Month: March 2018

Personal Finance Best Practices

Financial best practices will help you set the foundation to manage your finances and assets.

Throughout the month of March, Asset Management Awareness Month urges businesses and organizations to learn how improved asset and property management practices can contribute to the overall mission and revenue goals of their organization. I thought to myself, what if people treated their personal finances just like a business, and learn to improve their financial management practices.

Much like getting in shape by losing weight or working out more, living a healthy financial life is easier said than done. When it comes to understanding and feeling confident about finances, many can feel overwhelmed. That’s understandable because when you think about all of the things that have a dollar sign that affect you – like saving, investing, insurance, estate planning – there’s a lot to consider.

My first piece of advice is to take a day and “hire yourself”. Sometime in the next few months, set aside a day to learn more about your personal financial situation. Let’s face it; most people would rather do almost anything on a personal day than think about their finances. But the things you will learn in just that one day will have a tremendous positive impact on the rest of your life. That’s not a bad tradeoff.

Personal Finance Best Practices

Financial literacy is not taught in American schools. It is up to each of us to educate ourselves, or we leave ourselves open to making bad financial decisions or being scammed. Here are seven basic financial tips to help you better manage your finances. Put these “best practices” in place to keep from falling into financial trouble.

  • Make a Budget — Developing a personal budget is a crucial first step to building and maintaining your financial health. An accurate budget helps you:
  • Figure out what you can afford
  • Understand where your money is going
  • Set appropriate spending targets
  • Make a realistic plan for a solid financial future
  • Cut Spending — The modern world is full of pressure to spend money. As our consumer culture expands, it takes more discipline to separate what you need from what you want. Don’t let a desire for the newest phone or fancy car lead you into spending more than you can afford. Trim expenses where you can. Even a small change in habits can save a lot of money.
  • Pay Down Debt Effectively — If you are already accumulating credit card debt, take the steps to correct that problem before it spins out of control. Don’t develop the habit of paying only minimum monthly payments. Find a way to pay more, if at all possible. Use any funds you free up by trimming expenses and apply them to your debt. You can choose to put the extra money towards your smallest debt or towards the one with the highest interest rate. Either way, stick with the strategy you choose and keep your total monthly debt payments the same, even as you pay off creditors. This way, you pay off the debt quickly and save a large amount of money in reduced interest costs. It may be worth researching a little about the two types of equity release that you may want to consider when you’re getting older. I recommend doing your research now so you can plan ahead and live stress-free!
  • Use Debt Relief Programs Cautiously — If your credit card debts are already out of control, you may consider working with a Consumer Credit Counseling Service or a Debt Settlement firm. Credit counseling offers budget advice and a debt management plan that can lower your interest rates, so you get out of debt faster. Debt settlement works by negotiating reduced balance settlements, so you pay back less than you owe. To do debt settlement, you have to choose to stop paying your creditors, so your credit is harmed. Before signing up for any debt relief program, check into the effect the debt relief program has on your status with your job. Some jobs frown upon using debt relief programs, and me personally, I don’t recommend them either.
  • Monitor Your Credit — If you don’t have strong credit, you can’t qualify for the best interest rates available. Check your credit report for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com, where you can get one free report from each bureau once a year. Stagger your requests every four months, pulling one bureau at a time, and you can check your report for free three times a year. Dispute any incorrect information.
  • Build Your Credit Score — Even if you’re not planning any large purchases in the near future, you should work to build a strong credit score. This way, when the time comes to buy a car or home, you can get the best financing available. It takes using credit responsibly in order to build a good score. You should have three active accounts in good standing. Don’t run up debt on your cards, but use them and pay them off each month. If you don’t have any credit history because you have never had any credit accounts, you’ll have to start from scratch. Applying for a secured credit card is a good way to build credit when you have no credit history. Just make sure the secured credit issuer reports to the three main credit bureaus.
  • Watch Out for Scams — Don’t fall for any of the variety of scams that target consumers. Many scam-artists use the internet to lure their victims. Common scams include online offers to sell cars at an extreme discount or offering loans that don’t require a credit check. If you are looking to rent a home or apartment, make sure that you know whom you’re dealing with. Scams exist where someone who is not the lawful landlord offers a home for rent. One red flag is if you’re asked to wire-transfer a security deposit.

