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Facing college-funding challenges on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (3/30/12)—Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covers college savings, financial planning for newly single women, job-hunting, and financial lessons from the Amish.

This is a rebroadcast of an earlier Home & Family Finance Radio program.

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:

  • "Parents: The Buck Stops Here in Funding College." Roger Michaud, chair, College Savings Foundation, Washington, D.C., shares parent survey results that indicate challenges families face when saving for college, as well as strategies that work.
  • "'Suddenly Single' Financial Planning." Jean Dorrell, certified estate planner and founder and president, Senior Financial Security, Summerfield, Fla., outlines financial management tasks for newly single women.
  • "Cracking the New Job Market: 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy." Bill Holland, former human resources director, lecturer, and author, Virginia Beach, Va., offers interview advice and ways to increase your marketability.
  • "Money Secrets of the Amish." Lorilee Craker, author and freelance journalist, Grand Rapids, Mich., explains the Amish community's time-tested approach to personal finances and how it emerged from the economic crisis unscathed.
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 "Create Financial Checklist to Ease Transition to College" and "Get Back in the Game After Losing a Job" in the  Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio Whats ahead for Medicare Social Security

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WASHINGTON (3/30/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covers the future of Medicare and Social Security, benefits open enrollment season, dorm decorating, and the financial impact of chronic illness.

This is a rebroadcast of an earlier Home & Family Finance Radio program.

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:

  • "Will Medicare and Social Security Be There When You Need Them?" Fred Claridge, senior care expert and director, Certified Senior Guidance Association, and senior advocate, Las Vegas, discusses the outlook for Medicare and Social Security.
  • "Three Ways to Save on Items That Blow Your Budget." Manisha Thakor, personal finance expert, author, and financial literacy advocate, Santa Fe, N.M., explains how signing up for certain underused benefits during open enrollment can help you save on out-of-pocket health care, commuter and dependent-care expenses.
  • "Win One-Year Tuition, Up to $50,000, in 'Show Off Your College Pad' Contest." Kelley Edwards, design expert, HGTV's "Design on a Dime," New York, provides advice for finding deals on back-to-school essentials and decorating dorm rooms on a budget. She also encourages students to enter the contest by Sept. 7. Students can upload original photos of their decorated dorms to ebay.com/gearup or facebook.com/ebay for a chance to win a year of paid tuition.
  • "Chronic Illness: Toll on Family Finances and Relationships." The late Marta Trinkl, former producer, H&FF Radio, Washington, D.C., highlights some of the financial and personal effects of dealing with a chronic illness.
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 "Four Key Steps to 'No Regrets' Retirement," "Create Financial Checklist to Ease Transition to College," and "Cope Financially During a Serious Illness" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Economy drives reverse mortgage shift

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NEW YORK (3/27/12)--The age of homeowners applying for reverse mortgages is dropping. In what used to be a last-resort market dominated by retirees age 70 and older (77% of the market in 1999), only a little more than half of the applicants for reverse mortgages were 70 or older in 2010 (The New York Times, March 15).

In other words, almost half of today's applicants are ages 62 through 69. The shift is not simply because the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program (HECM) and the new loan option known as the HECM Saver have made obtaining and paying for a reverse mortgage easier and more affordable.

The biggest driver is debt. Of those who sought counseling--a reverse mortgage application requirement--in 2010, about 67% were seeking relief for household debt.

Combine debt with difficulty obtaining credit and eroding retirement security, and reverse mortgages begin to look attractive as a way to relieve the pressure.

If you have home equity and are at least 62 years old, you might be a good candidate for a reverse mortgage. But before you pursue this option, get the facts about common misconceptions and pay attention to the potential effects of a reverse mortgage on your finances.

Misconceptions:

  • You can be kicked out of your home. As long as you're paying your property taxes and insurance, your lender can not kick you or your surviving spouse out of your home. The reverse mortgage continues until the last surviving borrower sells, moves, or dies.
  • Your heirs will have to pay it off. Your heirs will not have to pay off your reverse mortgage. If it becomes due and your home still has equity, your heirs can sell your house, pay off the reverse mortgage, and keep what's left over. If your house does not have any remaining equity at that time, your heirs will have no personal liability.
  • A low credit score can jeopardize the mortgage. This is not true. Reverse lenders base their lending decision solely on your home's appraised value and your age. You don't have to provide any financial statements or tax returns.
  • Applying is difficult. You have to provide only a handful of documents, and you already have most of them. You have to show your property deed, photo ID, Social Security number, proof of age, proof of homeowners insurance, and a HUD-approved certificate showing that you've completed the mandatory reverse mortgage education and counseling class.
Financial consequences:

  • You might have to pay an origination fee, closing costs, and even a service fee. You almost always will have to pay for an appraisal.
  • You'll have fewer assets for yourself and for your heirs; a reverse mortgage uses up the equity in your home.
  • You still are responsible to pay for property taxes, insurance, utilities, fuel, maintenance, and other expenses. If you do not, the loan becomes due and payable.
  • You can't deduct reverse mortgage interest on your income tax returns until you partly or completely pay off the loan.
  • If you are enrolled in or are applying for need-based programs such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid, your ability to qualify could be hurt by the money you receive from your reverse mortgage.
  • If you're seriously ill or plan to move in a year or two, a reverse mortgage won't be helpful. The cost of the loan will be too high when amortized over just a few years.
For homeowners who have retained some home equity, who are at least 62 years old, and who plan to remain in their homes, a reverse mortgage might provide a way to tap in to that equity for today's needs. And for some seniors, it's the only available option.

For related information, read "Four Key Steps to No-Regrets Retirement" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Use smarts to thwart fraud

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DALLAS (3/20/12)--You can get ahead in life by being good at what you do. Unfortunately, the same is true for fraudsters (MoneyGram International March 7).

Use these tactics to steer clear of scams:

  • Choose tough passwords. Fraudsters use Facebook and other social media profiles to figure out passwords. These scam artists skim profiles trolling for common names and phrases that consumers often use for passwords. Create passwords that contain numbers, letters, and symbols and are more than six characters.
  • Don't be an open book. The information you post on the Internet isn't private. Use careful judgment about anything you post online.
  • Shred personal documents. Thieves still are stealing personal information by dumpster diving. Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of paper items containing personal information such as Social Security numbers and account numbers, as well as unsolicited credit card applications and receipts.
  • Know with whom you're dealing. Fraudsters posing as family members may ask you to wire funds or send emergency cash. If you have any qualms about e-mails you receive, be leery. Contact the family members the e-mail is supposedly from--outside the e-mail channel--and ask if they sent the email.
  • Use caution when job hunting. If you find a job online that entails working from home and the opportunity to make some quick cash, use caution. Fraudsters comb online job boards to prey on those eager to find work.
MoneyGram, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, has enhanced its fraud prevention website at moneygram-preventfraud.com, with specific advice for anyone initiating a money transfer:

  • Throw--Dispose of offers promising easy ways to earn money. Be extra cautious if the offer requires you to send money before actually earning money.
  • Know--Only send money to people you know. Never send money to strangers.
  • Show--Don't share information about money transfers with anyone except the recipient.
If you suspect fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency.

For more advice about preventing fraud, read "Recognize Online Review Fraud" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Financial advice from INBCsI Chatzky on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (3/16/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program examines financial guidance from Jean Chatzky, making money by asking for it, and wealth psychology.

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:

  • "Make Money by Asking for It." Susan Tiffany, director of consumer periodicals for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., shares how to obtain better deals for services you already use.
  • "Cash Call With Jean Chatzky." Jean Chatzky, financial editor, "NBC's Today Show," New York, discusses her weekly financial advice program.
  • "Psychology of Wealth." Dr. Charles Richards, San Diego, author, "The Psychology of Wealth," explains how to positively change your perceptions of wealth.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at 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 "Make Money by Asking for It" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Save money skip scams on spring break

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WINDSOR, Colo. (3/13/12)--Your midterms are finished, your bags are packed, and you're ready to embark on a week of forgetting academic cares. Spring break is all about cutting loose, but if you let that relaxed mindset guide your vacation spending as well, you'll be in for a rude financial awakening when you return to campus (Investopedia Feb. 8).

Don't worry--this doesn't mean you sacrifice a fun spring break entirely. You can curb spending and still enjoy a memorable trip. These money-saving suggestions from Kinoli Inc. should help:

  • Remember your student ID. Some hotels or rental car companies offer discounts for students, so don't be afraid to ask for one when you're booking lodging and transportation. You also can inquire about student discounts throughout your break--many restaurants, museums and other attractions have special pricing for students, regardless of where you're from.
  • Avoid weekend travel. Flying on the weekend is almost always pricier than flying during the week. If possible, schedule travel time for weekdays. You may have to come back a day or two early, but that also means fewer nights spent in a hotel, which can save even more money.
  • Look into gift cards. Before you depart, check out discount gift card websites like GiftCardGranny.com. You often can find gift cards for airfare, accommodations, and gas for as much as 50% off, sometimes more.
  • Think beyond hotels. That swanky boutique hotel might be tempting, but you can save big by considering other lodging options. Think about staying in a hostel, even to cut costs for just a night or two. Research hostels on HostelWorld.com to find one that's clean and safe. You also can find a place to crash through CouchSurfing.org, which connects travelers with people willing to host them.
  • Stock the cooler. Instead of eating out for every meal of the day, pack some food of your own or visit a local grocery store when you arrive at your vacation spot. You still can check out restaurants--just scale back your spending in that area. One idea: Take care of your own breakfast and lunch, and head to a restaurant for dinner.
While you're having a blast on break, make sure you've covered your bases back home, too. Spring-break season can lead to "family scams," which occur when scammers call parents, claiming their vacationing child is in trouble. Scammers then ask parents to wire money for medical care or bail. It's often only after parents have sent money that they realize they were set up for a scam--and their money is long gone.

To prevent this, MoneyGram, a global money transfer company, recommends keeping a close eye on personal belongings when you're lying out on the beach or sipping drinks at local bars or clubs. Scammers often will steal student IDs or other identifying information to find parents they can swindle.

And, as much as you may groan at the thought, check in with your parents a few times while you're on break. By letting Mom and Dad know you're safe and having a great time, you're also arming them with the information they need to spot a scam before it happens.

For more information, watch "Money and Travel" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

iHandFF Radioi Take charge to change your financial outlook

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WASHINGTON (3/9/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program addresses topics in money management, business success, retirement learning and affordable travel.

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:

  • "Take Charge, Change Your Life Today." Trevor Bolin, author, "Take Charge and Change Your Life Today!" Fort St. John, British Columbia, provides guidelines for making over your financial outlook.
  • "Six Tires, No Plan." Michael Rosenbaum, author, "Six Tires, No Plan," Arlington Heights, Ill., discusses his new book profiling self-made billionaire and business owner Bruce Halle.
  • "Retired and Back to School." Leonie Gordon, assistant dean and director, Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, Cambridge, Mass., highlights the benefits of participating in retirement learning programs.
  • "Six Frugal Travel Tips." Kate Forgach, personal finance blogger, Fort Collins, Colo., offers travel advice for baby boomers.
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 "Make the Move to Small-Business Ownership" and use the "Budget Blueprint" calculator in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

ID theft tops consumer complaint list--again

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NEW YORK (3/6/12)--For the 12th year in the row, identity theft is the No. 1 consumer complaint, according to information released last week by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (CNNMoney.com Feb. 28).

Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, roughly 15% were related to identity theft. Nearly one-quarter of those were tax- or wage-related fraud.

The top 10 complaints:

  1. Identity theft (15%);
  2. Debt collection (10%);
  3. Prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries (6%);
  4. Shop-at-home, catalog sales (5%);
  5. Banks and lenders (5%);
  6. Internet services (5%);
  7. Auto-related complaints (4%);
  8. Imposter scams (4%);
  9. Telephone and mobile services (4%); and
  10. Advance-fee loans and credit protection/repair (3%).
Consumers reported paying more than $1.5 billion for fraudulent schemes. The median amount paid to fraudsters was $537. And a whopping 43% of victims said they were targeted by e-mail.

To file a consumer complaint in English or Spanish, use the FTC's Complaint Assistant at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. From that website, members of the U.S. armed forces can file complaints with Consumer Sentinel Military, which helps identify and target consumer protection issues affecting service members and their families. And econsumer.gov allows you to file complaints against an entity in another country. 

For more information, read "Child ID Theft: When Ignorance Isn't Bliss" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

IHandFF RadioI talks tax-season advice

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WASHINGTON (3/2/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covers tax topics, health savings accounts, and organization for small-business owners.

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:

  • "Save the Date: April 17." Eric Smith, spokesperson, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C., explains how to prepare for the coming tax-filing deadline.
  • "Tax Help." Michael Eisenberg, certified public accountant, Los Angeles, outlines steps you should take if you can't pay your taxes.
  • "Health Savings Accounts." Mark Baker, health savings account specialist, UnitedHealthcare's Golden Rule Insurance Co., Indianapolis, discusses health savings accounts and what they cover.
  • "Organize Your Small Business." Denise Coate, owner, SOHO Bookkeeping & Support Inc., Anacortes, Wash., shares why small-business owners should master organization and record-keeping to keep work running smoothly. 
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, watch "Getting Tax Records Organized" and read "Small-Biz Owners: Start New Year on Organized Foot" and "Home Office Tax Deductions Can Help Business Pay Off" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.