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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Financial independence day on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (7/1/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program covers news about investor protection for older investors, online deal websites, how media shape the way we see travel destinations, and personal financial independence day. 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:
* “Investor Protection Program for Older Investors.” Geraldine "Gerri" Walsh, vice president and deputy director, investor education, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Washington, D.C., discusses how FINRA teamed with AARP to develop online tools to thwart investment fraud against older investors and their families. * “Get the Most From Daily Online Deal Sites.” Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance journalist and TV personality, Yahoo Finance, New York, examines strategies to use when buying that one big discounted daily deal on Groupon, LivingSocial, and other deal sites. * “Personal Financial Independence Day and Steps Families Can Take to Better Manage Their Personal Finances.” Brooke Salvini, CPA and CFP, sole practitioner and president, Central Coast Chapter, California Society of Certified Public Accountants, Avila Beach, provides ideas about saving and investing for retirement. * “How Media Shapes Travelers’ View of Destinations.” Mark Murphy, president/CEO, Performance Media Group LLC, Westampton, N.J., shares recommendations about where to find alternative sources of up-to-date vacation destination information.
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 “Identify Signs of Elder Financial Abuse” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Drivers who are good borrowers can save

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MADISON, Wis. (6/2911)--Want a new car free of charge? Sounds like an Internet come-on. But you could save enough on car insurance over your lifetime to pay for a new vehicle, just by being a good borrower.
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Lenders use credit scores to determine the risk that individual borrowers will not repay their loans. The most commonly used number is called the FICO score. It’s calculated for each borrower from that person’s credit report, which includes information such as payment history and amounts owed. FICO scores range from 300 to 850; the national average is about 680. But roughly four of 10 drivers have scores above 750, placing them among the very best borrowers. These “elite” drivers save an average of $783 each year on car insurance premiums (carinsurance.com June 16). “That adds up big time,” says Philip Heckman, director of youth programs at the Credit Union National Association. “If you had a FICO score of 750 or more from age 25 to age 65, you’d save a total of $25,340 over the average that people with similar driving records--but lower credit scores--would pay. That means you’d save enough extra cash to get one of the cars you’d be driving during that time for free.” The carinsurance.com report also supports the importance of building a good credit history as early as possible, Heckman adds. The average car insurance premium for drivers aged 16 to 24 is $3,152. But their young adult peers with no credit file pay an extra $1,000 a year.

The new hunt for airfare

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WASHINGTON (6/27/11)--The hunt for the best airfare is shape shifting again. If you don’t adjust your search methods to the times, you could find yourself paying a lot more for your flight than your row mate on the same flight (NPR June 21). It’s not enough to simply check Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and Expedia--not when you can employ powerful travel search engines that let you compare multiple websites at once for the best ticket prices, keep track of a trend in airfares, and sign up for deal alerts. Take a look at websites Kayak, Mobissimo, Bing, FareCompare, Airfarewatchdog and Hotwire. In addition, use these tips to save yourself more than a few bucks:
* Shop for your tickets in the middle of the week, when airlines post advertised sales. Stay away from weekends. * Be ready, be flexible, and don’t delay. In any minute more than two million transactions take place on the worldwide computerized reservation network. With the surge in airline use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, millions of people are instantly finding out when dirt-cheap deals are posted. Whether you get an alert from one of the search engines named above or from a social networking site, jump on it. These deals usually are gone in one to two hours. * Purchase tickets during a four-to-six week window before departure. Further out can cost more, and closer in can cost a lot more. There are some deals way in advance, but in general prices are highest eight to 10 weeks and two to three weeks in advance.
Many companies use social networking as an exclusive way to promote huge fare reductions (MoneyMix June). These sales sometimes don't even show up on an airline's website. Today’s airfare search motto is more relevant than ever: “Be prepared.” Carefully plan what dates and times you can fly, and understand that today’s airfare is just a small part of the cost of flying unless you’ve researched the ever-changing a la carte system of purchased amenities. You’ll save money by deciding in advance how you will purchase your ticket (you can avoid fees by booking directly at an airline’s website), choose your seat, change your ticket if needed, check your bags, and even arrange to eat a snack in flight. For more information, read “Timing the Market for Airline Tickets” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Credit repair shared branching on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (6/24/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program has advice for understanding bankruptcy, repairing your credit, and using credit union shared branching. 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:
* “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Personal Bankruptcy.” Lita Epstein, financial writer, Orlando, Fla., covers what you need to know before you consider filing for bankruptcy. * “The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Repairing Your Credit.” Edie Driskill, certified financial planner and author, Columbus, Ohio, tells how to reestablish credit after a problem. * “Credit Union Branch Use and Convenience on Vacation.” Craig Beach, senior vice president of marketing and business development, CO-OP Shared Branching, Atlanta, explains how credit union shared branching can help members who are traveling. * “Road Out of Debt: Bankruptcy and Other Solutions to Your Financial Problems.” Theodore Connolly, Esq., Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, and co-author, “The Road Out of Debt,” Boston, highlights strategies for solving financial problems.
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 watch the “Build Your Best Credit Score” and “Top 10 Reasons to Belong to a Credit Union” videos in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