If you can follow the basic advice in this article, you’ll find ways to save money and establish the foundation for a solid credit future. Before you take any action, be sure to carefully evaluate your financial decisions so you don’t rush into a bad one.

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How To Save On Easter Dinner

Easter is about a week and a half away. If you haven't thought about Easter dinner, here are a few tips to help you save.

Easter is a little over a week away. If you haven’t started planning your meal then here are some way’s I plan to save on this year’s Easter feast. Now, if you know me personally, then you know I like to pull pranks and have fun. I told my husband since Easter falls on April 1, April Fool’s Day, we could invite the family over, boil an onion to make the house smell like a meal is cooking. After about an hour I would say April Fool’s sorry, no dinner. I thought that was hilarious, but my husband won’t let me do it. He is a killjoy sometimes. Anyway here goes my saving tips.

  1. Potluck. This year we are doing a potluck. Since dinner is at my house, I will provide the meat’s and the rest of the family can show their best culinary skills and bring their best dish.
  2. Keep it simple. On Easters past, when we had to feed the entire family the entire dinner, we kept it super simple. One year, we did baked chicken, green beans, creamed potatoes, rolls, tea and store-bought dessert. This year it is still pretty simple. My house is doing roasts, with carrots and potatoes. The rest is up to the rest of the family. I can pop those roasts in the crock pot overnight and boom. No muss no fuss.
  3. Scrap the paper. Now I love disposable plates, but it is a thump of us so I would need lots of paper plates. For the adults, we will use real dishes. For the person who has the most children, they will bring paper plates for all the children to eat off of. I am so glad my children are adults because I used to be that person with the most children.
  4. Plan. Hey, if you haven’t even begun to plan, you better hurry. Find out what’s on sale and grab your coupons and head to the store. Having a plan in place saves you tons of money,

Ok, these are my tips, Happy Easter yall, April Fool lol. Just kidding, I really want yall to have a Happy Easter!

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Spring Clean Your Credit

Spring has sprung in some parts of the world. Here are a few tips you can use to spring clean your credit.

This is National Credit Education Month and we all know that spring has sprung. This is a great time to spring clean your credit. Here are a few things you can do right now to make sure that your credit report and rating are in tip-top shape.

Credit Reports And Scores

A credit report contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills and even whether you have been sued or filed bankruptcy. Credit reporting agencies (CRA’s) gather this information and send it to creditors, employers, insurers, and others upon request. The most common CRA”s are the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Credit Scores

A credit score is a number that lenders and other companies use to evaluate your credit-worthiness. Scores generally range between 300 and 850. The higher your score, the less risk you pose to creditors.

Credit scores are based on the information in your credit report. There is not just one universal credit score. There are different versions, created by different companies. Each credit score provider uses their own formula to create a score for you and places different amounts of emphasis on several factors, such as:

  • Payment history. Do you pay your debt on time?
  • Available credit. What is the total amount of credit available across all of your accounts?
  • Credit utilization. How much of your available credit are you using?
  • Inquiries and new accounts. Have you recently applied for credit or purchased items that required a company to review your credit reports?
  • Type of accounts. What is the mix between your mortgage, car loans, credit cards, and other credit accounts?
  • Length of your credit history. What is the age of your oldest and newest accounts, along with the average across all accounts?

Although you can obtain your credit reports for free from http://www.annualcreditreport.com you typically have to pay to obtain your credit score. This leads me to the first step in spring cleaning your credit.

  1. Order your credit reports
  2. Check for any inaccuracies and correct them.
  3. Make sure all accounts are up to date with correct balances.
  4. Reduce your debt to income ratio.
  5. Have a good mix of debt.

Build A Better Credit History

Let me start by saying, you do not rebuild your credit score; you rebuild your credit history. Time is your ally in improving your credit score. There is no “quick fix” for a bad credit score, so be suspicious of any deals that offer you a fast easy solution. Furthermore, you can repair your credit yourself for free. These tips will get you started.

  • Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections negatively affect your score.
  • Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit.” High outstanding debt lowers your score.
  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don’t open an account just to have a better credit mix, it may not raise your score.
  • Pay off debt instead of moving it around.

Alright, now that spring has sprung, let’s spring those credit scores up if need be. Happy Spring!

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Save On Prom

Prom is exciting and expensive. Learn these tips to save on this expensive auspicious occasion.
Me getting my baby girl, Traycye, ready for her junior prom

 

Let me just start by saying I am so glad that my son’s and daughters are too old for prom! When they were in school, this mama had to find creative way’s to save on this auspicious occasion. My children are stairsteps and one set went to prom together, but the rest were one behind the other. Having more girls than boys, it was more expensive to send the girls to prom. Here are a few things I did to save.

1. The Dress

When my daughters were in the 11th grade, I shopped My SIsters Closet for their dresses. This was very economical because they were FREE! Look for places that have gently used prom dresses. Now for their Senior year, I did go out and buy their dresses. My niece will wear one of my daughters dresses to her junior prom.Who do you know that you may be able to borrow a dress from?

2. The Hair

Get your hair done at a local beauty school. The work is overseen by professional instructors and the price is considerably cheaper than at a salon.

3. The Makeup

My youngest son, Treon, on his way to his junior prom.

This one is a little tricky because you want your face to be slamming. You can either practice the look and apply it yourself, or you can look for makeup artists that offer a discount for prom. Luckily, I can do makeup so that was a freebie for me. I did my daughter’s makeup for their proms and they were gorgeous.

4. The Shoes

Buy shoes that you can definitely wear again.Go with a clear comfortable shoe that you can get more than one nights use.

5. The Jewelry

Just like shoes, buy jewelry that you can wear again. Who do you know that has a beautiful matching necklace and earring set that you can borrow?

A few more things you can do are, rent your dress if you only plan to wear it once. Check bridal shops in the offseason, they usually have beautiful dresses at low cost. For the fellas, check and see if an older gentleman in the family has a tuxedo he doesn’t wear anymore. Take that tuxedo and have it altered to fit. That is what I did for my oldest son.

I hope these tips help you save for the prom. What other tips can you give to help save on prom?

 

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Community Spotlight Girl Scouts Of The USA

Girl Scout cookie sales are more than just selling cookies. In this community spotlight, find out what cookie sales really means.
Pictured left to right: Jayla, A’Lona, T’Aliyah, and troop leader, Donisha Collier. Part of Troop 25102, Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama

Buy Thin Mints, buy Thin Mints, buy a box today. Enjoy them only once a year before they go away HEY! (Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells) It’s that time of year again, Girl Scout Cookies can be found on just about every street corner in America. I don’t know about you, but I love Girl Scout Cookies. Lucky for me, I have two personal Girl Scouts, two of my beautiful granddaughters (T’Aliyah and A’Lona) keep nanny stocked with those delicious cookies.

Yesterday was the beginning of National Girl Scout Week and today is National Girl Scout Day. In this month’s community spotlight, I am spotlighting Girl Scouts and my favorite troop, Troop 25102. National Girl Scout Day commemorates the birthday of the Girl Scouts of America.

As part of Girl Scout Week, National Girl Scout Day is observed annually on March 12th.

A’Lona, Daisy Classification

Girl Scouting in the United States of America began on this day, March 12, 1912, when Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting.  At this first troop meeting in Savannah, Georgia, there were 18 girls present.  For these girls, Juliette Gordon Low organized enrichment programs, service projects, and outdoor activities and adventures.  Since the time of the first meeting, Girl Scouts has grown to over 3.7 million members.

  • The organization’s original name was the Girl Guides of America
  • By 1920 there were close to 70,000 members
  • By 1930 there were over 200,000 members
  • In 2005 there were over 3.7 million members

Motto
“Be Prepared”

Slogan
“Do a Good Turn Daily”

“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

In honor of National Girl Scout Day, let’s celebrate all that the Girl Scouts have done to empower girls and what the organization has done for communities across the country.

