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Women and money Ditch the jargon chuck the charts

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Women and money: Ditch the jargon, chuck the charts MADISON (12/1/10)--As more women seek financial advice, financial planners are realizing the sexes require very different approaches: Women want advice that fits their style and needs, and they want it in plain English (Baltimore Sun Nov. 19). Women face unique challenges: typically lower wages, time out of the work force to raise children or care for older relatives, lower participation rates in pension plans, and longer life expectancy. As a result, many women experience a savings shortfall. Almost 40% of women have only $50,000 or less saved in all of their household retirement accounts combined, according to the 11th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey released in August. Yet, the nearly 1,800 American working women responding to the survey estimate needing a median amount of $500,000 to achieve a secure retirement. Despite the challenges, the survey also revealed that women want information and advice so they can make their own decisions about saving and investing for retirement. While half of women are not confident in their ability to retire comfortably, they know--and have voiced--what they need to improve their chances of financial security (Businesswire.com Aug. 31). So how do men and women differ in how they prefer to receive financial advice? Many financial professionals have made these observations:
* Men are comfortable with financial jargon. Women prefer plain English. * Men tend to make quick decisions. Women take more time and gather more information before acting. * Men like charts and beating benchmarks. Women want to know what those numbers mean for them. Can they retire early? Remodel the kitchen or bedroom? * Men are comfortable calling someone they met once or twice to ask for business advice. Women won’t call unless there is a deeper connection, and they prefer to learn in a group and discuss their views on money.
Women--listen up. Find a financial planner who listens, shows empathy, and explains financial matters in clear terms. Demand that your planner help you find creative solutions to your financial problems. If you’re not satisfied in the initial interview, find someone else. For more information, read, “Give financial planners a once-over before hiring,” in Home & Family Resource Center.

Holiday shoppers be wary of these sales pitches

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NEW YORK (11/29/10)--If you visited a mall or discount store last weekend, you might come to the conclusion that shoppers are just cavemen with better fitting outfits. The grabbing, the grunting, the dashing, the darting--you’d think we were fighting for survival, not the last pair of cashmere socks on the rack. Oddly enough, you’re right on target, and so are retailers. Here are several sales pitches aimed at tricking our hunter-and-gatherer brains (SmartMoney.com Nov. 10).
* Spend $50 today; get $10 off later. This now-and-later technique is geared to bring you back into the store to see the newest merchandise and overspend your budget. Think twice before heading to checkout. Perhaps you can hold off on a few items until your next trip. * Limit two. This brings out the competitor in us all. If the store is setting limits, it must be a great deal. Or is it? Before scooping up one for Uncle Chuck and another for cousin Bill, compare to ensure it’s really worth the asking price. * Five-hour-only sale. Yes, some retailers are aiming to scare you into buying. Limited-time sales are meant to move you now on the fear that all the bargains will be gone tomorrow. While this may be a great sale, it’s clearly not the last and may not even be the best. * Get 23% off. What happened to “save 20%”? It became invisible. Odd numbers grab our attention, suggesting a bargain that has already been marked down. This is just an attention-getting device, so go ahead and give it your attention--then your scrutiny. * Save $150! Who doesn’t want to save $150? By drawing our attention to the savings (rather than the price), a retailer creates the illusion that the actual price is more reasonable. So if you’re shopping for a Blu-ray player and find one you like for $99, stick to your guns--even if you can save $60 on another model for $119.
For more tips, listen to “Shopping Secrets to Save You Big” on Home & Family Finance Resource Center. Above all, outline a budget before shopping; it’s your best defense.

Avoid holiday shopping scams with HandFF Radios help

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WASHINGTON (11/24/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program helps you steer clear of shopping scams, prepare for tax season, and protect your identity. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Sneakiest New Shopping Scams.” Sue Perry, deputy editor, ShopSmart Magazine, Yonkers, N.Y., has advice for shopping with confidence this holiday season and avoiding rip-offs online and in stores. * “Income Tax Season Ahead! What to Know & How to Prepare.” Barbara Weltman, author and J.K. Lassar spokesperson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., discusses new tax rules affecting your 2011 take-home pay. * “Skimming: Don’t Let It Spoil Your Holiday Shopping.” Kathy Herziger-Snider, vice president of product development, CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., explains how skimming works and how you can sidestep this sneaky scam. * “Identity Profiteering: Protect Our Soldiers From ID Theft.” Adam Levin, founder and chairman, Identity Theft 911, New York, provides suggestions to help members of the military avoid identity theft.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Crooks Use High-Tech Scams to Commit Fraud” and watch the “How to Prevent Identity Theft” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Give financial planners a once-over before hiring