401k plans must show admin costs next year

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NEW YORK (6/22/11)-For the first time next year, 401(k) plan participants will be able to see what they’re paying for their investments (The New York Times June 11). The Labor Department, which oversees 401(k) plans, is forcing investment companies to itemize all of the various expenses employers pay and to make the underlying fund costs separate from administrative costs. Workers should get account statements that make their mutual fund fees clearer, and should be able to better understand whether they are revenue sharing with their providers. Workplace retirement plans often include administrative fees and may also be revenue sharing with the investment company that manages the plans. Many mutual fund companies refund some of the expenses to the service provider running the plan to pay for its administrative costs. Here’s how revenue sharing works. When 401(k) plans started in the 1980s, employers (plan sponsors) generally paid the administrative costs. Over time, employees started asking for investments they could follow in the press. In addition, employers wanted to keep administrative costs under control. The solution was to put 401(k) money into mutual funds. Investment companies decided revenue sharing, rather than charging an administrative fee, was a better solution for all involved. Charging a flat 20 basis points to each plan participant for administrative fees each year sounds equitable until one considers that high-balance participants pay significantly more without necessarily getting more administrative service. Think of it this way: A 20-basis point draw on a $10,000 401(k) balance is $20, while the same draw on a $100,000 balance is $200. Don’t assume that every plan provider has been both charging administrative fees and revenue sharing, but do know that this Robin-Hood-like practice is more common than you may think. And previously, it has been the rare employer that breaks down and discloses all the costs you pay in your 401(k) plan. For related information, read “401(k) Loans Poach Nest Eggs” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Facebook feature threatens privacy

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NEW YORK (6/20/11)--The social networking website Facebook continues to roll out its new facial recognition feature for uploaded photos, “Tag Suggestions,” amidst privacy protection concerns (abcnews.go.com June 10). The new feature scans user-uploaded photos with facial recognition software to automatically--and without permission--identify people photographed in an attempt to make categorizing and sharing of photos easier for Facebook users. Advocacy groups in the U.S. and authorities across the globe are concerned the new feature is a danger to consumer privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and other advocacy organizations in the U.S. recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to order Facebook to suspend the feature. European Union data protection regulators and authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland announced in early June they are independently looking into the Facebook feature for possible rule violations (consumerreports.org June 13). Concerns surrounding the “Tag Suggestions” feature emphasize the need for Facebook users to adjust their privacy settings to prevent criminals from stealing personal information and using it to commit identity theft and fraud. Here’s how to adjust two important Facebook settings to better protect your privacy: * Tag Suggestions. While many Facebook users will find this new feature useful, you might want to disable it. Here’s how:
  1. Log in to your profile and select “Privacy Settings” under the “Account” drop-down menu located at the top right.
  2. Locate “Sharing on Facebook” and click on the “Customize Settings” link near the bottom of the section.
  3. In the “Things Others Share” section, click on the “Edit Settings” button next to the “Suggest photos of me to friends” option and select “Disable.”
* Contact Info. Your address, phone number, and even your birthday are pieces of information that can be used to steal your identity, exposing you to ID theft and fraud. Follow these steps to conceal this information:
  1. Log in to your profile and choose “Privacy Settings” under the “Account” drop-down menu located at the top right.
  2. Locate “Sharing on Facebook” and click on the “Customize Settings” link near the bottom of the section.
  3. In the “Contact information” section, click on the settings button next to each item such as your address, phone number, and e-mail address and select “Custom.”
  4. Choose the setting you believe is best; the “Only Me” setting hides the information from others; it can only be seen by you when logged in.
For more information, view the “How to Prevent Identity Theft” video in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Financial advice for servicemembers on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (6/17/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program covers hyperinflation claims, consumer resources for military families, money management for couples and financial implications of caring for older family members. 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:
* The perception of inflations issues, with Charles Jaffe, senior columnist, MarketWatch, San Francisco. Jaffe analyzes financial predictions made by the National Inflation Association. * “Better Business Bureau’s Military Line.” Brenda Linnington, director, Better Business Bureau’s Military Line, Arlington, Va., discusses consumer education and advocacy resources for servicemembers and their families. * “For Richer, For Poorer: Managing Your Finances to Live Happily Ever After.” Steven Smith, chairman, president/CEO, Finicity Corp., Salt Lake City, offers spending and saving advice for couples. * “Families Face Financial Crisis in Caring for Elderly Family Members.” Jatrice Martel Gaiter, executive vice president, Volunteers of America, Alexandria, Va., shares findings from a study on the state of aging in the U.S.
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 “Couples and Money: Reconciling a Spender-Saver Marriage” and listen to “Military Financial Institutions Help Soldiers” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Run your AC for less this summer