I know you are wondering what Girl Scouts have to do with financial literacy. That’s where the cookie sales come in. Girl Scout Cookie sales is the number one financial literacy program for girls. Cookie sales help the girls with goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, entrepreneurship skills, and business ethics. Girl Scout cookie sales, teach the girls how to network with family, friends, and individuals that stop by our cookie booths.

While we may just view the cookies as a yummy treat that comes around once a year, please know that your support is helping to teach our girls valuable skills they will need in life. So next time you see a cookie booth, stop by and support the girls.

To Troop 25102 and all troops across the USA, we here at Traciebthreadford.com salute you and all you do to in teaching financial literacy! Special thank you to troop leader, Donisha Collier, for allowing me to spotlight our beautiful girls.

T’Aliyah & Jayla, Junior Classification

As you can see, Girl Scout Cookies are more than just a tasty treat, they are a learning tool for Girl Scouts.

Don’t forget, if you know of an organization or individual that is working to teach financial literacy or close the wealth gap in the African American community, you can nominate them for the community spotlight. Email me at Tracie@traciebthreadford.com for details.

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Telemarketers And Junk Mail

Don't let telemarketers bog you down with unwanted phone calls. Tired of your mailbox and inbox being filled with offers that you didn't solicit? Find out how you can stop this madness.

We all get those robocalls and pesky junk mail. We occasionally receive that pushy telemarketer on our phone who won’t take no for an answer. I honestly feel sorry for them, because no one wants to talk to them while all the while they are just trying to make a living. What can we do about that growing pile of junk mail or those unwelcomed telemarketers? Hopefully, I can answer some of those questions today in my final post for National Consumer Protection Week.

The first thing you can do is tell companies you do business with to remove your name form customer lists they rent or sell to others. Look for information on how to opt-out of marketing lists on sales materials, order forms, and websites. You can use the services provided by the Direct Marketing Association to remove your name from most national telemarketing, mail, and email lists. Call the credit reporting agencies notification system. This will reduce the number of unsolicited credit and insurance offers you receive. All three major credit bureaus participate in this program. Lastly, under U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rules, it is illegal to send mail that looks like it is from a government agency when it is not. It is also illegal to send mail that looks like a bill when nothing was ordered unless it clearly states this is not a bill.

National Do Not Call Registry

The federal government’s Do Not Call Registry allows you to restrict telemarketing calls permanently by registering your phone number at http://www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you receive telemarketing calls after your number has been in the national registry for 31 days, you can file a complaint using the same web page and toll-free number. Contact your state’s consumer protection office to find out if your state has it’s own Do Not Call (DNC) list and how you can add your number to it.

Placing your number on this registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all of them. Calls that are still permitted include those from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, and some organizations with which you have a relationship. Cell phone numbers can also be added to the Do Not Call Registry, but it is not necessary since telemarketers are already forbidden to call them.

Pre-Recorded Messages

Pre-recorded sales calls or robocalls are illegal. Companies cannot transmit these messages or send text messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing, to accept such messages due to the text message marketing laws. A company cannot contact you based on a prior business relationship. Pre-recorded calls may only be made to residential telephone numbers in the following cases:

  • Emergency calls needed to ensure your health and safety.
  • Calls that don’t include any unsolicited advertisements.
  • Calls by, or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
  • Calls for which you have given prior consent.

If you receive pre-recorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to receive them, file a complaint with the FCC the website and phone number listed above.

Telemarketing Sales Calls

The FTC Telemarketing Sales rule defines what telemarketers can and cannot do when making a sales call. Callers must do these five things below:

  1. Provide the seller’s name
  2. Disclose that the call is a sales call.
  3. Tell you exactly what they are trying to sell.
  4. Disclose the total cost and other terms of the sale before you make any payment for goods or services.
  5. Tell you if they do not allow refunds, exchanges, or cancellations.

