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Car care and interchange topics on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (6/1/12)--This past Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covered auto breakdowns, dealer service plans, and interchange fees.

The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "Auto Breakdowns." Michelle Dosher, managing editor, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., offers seven tips to help drivers avoid serious car trouble.
  • "Dealer Service Plans." Pam Oakes, car-care expert, Detroit, explains why you don't need to purchase that expensive service plan from the dealership.
  • "Interchange Fees." Bill Hardekopf, CEO, LowCards.com, Birmingham, Ala., discusses interchange fees and what they mean for consumers.
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 "Free New Car Maintenance: Is It a Good Deal?" and listen to "Top 5 Car Repair Jobs You Can (and Should) Do Yourself" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Social Security complexity can cost retirees thousands

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YONKERS, N.Y. (5/29/12)--It's easy to get confused about calculating Social Security benefits. New evidence points to considerable lack of knowledge, which could cost retirees tens of thousands of dollars (Consumer Report Money Adviser June 2012).

AARP surveyed more than 2,000 adults ages 52 to 70 who have not yet filed for Social Security. The vast majority understood the basics: Monthly benefits are permanently reduced if you file as early as 62 and before your full retirement age, and delaying your claim by one year beyond your full retirement age increases your monthly benefit.

Few respondents understood important nuances of the program critical to using the system to get the most money--legally:

* The program uses highest-earning years--Social Security applies an average wage index to all your working years, up to two years before you're eligible for benefits, and averages your income from the 35 highest-earning years. If you didn't work 35 years, Social Security assigns a zero for nonworking years in its average. Check your statement to make sure all working years are recorded.

* The effect of working after filing depends on when you file--Social Security will not reduce your monthly benefit if you file for benefits at your full retirement age and continue working. You will experience a permanent benefit reduction if you file early and continue to work. And, that amount is further reduced if you earn more than the annual "earnings test" or threshold, which is $14,460 in 2012. Until the year you reach full retirement age, Social Security withholds $1 for every $2 you earn above the year's threshold until you reach full retirement age. During the year you reach full retirement age, the ratio is $1 for every $3 earned above a new threshold--$38,880 in 2012--until your full retirement age. At that time, your benefits will be increased to account for the months benefits were withheld. Very few survey respondents were aware that the "earnings test" reduction in benefits is temporary (aarp.org Feb. 2012).

* Your pension may affect your monthly benefit--Your monthly pension will not cause your Social Security benefits to be reduced, unless the pension is from a federal, state, local or foreign government system in which you did not pay U.S. Social Security taxes. In that case, expect your monthly Social Security benefit to be reduced. Visit ssa.gov and type "windfall elimination provision" in the search box for more information.

*You have the ability to "reset" to a higher benefit--If you filed early but have a change of heart or significant increase in income, you can withdraw from the program and start up at a higher benefit level later. You'll need to file Social Security Form 521, "Request for Withdrawal of Application," and also pay back all benefits you and your family members have received to date. You only can withdraw from the program once, within 12 months of when you became eligible for benefits.

Visit socialsecurity.gov. You can apply online for retirement or disability benefits, Medicare, or Supplemental Security Income; access your Social Security statement; estimate your retirement benefits; and check your application status online.

For more information, read "How to Calculate Retirement Needs" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

IHandFF RadioI explores Made in America movement

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WASHINGTON (5/25/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program focuses on the "Made in America" business movement and its financial implications.

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:

  • "Made in America!" Mark Andol, president and owner, Made in America Store, Elma, N.Y., explains how American companies can cost-effectively manufacture products in the U.S.
  • "HandTrux Inventor." Ernie Van Den Heuvel, inventor, HandTrux Toys, Little Falls, N.J., discusses the business model for his new toy company.
  • "The Net Return." Paul Crawley, president, The Net Return, Fair Lawn, N.J., shares how his sports-training company is able to compete with overseas products.
  • "Made in the U.S.A." Michael Farr, president, Farr, Miller & Washington, Washington, D.C., covers how the "Made in America" movement could affect the U.S. marketplace, stock market and relationships with manufacturing companies.
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 "Buy Local for Broad Impact" and "Make the Move to Small-Business Ownership" and watch the "Financing Your Small Business" video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Plan to afford health care in retirement

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DULLES, Va. (5/22/12)--The cat's out of the bag: Americans can't afford to retire. In fact, only half of us are saving anything at all for retirement. At the same time, our healthcare costs in retirement have increased an average of 6% a year in the past decade (Huffington Post May 10).