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MADISON, Wis. (6/15/11)--Summer doesn’t technically begin until June 21, but the heat is already on in many parts of the country. In early June, record-breaking heat swept Milwaukee; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; and other cities. And in Minneapolis, temperatures in the low 100s made June 7 the second earliest 100-degree reading since 1872, according to The Weather Channel. In extreme heat, it’s important--for your comfort and your health--to stay inside and keep cool. But if you’re concerned about soaring air-conditioning costs at home, don’t sweat it. You can crank the AC and still keep your energy bill under control. Use these suggestions from U.S. News and World Report (May 11) to air-condition your home for less:
* Mind the gaps. To prevent drafts, insulate older windows with plastic film, and use foam and caulking to seal other holes where cool air can escape. * Create some shade. Close blinds and shades to keep sunlight at bay. This helps your air conditioner maintain a cool temperature more easily. * Clean your filters. Some heating and cooling experts recommend cleaning your air-conditioning filters once a month to keep your unit working properly. * Use that thermostat. Programming your thermostat to automatically raise the temperature when no one is home can help you save money. * Unplug appliances. Plugged-in devices like your television and computer still use power even if they’re turned off. Unplug them or use a power strip with energy-saving features to curb costs. * Keep the oven off. Since using the oven heats up your entire home, your air conditioner has to work even harder to keep things cool. Cook with a toaster oven or on the stovetop instead. * Turn down the water heater. Opting for cooler showers during the summer months can help trim your energy bill. * Close off empty rooms. Shut the doors and vents of rooms that aren’t being used to ease up on your air conditioner’s workload.
For more ways to save money on housing expenses, read “Home Improvement Projects: It’s Not About Being ‘Handy’ ” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Three of five adults under parents financial wings