If a prize is involved, the caller must give you the odds of winning, inform you that no purchase is necessary, and tell you how to get instructions for entering without buying anything. It is illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent what they are offering, call before 8 am or after 9 pm, or threaten, intimidate, or harass you, or all again if you ask them not to.

This FTC rule applies even when you receive a call from a telemarketer in another state or country. It also applies when you make a call to a company in another state or country in response to a mail solicitation.

The rule generally does not apply when you call to order from a catalog or in response to an ad on television or radio, or in a magazine or newspaper. It also does not apply to solicitations you receive by fax or email. Beware that certain types of businesses, including nonprofit organizations, investment brokers and advisors, banks, and financial institutions are exempt from the rule.

You Can Opt Out

Tired of unwanted email filling up your inbox? You can opt-out of most unsolicited email lists by going to the “unsubscribe” button, usually found at the bottom of the message. Some senders make the button difficult to find, so you may have to do some searching.

In addition, the Direct Marketing Association lets you opt-out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for three years. You can register with this service for a small fee, but your registration only applies to organizations that use the associations Mail Preference Service. To register, go to http://www.dmchoice.org. If you would like to opt-out of credit and insurance offers, you can call 1-888-567-8688 or go online at http://www.optoutprescreen.com, which is managed by the major credit reporting companies.

I hope you have enjoyed this National Consumer Protection Week series as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you. Remember, beware and know your rights.

 

 

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Preparing Your Estate

Don't leave your estate unplanned. If you don't have a will then set some time aside to speak to an attorney and complete your will.

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Preparing an estate is essential and people from all economic levels benefit from an estate plan. Upon death, an estate plan legally protects and distributes property based on your wishes and the needs of your family/survivors with the fewest tax consequences. Here are a few things you should know about planning your estate.

Wills

A will is the most practical first step in estate planning. It makes clear how you want your property to be distributed after your demise. Writing a will can be as simple as typing out how you want your assets to be transferred to loved ones or charitable organizations.

If you do not have a will at the time of your demise, your estate will be handled in probate, and your property could be distributed differently than how you would like. Here are a few things to remember when writing your will,

  1. Age Requirement. In most states, you must be 18 years of age or older to write a will.
  2. Validity. To be valid, a will must be written when you are of sound judgment and adequate mental capacity.
  3. Conciseness. The document must clearly state that it is your will.

You will have to name an executor of your estate. This is someone who will ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes. It is not necessary to notarize or record your will, but doing so safeguard against any claims that are invalid. For the will to be valid, it must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. Please know that a financial will and testament will always supersede a last will and testament when bestowing financial assets.

It may help to seek legal advice when writing a will, particularly when it comes to understanding all of the rules of the estate disposition process in your state. Some states have community property laws that entitle your surviving spouse to keep at least half of your wealth, no matter what percentage you leave him or her in your will.

Choosing an executor

As discussed earlier, an executor is the person who is responsible for settling your estate after your death. Some of the duties of an executor include:

  • Taking inventory of your property and belongings.
  • Appraising and distributing assets.
  • Paying taxes.
  • Settling debts owed by the deceased.

Most important, the executor is legally obligated to act in the interests of the deceased, following the wishes stated in the will. Here again, it can be helpful to consult an attorney to help with the probate process or offer legal guidance. In most states, any person who is over the age of 18 and who has not been convicted of a felony can be named the executor of a will.

Some people choose a lawyer, accountant, or financial consultant based on his or her professional experience. Others choose a spouse, adult child, relative or friend. Since the role of executor can be demanding, it is often a good idea to ask the person if he or she is willing to serve in that capacity.

If you have been named the executor of someone’s will but are not able or do not want to serve, you will need to file a “declination” which is a legal document that declines your designation as an executor. The contingent executor named in the will then assumes responsibility. If no contingent executor is named, then the court will appoint one.

Choosing Beneficiaries

As you write your will, you need to decide who you want to inherit your assets to ensure that your possessions are dispersed as you want. Primary beneficiaries are your first choice to receive your assets. You should also consider choosing secondary or contingent beneficiaries. If your primary beneficiary precedes you in death or does not meet a condition, such as age, for inheritance, your secondary beneficiaries will receive your assets. Designating a secondary beneficiary can also prevent going through probate, which can be time consuming and expensive. Use specific names instead of broad categories like “nieces and nephews” when naming beneficiaries in your will.