People in two demographic segments are least likely to be putting money aside: the young and the poor. In 2011, only 44% of young adults ages 18 to 34 saved any amount of money for retirement, and only 23% of Americans earning less than $50,000 a year saved at least $2,500 in their retirement accounts.

In a recent study, Fidelity Investments estimates that over an average retirement lifetime of 20 years, a 65-year-old couple can expect to pay $240,000 for medical costs not covered by Medicare. This estimated amount includes Medicare premiums, out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, Medicare supplemental insurance, and expenses like co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles.

You don't need to have the individual's portion of that $240,000 in your 401(k) the day you retire. The estimated costs are spread over your remaining lifetime. But you won't be able to pay for your medical expenses without a plan.

Take these steps to make sure you can pay for your health care costs in retirement:

  • If you are employed: Start investing now or increase your investments into retirement accounts. If your employer offers a match, contribute enough to obtain it and speak with your investment adviser about how best to distribute additional funds.
  • If you are not employed: If you are able to take care of your necessities, speak to an independent financial adviser about starting a retirement account. A small investment on a regular schedule will make a big difference.
  • Be as healthy as possible. Invest time in your health. Check reputable websites like the Mayo Clinic's and ask your physician for help improving your lifestyle.
  • Stay in the workforce longer. In addition to earning more money, you might become eligible for medical coverage as an active employee, and your increased social engagement could improve your health.
  • If you're eligible, consider opening a health savings account (HSA). Find out if your employer offers a high-deductible health plan, or look into buying one on your own. A high-deductible plan with a health savings account could save you a lot of money if you're single and rarely go to the doctor.
For more information, listen to the audio segment "Health Care Survival Guide" from the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Advice for 2012 graduates on iHandFF Radioi

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WASHINGTON (5/18/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program provided guidance for new college graduates.

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:

  • "Managing Debt." Leslie Tayne, debt resolution expert and attorney, Law Offices of Leslie H. Tayne P.C., Melville, N.Y., shares debt-management insights.
  • "College or Retirement?" Pamela Yellen, author, "Bank on Yourself," Santa Fe, N.M., addresses the dilemma of paying for a child's college education or saving for retirement.
  • "Interview Attire 101." Marla Tomazin, certified image consultant, New York, offers suggestions for selecting the right job-interview attire.
  • "Great Gifts for Grads." Casey Mysliwy, assistant editor, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., discusses graduation gifts to help young professionals find their financial footing.
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 "Parents Raid Retirement Savings for College Expenses" and "Paying for Your Child's Higher Education," listen to "Graduation Debt," and watch "Credit Counselors Can Help Balance the Bills" and "Managing Credit Card Debt" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Pay medical bills protect credit

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NEW YORK (5/15/12)--Figuring what you owe on a medical bill can be confusing at best. You wait for your insurance provider's explanation of benefits, wait for the bill, and try to figure out what part--if any--is your responsibility. The wait can be months, and by that time the "unpaid" bill may already have tarnished your credit score (NYTimes.com May 4).

Even consumers with good insurance coverage can have trouble figuring out what they owe after a visit to a doctor's office or emergency room--which can generate multiple bills. And as consumers become responsible for more medical-associated costs, billing gets more complex. In 2010 alone, collection agencies contacted 30 million individuals because of unpaid medical bills, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group.

People often don't realize their credit has been stained until they want to obtain or refinance a mortgage. A scarred score can mean having to pay big bucks--often thousands of dollars more than someone with good credit would pay--in a higher interest rate. People with formerly spotless credit histories could see their scores drop by 100 points or more if unpaid medical bills show up on their reports. 

Avoid medical bill missteps by keeping a close eye on your credit report and being proactive in credit matters, suggests PrivacyMatters.com:

  • Don't ignore paying a medical bill--Even if it's for a small amount, ignoring a bill can tarnish your credit score. If you have questions about what you're responsible for, contact your insurance provider.
  • Be an informed patient--Request copies of relevant paperwork from your medical provider and insurance company. Pay all bills that you're responsible for on time.
  • Consider getting help from a financial adviser--The professionals at your credit union can look at your spending plan and help set up a long-term strategy to help you pay off medical debt.
  • Stay on top of your credit report--Only one website has been officially authorized to provide credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com. You also can call 877-322-8228, or complete a request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Order your credit report for free up to three times a year; stagger the reports from the three primary providers every four months in rotation so you can keep tabs throughout the year.
For more information about staying on top of your credit report, read "Accurate Credit Report Does You Good" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

IHandFF RadioI Spotlight on new grads and youth

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WASHINGTON (5/11/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covered challenges facing new college graduates and youth financial education.