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DENVER (6/13/11)--Parents may be jeopardizing their own financial futures--taking on debt, cutting back saving, and delaying retirement--in return for opening their homes and wallets to boomerang adult children. As more offspring return to the nest when they’re no longer in school, parents are making significant sacrifices, some with long-term consequences. In a May 26 survey press release, the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) reported that 59% of parents are helping their adult children financially: 50% provide housing, 48% contribute to living expenses, 41% help with transportation costs, 35% pay for insurance, 29% dole out spending money, and 28% pay medical bills. Harris Interactive conducted the online survey in May with 700 adult children and 400 parents. About one quarter (26%) of parents in the survey said they took on more debt themselves, 13% put off buying a house or taking a vacation, and 7% delayed their own retirement. Hardship also revealed itself in nonfinancial ways: 30% said they gave up privacy when the kids moved back in (International Business Times May 28). Before opening your home or wallet, consider these suggestions from NEFE to encourage financial independence (SmartAboutMoney.org):
* Have the money talk. Do this before writing a check or allowing adult children to move back in. A candid discussion helps you understand where they are coming from, what their debt level is, and whether you can--and want to--help them through this difficult period. * Review your own finances. If giving financial support keeps you from paying bills or delays your own retirement, consider other ways to help, such as offering leads for higher-paying jobs, donating a used vehicle you no longer need, or offering housing in exchange for help with chores and utility costs. * Set limits. This applies to timeframes as well as dollar amounts. Be specific, and put all agreements in writing. * Insist on one-time bailouts. If you pay off a loan or a credit card, make it clear that it’s a one-time occurrence. Otherwise they won’t learn how to use credit wisely in the future.
For more information, click on “Help Young Adults Move Out of Your Checkbook” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Modeling financial behavior on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (6/10/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program provides advice for adopting a pet, being a financial role model, living a richer life, and avoiding divorce mistakes. 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:
* “Adopting and Caring for a Shelter Animal: How Much Will It Cost?” Jamie Scotto, adoptions and rescue director, Washington Animal Rescue League, Washington, D.C., lists expenses you might not have considered when adopting a pet. * “Are You a Good Financial Role Model for Your Kids?” Stuart Ritter, family financial expert, T. Rowe Price, Baltimore, shares five simple tips to help parents have better financial discussions with their kids. * “Seven Principles for a Richer Life.” Robert Pagliarini, certified financial planner and president, Pacifica Wealth, Mission Viejo, Calif., discusses proactive ways to work toward financial success. * “Five Financial Mistakes Women Make While Going Through Divorce.” Nicole Covganka, financial planner, Retirement Planning Group, Riverwoods, Ill., explains how women can avoid financial missteps when ending a marriage.
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 “Talk With Your Children About Family Finances” and read “Economy Inspires Parting Couples to Get Creative” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Examine relocating for new job

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McLEAN, Va. (6/6/11)--Relocating because of a new job? There are a few things you might want to check out first before you make the commitment. Among workers laid off in the past 12 months who found new jobs, 23% relocated to a new city or state, according to CareerBuilder.com. Many folks who relocate become instant landlords, renting the properties they leave behind, or tenants in their new communities. More than 500 midsize and large cities have seen a rise in the number of homes rented rather than owned (USAToday.com May 31). If you’re considering moving for a job, there are things other than employment to consider as well, advises (March 8):
* Costs--Moving is expensive, and fewer companies are willing to pay relocation costs these days. Twenty-eight percent of companies offer relocation lump-sum payments, but even those companies plan to reduce or cut relocation benefits, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 employee benefits survey. Look at living costs in the area you’re considering. It costs a two-parent, two-child family 50% more to live in the Washington, D.C., area than it would to live in, say, Macon, Ga. Use the calculator from the Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., to figure costs. * Look beyond the paycheck--Evaluate whether the overall compensation package is worth the move. Are there growth opportunities within the new organization? Do you have a comfortable cash cushion--six months’ living expenses--in case things don’t turn out as planned? * Skills, key areas--Identify places you’d be willing to move to for a job, but keep family needs in mind. Tap your network, attend industry conferences and events, and find contacts at companies that would be a good match for you. Make sure your skills will be transferable to a new location. Evaluate your skill set and experience, and decide if both would be a good fit for where you want to move. * Check unemployment rates--Even if the job you’re considering seems stable, what happens if you become unemployed again? Check out state unemployment rates at bls.gov. Before taking a job in another state, examine underlying reasons for a state’s unemployment rate, and figure how your occupation is expected to fare both long term and short term, according to The Wall Street Journal (March 31).
For more information about surviving a job loss, see the “Get Back in the Game After Losing a Job” Turning Point in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Sesame Street financial expert on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (6/3/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program features insight on financial education from a “Sesame Street” content adviser. 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:
* “Teaching Elmo and Cookie Monster About Spending, Sharing, and Saving.” Beth Kobliner, author, member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, and content adviser, “Sesame Street,” New York, talks about her involvement with the “Sesame Street” financial education initiative and shares what it’s like to teach Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Grover about money on camera. * “Seven Steps to Cheaper Airfare.” Stacy Johnson, certified public accountant and executive producer and president, Money Talk News, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., explains how you can find a deal on airline tickets. * “Don’t Trade the Headlines.” Bill Walsh, co-founder and president, Hennion & Walsh, Parsippany, N.J., discusses whether municipal bonds continue to offer safety and high levels of predictable income. * “Four Hot Scams: Don’t You Get Burned!” Edgar Dworsky, consumer advocate, ConsumerWorld.org and MousePrint.org, Boston, provides advice for avoiding the latest wire-transfer scams.
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 “Talk With Your Children About Family Finances” and “Don’t Fall for Fake Check Scams” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.