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SAN FRANCISCO (11/22/10)--If you’re like many people, you may be tempted to hire the first financial adviser you meet. Or, like others, maybe you’ll get a recommendation from family members or friends. You probably won’t even do a background check (MarketWatch.com Nov. 16). Make sure you’re not entrusting your college, retirement, or life savings to the wrong person. Here’s how to find a financial adviser who is a good fit for you and your finances:
* Check references and do a background check. Just because someone seems to have or spend a lot of money doesn’t mean this person will do a good job handling yours. Fancy cars and rich clients don’t guarantee a good adviser. And just because an adviser has been interviewed by the media doesn’t mean he’s on the up and up. The Securities and Exchange Commission (sec.gov) and FINRA--the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (finra.org)--provide assistance in checking up on advisers. * Avoid relying on friends and family. Industry surveys show that more than 40% of all people take financial advice from friends, family and business associates. Just don’t. It’s better to keep friends solely as friends and get your investment advice from a professional you don’t already know on a personal level. * Don’t base everything on returns. Choose an adviser who offers long-term performance and who will allow you to ride the market’s ups and downs without being overly risky. Achieving investment success means participating in market gains during good times without losing everything when the market goes down. * Don’t let credentials sway you. There are numerous professional credentials and designations for financial advisers. Each credential is different. Some mean something; some don’t. Although it’s important to check credentials, your quest should be to find the right person, not the right credential. * Interview more than one candidate. Most advisers will tell you they can solve your money problems. Talk to several advisers and base your decision on a background check and other information you find. * Realize that cost and payment style should be just part of your decision. Even if you save money in fees, working with an incompetent adviser will mean you’ll end up losing more money down the road. If you take a more expensive route, you might not get the quality of service you desire. Examine what you’ll get for your money and find a reasonable balance between services, costs and compensation. Also consider how much depth of advice you require. You might not need to spend a lot if you’re just looking to put money into a mutual fund each month. If you need an analysis and a financial plan, it might not be worth going the cheap route.
Talk to an investment professional or ask for a referral at your credit union. And for more information, listen to the “Are You Worried About Your Financial Adviser?” Home & Family Finance Radio segment in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio Holiday tips from Good Morning America contributor

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WASHINGTON (11/19/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program provides ideas for managing holiday shopping and spending, including suggestions from “Good Morning America” contributor Lee Woodruff. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Penny-Pinching Consumers Jumping On the Prepaid Cellphone Bandwagon.” Sam Simon, senior fellow, New Millennium Research Council, Washington, D.C., explains why many consumers are likely to switch to a no-contract or prepaid cellphone when their current cellphone early cancellation penalty period ends. * “What Every Parent Should Have in Their ‘Box of Tricks’ to Survive the Holidays!” Lee Woodruff, lifestyle and family contributor, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” New York, offers advice for reducing holiday stress and teaching your children about the importance of giving. * “Get the Best Holiday Shopping Customer Service.” Tim Houlne, CEO, Working Solutions, Dallas, discusses how consumers can avoid and find solutions to common holiday customer-service problems. * “Holiday Season Shopping Expectations.” Stefanie Henson, senior research analyst, Morpace, Pontiac, Mich., shares research revealing what you can expect during the holiday shopping season, both in stores and online.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Smart Spending Puts Holiday Shoppers in Control of Cart” and listen to “Free Holiday Planner Helps Budget, Track, and Adjust Spending” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Home prices not done falling

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MADISON, Wis. (11/17/10)--Look for home prices to slide perhaps another 7% between now and midyear 2011, according to FiServ, a market analytics company based in Brookfield, Wis. If that forecast is right, home prices nationally will have dropped 34% from their peak by the time they hit bottom. For as many as three million Americans, the dream of owning a home has faded. Home ownership has declined from its peak of 69.1% in 2005 to 66.9% today (CNNMoney.com Nov. 2). Additionally, the vacancy rate among homes designated owner-occupied is 2.5%. Housing starts are at 600,000 a year, well below the normal replacement rate; few new homes are being built. Despite low mortgage rates, which averaged 4.3% in September for a 30-year fixed rate and 3.8% for a 15-year rate, “people aren’t going to be in the market if they can’t find jobs--or feel insecure about keeping their jobs,” says Susan Tiffany, CUNA’s director of consumer periodicals. Young people have been hit hardest by the economic turmoil. For those younger than age 35, home ownership dropped 9%, with 39% owning homes, compared with 43% at the beginning of 2005. Also hit hard, Americans 35 to 44 saw their ownership rate fall 7%, from 70% to 65.2%; 45- to 54-year olds saw ownership drop 5%, to 73% from 76.5%; and homeowners 55 to 64 saw a 3% decline to 79% from 81.8%. If you’re in position to leverage today’s low rates, Tiffany has these suggestions:
* Shorten the term of your mortgage. You’ll probably need a strong credit score and at least 20% equity. * Look to free up some cash. Refinancing can reduce your monthly payments or help you save money with a lower interest rate and/or shorter term for repayment. * Expand your real-estate holdings. If you are looking for a second home, or an investment property, it looks like a buyer’s market over the next year.
Tiffany offers one caveat: “Most forecasters are saying mortgage rates may rise gradually through 2011.” For more information, read “What to Do When Your ARM Is Due” and view the “Refinancing Your Mortgage” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Fresh saving ideas as holiday season approaches