You should also add primary and secondary beneficiaries on your individual bank accounts, the deeds to your homes, titles to your cars, contents of your safe deposit boxes, investments, and insurance policies to make it easier to transfer assets. Also, remember that giving someone power of attorney does not automatically make this person a beneficiary of your assets. After your demise, this person will not have the right to the money or even the right to access your account. If you want this person to be a beneficiary you must state this in your will.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that takes place after your demise. It involves proving that your will is valid, identifying all of your property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing your remaining property as the will directs.

Write A Digital Asset Plan

In today’s information age, more and more things you buy and own are intangible items, such as digital books, music, and photos stored online. You may have online accounts with retailers, financial institutions, or digital media subscriptions for streaming TV and movies. In addition, some things are stored on your behalf, like social media profiles, email accounts, blogs, airline frequent flyer miles, and credit card reward points.

What happens to these after your demise? You should consider creating a digital asset plan. This document should state how you would like these assets and online accounts to be handled. You should appoint someone you trust as a digital asset executor. This person will be responsible for closing your online accounts, subscriptions, social media profiles, and handling of all of your electronic assets after you are deceased. Take the steps below to help you draft your digital asset plan.

  • Review the terms and conditions of each company where you have digital assets and profiles to know their policies when a customer dies.
  • State how you would like your profiles to be handled. You may want to cancel your accounts or profiles completely or keep it open for friends and family to use.
  • Include a list of all the companies where you have digital accounts, along with your usernames and passwords with your will.
  • If the account is for a fee-based service, include the credit card or bank account numbers that are used to pay for the service, so that the executor can contact the companies to stop charges.
  • Stipulate in your will that the executor of your digital asset plan should have a copy of your death certificate. He or she may need this as proof for websites and service providers to take actions on your behalf.
  • Check to see if the companies have account management features that let you assign access to friends and family ahead of time.

I hope this helps you make sure that you plan your estate to your liking. No one likes to think or talk about death, but just like taxes, death is certain. Your family will be grieving, make your transition as easy on them as possible. If you don’t have a will now, please prepare one as soon as possible.

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Purchasing The Right Insurance

Insurance is a necessary evil. Be careful and don't get taken for a ride. Buy only what you need from a reputable company.

Insurance protects you from financial loss in the event of a disaster or other hardship. By purchasing insurance policies, you can receive reimbursement for losses due to car accidents, property theft, natural disasters, medical expenses and loss of income due to disability or death.

General sources of insurance information include the American Council of Life Insurers, the Insurance Information Institute, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and your state department of insurance.

When purchasing any type of insurance (home, life, auto, rental or others), you should always find out whether your state department of insurance (DOI) offers any information concerning insurance companies and rates. Check several sources for the best deal. Try getting quotes online, but be aware that many online services may provide prices for just a few companies. An independent insurance agent who works with several insurers in your area may be able to get you a better deal.

Make sure that the insurance company is licensed and covered by the state’s guaranty fund. This fund pays claims in case the company defaults. Your state DOI can provide this information.

Ask your insurance agent about discounts. You may be able to obtain a lower premium if you have safety features in your home, such as a fire extinguisher, dead-bolt locks, smoke detectors, an alarm system, storm shutters or fire-retardant roofing. Similarly, you may be able to find affordable car insurance quotes based on the safety features, the number of miles you drive, your age, your grades (if you are a student), and your driving record.

You might also be able to get discounts if you are a member of a civic or alumni association, or insure your vehicle and home with the same company. Consider increasing your deductible by a few hundred dollars. This can make a big difference in your premiums.

