM Back? Investors Say, ‘Yes.’

Although General Motors has yet to fully repay the taxpayers the money it was loaned during the recession, Moody’s Investor Service has rated the American carmaker’s debt investment-grade, the highest rating it has had in more than eight years.

The new rating raised GM’s corporate rating to Baa3 from Ba1, a move that will help GM lower the interest it pays on its debt. Industry observers believe the rating was changed due to GM’s increasing presence in China and its increasing sales in its home nation.

The big heads at GM are of course thrilled with the news. “Good things happen when you build great cars and trucks and deliver strong financial results. Today’s news from Moody’s further underscores that this is exactly what we are doing today,” said GM CEO Dan Akerson.

GM Investing $300 Million in Auto Testing, Development Centers in Germany

General Motors Co. has announced that it is set to invest around $300 million in the Rhineland. Specifically, over the next four years, America’s largest automaker will give funds to the Opel proving ground in Dudenhofen, Germany and the new testing facilities at the European Development Center at Opel headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany.     

In total, GM is planning on investing close to $5 billion to support its European operations over the next four years. “As a global automotive company GM needs a strong presence in Europe – in terms of design and development as well as manufacturing and sales. Opel is a key to our success and enjoys its parent company’s full support,” said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

Talking about the importance of this investment in the future, Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Opel CEO and President GM Europe, said, “This significant investment will last for decades and it will secure the future of the European Product Development Center. The development done at Rüsselsheim will be on engines and transmissions for Europe and the rest of the world. This move will give us global responsibility in engine development.”

Germans are likewise thrilled about the influx of cash and jobs into their nation. Speaking about just that, Florian Rentsch, Hessen Minister of Economics, Transport, Urban and Regional Development, said, “The automotive location of Rüsselsheim is a strong anchor for the industrial core of Hessen. As the Hessen Minister of Economics I am pleased that GM further strengthens the Opel headquarters in Rüsselsheim with this long-term investment.”

Fiat Hungry for More Chrysler, Rustling up $10 Billion in Financing

Italy continues its conquering of America with Fiat putting together $10 billion in financing so that it can purchase the last bit of Chrysler that it does not already own.

Once Fiat owns the 41.5 percent of Chrysler that is currently owned by Veba, the United Auto Workers’ healthcare trust, it will refinance its own debt along with Chrysler’s. Sergio Marchionne, Fiat and Chrysler CEO, said that he believes the buy, that is presently being held up by a legal dispute between Veba and Fiat, will be finalized by the end of the summer. 

Some industry observers are saying that the Fiat’s end game is to merge Fiat and Chrysler into one entity, a new American company.

GM’s German Carmaker Opel to Stop Auto Production in Bochum, Germany Plant

German carmaker Opel has announced that it will close its Bochum, Germany plant before 2015. The Bochum plant, is one of Opel’s, owned by American auto-making juggernaut General Motors, key German factories.

A money sucker since being acquired by GM, Opel has been trying to cut costs for years. Before the decision to close the Bochum plant was made, the carmaker had tried to work out a deal that would have kept the plant open at least until the end of 2016 for more than one-third of its workers in exchange for wage freezes, reduction of fringe benefits, and some other cost-reduction measures. However, in a vote this week, 76 percent of the plant workers voted against the plan. Now, nearly 100 percent of the 3,200 workers will lose their jobs.

Talking about the move, an Opel spokesman said, “We’ve made it clear that we won’t hold any further discussions.”

Exor SpA, Fiat’s Parent, Suffers 21% Consolidated Profit Drop in 2012

Exor SpA has announced that its consolidated profit fell by 21 percent last year. However, the Italian holding company, that just happens to own a controlling stake in the Italian carmaker, Fiat, says that it will make a profit in 2013.
 
Speaking about just this, Exor said in a statement, “At the consolidated level, the year 2013 will show a profit which, however, will largely depend upon the performance of the principal subsidiaries and associates.”
 
The financial well being of Exor is undoubtedly tied to the health of those vehicles it has invested in, which is why 2012 was such a poor year. In 2012, Fiat was struck by a net loss of EUR 1.04 billion, which must have been a real kick in the ol’ pizza pie following the EUR 1/01 billion profit it enjoyed in 2011.

Internal Conflict in UAW Union

It took the firing of Alex Wassell, a skilled tradesman at the Warren Stamping plant north of Detroit, to teach members of the United Auto Workers union a valuable lesson that many in the nation had learned long ago – unions often care only about unions.

Wassell was fired due to conflict of interest issues after he told the Detroit News that the nearby Warren truck plant was experiencing quality issues due to the implementation of alternate work schedules and a two-tier wage scale. The UAW has refused to represent Wassell with his grievance.    

It looks like they are trying to send a message to the other workers. “It is a fundamental right to be able to express a grievance,” a veteran Warren Truck worker said, “It is your right to picket, lobby and boycott. This business about a ‘conflict of interest’ sounds ridiculous.”

The worker continued:

“The union is only for itself. They just want union dues. It seems like they are more for the company than for the workers. The auto companies have been making money off our backs for decades. Now they are making even more with the AWS and two-tier wage. Workers don’t make enough to buy the product they build.”

Japan’s Auto Unions Strike It Rich with Big Bonuses

The Japanese auto unions that provide workers to the country’s big names such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda have won their largest annual compensation earnings in many years. Some see this as being a hint that the lost generation may be finally pulling its economy out of its three-decade-length period of stagnation.

Toyota says that its workers will be given a yearly bonus equal to nearly half-a-year’s pay. This is a 15 percent jump over the previous year’s annual compensation gain and the largest in five years.

The auto unions in the island nation are bubbly and plump. They say that a full dozen of the main auto unions in Japan had been granted all of their bonus demands in negotiations. These bonuses are seen by many as a way to pump life into the nation’s economy and there is a certain pressure for companies to grant large bonuses. Talking about just that, Christopher Richter, a Tokyo-based auto analyst at CLSA Pacific Markets, said, “It creates a certain amount of pressure. I think there’s a certain desire—at least among the large publicly traded companies—that you’re seen doing your bit to try to get Japan back on track economically.”
 
Despite the enthusiasm of many, there are a few industry observers urging caution such as Masamichi Adachi, an economist at JP Morgan Securities Japan Co., “At the moment everyone is very happy cyclically because last year was awful, but can you escape from the last 15 years of a deflation-prone economy to a mild inflation economy? I’m not so sure yet,”

‘Big Smartphone on Wheels’ Coming from GM, AT&T

General Motors has announced that starting towards the end of next year, most of the vehicles it sells will be equipped with AT&T 4G cellular service.

The move towards turning cars and trucks into hotspots is an important one. Talking about just this, Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, said, “Cars are big smartphones on wheels.” The 4G service that General Motors’ vehicles are going to offer will be able to used by anything in the car that has a WiFi connection to include the Dig Daddy of them all, streaming video.

Other carmakers have done similar things. Tesla, Audi, and BMW have models featuring cellular data connections for their embedded dashboard apps. However, nothing in production right now can compare with the 4G LTE connection that GM is planning on putting into many of its GMC, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick models.  
 
How about you, the curious reader? Would you like a cellular data plan for your ride? Personally, if it was going to cost me 30 bucks on top of my smartphone plan, home internet connection, and television service, I’d have to take a pass… Probably.