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MADISON, Wis. (11/15/10)--Air fares and gas prices take their toll on consumers’ wallets as the 2010 holiday season approaches. Airline travelers are spending nearly 50% more this year than in 2009 for Thanksgiving holiday fares. And the price at the pump offers little relief for those planning to skip the airport. The cost of a regular gallon of gas increased 6% during the first week of November (moneywatch.bnet.com Nov. 10). As a result, consumers who combine travel plans with holiday gift-giving are left searching for new ways to tighten their belts and still spread the holiday cheer. Here are three alternative methods from Yahoo! Finance to help you save some cash this holiday season:
* Share your skills. Are you handy with computers, a do-it-yourselfer, or a master chef? Whatever your skill set, deliver your talents and expertise as a gift. It’s a thoughtful present that also helps both giver and receiver save money. * Move the holiday. Agreeing with others to celebrate shortly after a holiday allows you to share the season and the savings. You’ll be able to take advantage of after-holiday sales, enjoy festivities with others, and possibly avoid hectic travel days. * Check your supplies. Inventory supplies before stocking up this holiday season. You may find you have plenty of wrapping paper, cooking ingredients, and gift boxes to satisfy your needs and prevent unnecessary purchases. Besides, who needs four rolls of half-used transparent tape?
For more ways to keep the holidays manageable, read “Smart Spending Puts Holiday Shoppers in Control of the Cart” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio Financial topics for military servicemembers

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WASHINGTON (11/12/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program covers military topics, including the Military Saves campaign, debt issues faced by military families, and tax provisions for military personnel. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Military Saves Campaign.” Arty Arteaga, president and CEO, Defense Credit Union Council, Washington, D.C., reviews the successful 2010 campaign and outlines goals for 2011. * “Military Debt Problem.” Gerri Walsh, vice president of investor relations, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Washington, D.C., highlights study results indicating that military families generally carry more debt than civilians. * “A Look Ahead--Your 2010 Income Taxes.” Eric Smith, national spokesperson, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C., discusses helpful tax credits for members of the military.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Understand All Your Options for Dealing With Debt” and listen to “Military Financial Institutions Help Soldiers” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Dont be tricked by Medicare hucksters

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NEW YORK (11/10/10)--Medicare scams cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year, and the schemes are not always big and obvious (The New York Times Oct. 29). Yes, large crime groups do get arrested and charged for Medicare fraud. In October, a 40-plus member crime syndicate stole the identities of doctors and thousands of patients and used them at bogus health clinics in 25 states to bill Medicare for more than $100 million. But, thieves work other schemes on a smaller scale. A criminal may offer you medical supplies or diabetes screenings, simply to collect your Medicare number. Then he will bill you for other supplies and services you never receive. Of course, the swindler pockets the reimbursements. You might think you can relax, knowing that you probably won’t have to pay--but guess what? Your medical and insurance records could be compromised and the problems show up later. It could be the day you need a wheelchair, and Medicare denies it because you’ve “already had one for five years.” Here’s what you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from Medicare fraud:
* Guard your card. Protect your Medicare card the same way you guard a credit card or Social Security card. Likewise, never give your Medicare number over the phone to a stranger or allow a friend or relative to use it. Report a lost or stolen card immediately. * Beware of free services. If someone offers you medical service, equipment, or supplies for free, he or she doesn’t need your insurance information. Walk away. If you’re offered something you don’t need or you already have, let it go. It could be a scam to collect your Medicare number. * Examine your statements. When you get your monthly Medicare Part D and/or regular Medicare quarterly statements, look for doctor visits that never happened, unfamiliar provider names, and supplies and equipment you never received. Call your medical provider first to clear up a possible error. If it’s more than that, report it immediately. * Be cautious during enrollment. On Nov. 15 you can sign up for or change plans. This is also high-crime time when scammers offer bogus plans, services and products to unwary seniors. Before you sign up for a plan, check the Medicare plan finder to see if you can find it. If you can’t, the plan may not be real. * Review your credit report annually. Look for unpaid medical bills and make sure they’re legitimate.
It’s always a good idea to keep a record of all medical services you receive so you can compare your records with unexplained charges. If you find errors, double-check them with your medical provider first. Then, if you still can’t explain the discrepancies:
* Go online. Visit the fraud section of the Medicare website to find out how to report your findings. * Contact your state Senior Medicare Patrol office. The staff will help you determine if you’ve been a victim of fraud and facilitate your complaint to government investigators.
If you’re a Medicare recipient and want more information about preventing and reporting Medicare fraud, check the fraud section of the “Medicare and You” handbook that you should have received in the mail recently. You also can order the handbook online.