After the purchase

Make sure you receive a written policy. This tells you that the agent forwarded your premium to the insurance company. If you do not receive a policy within 60 days, contact your agent or the insurance company. Prior to taking out a policy you should check if the company has blockchain for insurance to ensure your legal right for Data Protection (Act 1998) is respected. Another caveat to that, make sure you know what your policy covers and that you understand what, if any responsibility you have in terms of paying for things that may not be covered. Working in the insurance industry, I see so many people who don’t understand their policy, and that’s okay. However, had those people taken the time to read and understand their policy, my job would be so much easier. If there is a coverage that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the agent before you pay for it. That will save you and your insurance company a headache in the long run.

Here is a list of different types of policies that you may need.

  • Automobile insurance (You could look at a company like One Sure Insurance)
  • Disability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Homeowners/renters insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Long-term care insurance

A few other types of insurance that you may encounter but are less popular than the ones listed above are:

Catastrophic Health Care Insurance. A health plan that only covers certain types of expensive care, such as hospitalizations.

College Tuition Insurance. Get a refund of college tuition if you must withdraw because of serious injury or illness.

Identity Theft Insurance. This type of insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports.

International Health Care Insurance. A policy that provides health coverage no matter where you are in the world. The policy term is flexible, so you can purchase it only for the time you will be out of the country.

Shared Services Insurance. Find out what insurance you need if you rent your home out or use your car to drive others for a fee.

Umbrella Insurance.  A policy that supplements the insurance you already have for home, auto, and other personal property. Umbrella insurance can help cover costs that exceed the limits of other policies.

Remember, make sure you are informed of your rights as a consumer and that the insurance companies you do business with are reputable.

 

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Choose A Bank That Is Right For You

Choose a bank thats right for you.

Continuing with National Consumer Protection Week, let’s talk about banks. Recently, Wells Fargo has been in the news for creating fake bank accounts. When shopping for a bank you want the one you choose to be on the up and up. After all, your bank accounts are the primary ways to store your money, pay your bills and build savings. When you shop for a bank, consider the actual products and services, the location of branches, and online and mobile banking features.

When it comes to finding a safe place to put your money, there are many options. Savings accounts, checking accounts, certificates of deposit (CD), and money market accounts are popular choices. Each has different rules and benefits that fit different needs. The bank or credit union must provide you with the account terms and conditions. When choosing the one that is right for you, consider the following.

Minimum deposit requirements. Do you have to keep a minimum dollar amount in your account to earn interest or avoid account maintenance fees?

Limits on withdrawals. Can you take money out whenever you want? Are there any penalties for doing so?

Interest. Can you earn interest on your accounts? How frequently is it paid (monthly, quarterly)? Check with banks or credit unions to see and compare their current published rates.

Online bill pay. Can you pay your bills directly from your bank or credit unions website?

Deposit insurance. Make sure the banks is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or that a credit union is insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.

Mobile banking. Can you access your accounts and make deposits from your mobile phone or tablet? Does the bank charge fees for this access?

Convenience. Are there branches ar ATM’s close to where you work and live? Can you bank by phone or Internet?

Money transfer. Does the bank have a system that lets you transfer money to your accounts at other banks or to other people?

Considering a checking account or another type of account with check-writing privileges? Add these items to the list of things to think about.

  • The number of checks. Is there a maximum number of checks you can write per month without incurring a charge?
  • Check fees. Is there a monthly fee for the account or a charge for each check you write?
  • Holds on checks. Is there a waiting period for checks to clear before you can withdraw the money from your account?
  • Debit card fees. Are there fees for using your debit card?
  • Account fees. Does the bank charge fees on your checking or savings account to cover things like maintenance, withdrawals, or minimum balance rules?

I know choosing a bank should not be that hard, but there are a lot of things to consider. It is your money and you want it to grow, not dwindle due to unforeseen fees.

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Buyer Beware Be A Savvy Consumer

Buyer beware is something we have all heard before. Learn how to be a savvy protected shopper.

We as consumers should be wary of many things before we buy. After all, we are spending our hard earned money and we do have rights. Use this checklist BEFORE you make a purchase to avoid problems and make informed choices.