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:

  • "My College Kid is Home!" Marc Ostrofsky, author and entrepreneur, Houston, provides advice for parents with college students--or graduates--moving back home.
  • "Tough Job Market." Emily Blumberh, inside sales associate at LivingSocial, Washington, D.C., and Talley Berry, web developer and writer, Easton, Md., discuss their experiences as recent college graduates entering the job market.
  • "Early Childhood Financials." Mark Bruinooge, co-founder and CEO, Tykoon, New York, describes strategies for teaching youth about the value of money.
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 "Help Young Adults Move Out of Your Checkbook" and watch the "Thrive by 5: Teaching Your Preschooler About Money" video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Great gifts for new grads

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WINDSOR, Colo. (5/8/12)--College commencement season is here again, but for many soon-to-be graduates, it's a time to both celebrate and prepare. With the job market still challenging and national student loan debt now exceeding $1 trillion--beating credit card debt for the first time--new grads face real financial hurdles.

Help new alums find their footing by selecting graduation gifts that will help them get a smart start in the real world. Andrea Woroch, a consumer-savings expert for Kinoli Inc., Windsor, Colo., and editors of the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance offer these ideas for valuable and useful grad gifts:

  • Money. The old standby still makes a perfect gift. Giving cash can provide graduates with an opportunity to start paying back student loans and other forms of debt.
  • Gift cards. If you have a more specific use for your gift in mind, opt for a gift card. Gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores all can help graduates with day-to-day necessities.
  • Résumé or career services. Students often have access to career advising through their schools, but that benefit can expire upon graduation. Gifting new grads with a similar service can keep them on track to finding a job.
  • Foreign language lessons. Continuing education is never a bad thing: It helps graduates add to their skill sets and demonstrates initiative to future employers. Learning a new language also opens up job opportunities all over the world.
  • Magazine or newspaper subscriptions. Consider a physical or digital subscription to a trade publication within the graduate's area of study or a newspaper like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Both can help grads stay up-to-date on current events around the world and within their professional field.
  • Interview attire. Select a gift card to a store where your new grad can buy a suit, or organize a shopping trip to help him or her put together a winning wardrobe.
  • Smartphone. A phone with application capabilities and Web access allows graduates to keep up with e-mail from potential employers, navigate new cities, keep in touch with family and more.
  • Personal finance books. Whether it's a physical copy or an e-book, how-to books about money management can help guide graduates through new financial situations, like paying off debt or saving for emergencies. Many titles focus specifically on new graduates, so you can narrow your search that way.
  • Moving services. If your graduate is packing up and moving on for work or other new opportunities, contributing to a truck rental or additional moving services can cut costs.
  • Roth IRA (individual retirement account). New graduates don't always have the time or resources to plan for retirement, so opening a Roth IRA is an excellent way to put them in the saving mindset. Your credit union can help you learn more about Roth IRAs and set up an account for the new grad.
  • Credit union membership. If your new graduate isn't already a member of your credit union, extend the full-family membership benefit for an ideal start with safe, affordable financial services and coaching.
For more information, read "Help Young Adults Move Out of Your Checkbook" and watch the "Investing in an IRA" video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Summer travel topics on IHandFF RadioI

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WASHINGTON (5/4/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program addresses summer travel and credit cards.

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:

  • "Summer Travel." Blake Rouhani, public relations manager, LivingSocial, Washington, D.C., discusses ways to save on summer travel expenses.
  • "Best Travel Cards." Odysseas Papadimitriou, founder and CEO, Evolution Finance, Arlington, Va., offers advice for selecting and using credit cards for travel purposes.
  • "Credit Card Hang-Ups." Madeleine Greene, accredited financial counselor, author, and retired tenured faculty member at University of Maryland, Family and Consumer Science, Barnesville, Md., highlights credit card mistakes to avoid.
  • "Credit Union Youth Week." Shamzy Romero, business development officer, Security Services FCU, San Antonio, recaps how National Credit Union Youth Week, celebrated in April, helps youth become more financially responsible.
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 the "Money and Travel" video and use the "What's Your Credit Quotient?" calculator in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.