Limit the expense of teenage car insurance

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MADISON, Wis. (11/8/10)--On the plus side, your new teenage driver will be eager to run all those errands that eat up so much of your free time. Unfortunately, adding your young “gofer” to your car insurance policy is going to cost you--about $621 more a year on average (Insurance.com Oct. 27). Insurance premiums reflect the company’s assessment of risk. Inexperience makes teenage drivers the highest risk group compared with any other age, including drivers aged 75 and older. In fact, teenagers are four times more likely to crash than older drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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So you’re going to have to adjust the family budget for your new driver. Your auto insurance premiums will jump by an average of 44% if you’re a one-car family, 58% if you own two cars, and 63% if you have three cars (see chart). Here’s how the Credit Union National Association’s Center for Personal Finance editors say you can minimize the increased expense:
* Buy adequate coverage. Experts recommend coverage amounts much higher than those typically required by state law. And considering your potential liability for the medical and legal consequences of an accident, you’re wise to buy more than the minimum protection. Consider at least $100,000 bodily injury coverage per person for each accident, $300,000 bodily injury an accident, and $100,000 property damage for each accident. * Ask about discounts. Many car insurance companies offer “good student” discounts for grade point averages above a certain level or membership in some civic organizations. Certain driver-training classes or installation of a monitoring device in the car may qualify for other discounts. In addition, safety features such as anti-lock brakes and anti-theft devices can reduce insurance premiums. * Hold your teenager accountable. Of course, the best way to save on insurance is to make sure your teenager keeps his driving record clean. John E. Whitcomb, author of “Capitate Your Kids: Teaching Your Teens Financial Independence,” recommends making your child responsible for his driving behavior by means of a written agreement with mutually agreed-upon provisions, such as curfews or passenger limits. In addition, you might agree to pay a bonus for each accident-free year if your child agrees to pay some portion of the damage, including increased insurance premiums, for an accident. By spelling out what you expect of your teenager behind the wheel, and the consequences of misbehavior, you’re more likely to make your child a willing partner in managing family car costs.
For more information, read “Help Your Teen Find the Right Car” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Resources for military families on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (11/5/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program has resources to help military families save on household purchases, avoid unethical business practices, and understand veterans benefits. This is a rebroadcast of an earlier H&FF Radio program. The show, which also can be heard later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Cut the Cost of Military Family Purchases.” Karen Jowers, Military Times columnist, Springfield, Va., offers advice about cutting the cost of household purchases--how to comparison shop, use coupons, and get the best deal. * “Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Military Line.” Holly Petraeus, director of Military Line, Council of Better Business Bureaus, discusses the BBB's consumer education materials for military members and their families. * “Veterans Benefits.” Keith Pedigo, associate deputy undersecretary for policy and program management, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C., provides details regarding veterans' benefits. * “Navigating the Veterans Benefits Maze.” Shad Meshad, founder and president, National Veterans Foundation, Los Angeles, discusses why many veterans don’t apply for benefits they are entitled to.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, listen to “Military Financial Institutions Help Soldiers” and use the “What’s It Worth to Cut Back My Spending” calculator in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Check credit record before future employers do

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McLEAN, Va. (11/3/10)--If you’re looking for a job, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time making sure your résumé is perfect. You should pay close attention to your credit record as well (USAToday.com Oct. 26). While only 13% of companies conduct credit checks on all job applicants, almost half check credit histories for employees with financial responsibilities and senior executives, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, Va. Many employers believe that credit reports contain relevant information about applicants--especially those applying for jobs where they’ll have access to large sums of money or merchandise. Here’s help understanding your credit history:
* Realize the difference between credit score and credit report. Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes your credit history, and in many cases is the most influential factor in a lender’s decision to grant you credit and at what rate, according to editors from the Credit Union National Association’s Center for Personal Finance. A credit report shows a record of your past borrowing and repaying habits. * Check your credit report yourself. You’re eligible for a free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus--Equifax, TransUnion and Experian--at annualcreditreport.com. Use the website to request one or call 877-322-8228. * Know your rights. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to obtain your consent before reviewing your credit report. While you can say no, if you decline giving an employer authorization to pull your report, your chances of getting the job may decrease.
Talk to the professionals at your credit union for help improving your credit record. And for more information about how to achieve a high credit score, read “Who Has an 800+ Credit Score?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.