  1. Decide in advance exactly what you want and what you can afford.
  2. Do your research. Ask family, friends, and others you trust for advice based on their experience. Gather information about the seller and the item or service you are purchasing. We’ve all seen those online trading groups or Etsy shops and we get what we pay for. Be vigilant and vet these sellers before you buy,
  3. Review product test results from consumer experts and comments from past customers. That is exactly what I do when I shop on Amazon. I don’t care how many reviews there are, I read them all before I buy that product.
  4. Get price quotes from several sellers.
  5. Make sure the seller has all appropriate licenses. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, and other service providers must register with a state or local licensing agency.
  6. Check a company’s complaint record with your local consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau.
  7. Get a written copy of guarantees and warranties.
  8. Get the sellers refund, return, and cancellation policies.
  9. Ask whom to contact if you have a question or a problem.
  10. Read and understand any contract or legal document you are asked to sign or give agreement to online (by clicking “I Agree”). Make sure there are no blank spaces or incomplete terms. Insist that any extras you are promised be put in writing.

Quick Tips For Avoiding Fraud

There are many varieties of consumer fraud, but the most common ones are variations of fake check scams, credit repair, free trip offers, and sweepstakes. Here are a few tips to help you avoid being a victim.

  • Don’t give out personal information. Be suspicious of anyone you don’t know who asks for your Social Security number, date of birth, credit card number, bank account number, password, or other personal data.
  • Don’t be intimidated. Be suspicious of calls or emails that want you to provide or verify personal information immediately. Answer that you are not interested and hang up or don’t reply to the email.
  • Monitor your accounts. Review bank and credit card statements carefully, and report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution immediately.
  • Use a shredder. Tear or shred credit offers, bank statements, insurance forms, and other papers with personal information.
  • Ignore unsolicited offers. Don’t respond if someone you do not know asks you to send money or money orders to claim a prize, lottery, credit card, loan or other valuable offers.

When Prices Aren’t Final

Retailers, both online and brick and mortar, sometimes use aggressive strategies to change the price of an item. It’s called drip pricing and it’s a pricing strategy where a seller adds fees, some of them mandatory, to the advertised price for the product or service. This practice makes it difficult for you to determine the full cost and compare similar options when all the fees are not disclosed up front. You can protect yourself by asking questions of sales personnel about fees before you buy, or asking for a complete price list.

Another strategy is dynamic pricing, when a retailer adjusts an item’s price multiple times over a few days, or even within hours. The changes may be based on inventory, changes in demand, your browsing history, and even your personal information. Dynamic pricing is common with online retailers and airlines. Make dynamic pricing work to your advantage by using price tracker websites to compare the prices at different retailers. Use price predictor websites to track if the price is expected to go up or down. Clear your internet cookies so online retailers cannot use your browsing history to adjust prices.

Look for Grey Charges

Have you ever seen charges on your credit card statement that you can’t figure out? These very well may be grey charges and there are several common types.

  1. Unintended subscriptions. You thought you made a one time purchase, but it was really a subscription.
  2. Zombie Fees. Membership fees that you previously canceled but the fees will not stop.
  3. Free trial to paid. When a free trial is over the seller converts it to a paid subscription.
  4. Negative option. You bought one product but did not realize you were buying others at the same time.

Take the following steps to protect yourself from grey charges:

  • Read the terms of service before you buy. Disclosures about fees may be hidden or near the end, so read the entire document.
  • Mark your calendar as a reminder to cancel free trials by a set date.
  • Read your credit card statements closely. Pay attention to the names of companies and charges for small amounts.
  • Contact the seller to have the grey charges removed.
  • Dispute charges with your credit card company.

After You Buy

Even careful buyers can run into unforeseen problems after the purchase. Just in case, save all of the papers that come with your purchase. Keep all contracts, sales receipts, canceled checks, owner’s manuals, and warranty documents. Read and follow produce and service instructions. The way you use or take care of a product might affect your warranty rights. You may be able to get a refund for the difference if the price of the item you bought has decreased within a certain number of days. Find out how to dispute a purchase, based on if you paid with cash, credit, or a mobile app, or payment device.

Remember, be a savvy PROTECTED shopper

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

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