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Financial planning technology trends on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (10/1/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program, rebroadcast from an earlier taping, covers Financial Planning Week, wealth-building strategies, credit union technology developments and the truth about payday lending. 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:
* “Financial Planning Week: It’s Important to You and Your Family.” Ken McDonnell, program director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and American Savings Education Council, Washington, D.C., encourages families to tackle a financial issue this week and offers money-management tips for getting your bucks in a row. * “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” Ramit Sethi, founder and writer of iwillteachyoutoberich.com and co-founder of PBwiki, San Francisco, shares practical financial and wealth-building advice from his new book, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” * “Technology Trends at Your Credit Union.” Kathy Herziger-Snider, vice president of product development at CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., discusses new technologies at credit unions that can make your transactions and your personal finance experience better, faster, and more efficient. * “Payday Lending, Usury Laws, and Statutory Sleight of Hand.” Christopher Peterson, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, explains why high-interest payday loans are harmful to consumers and how these types of lending practices are still legal.
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 “Live Simply to Reap Savings” and watch the “Avoid Payday Lenders” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Help for long-term unemployed

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WASHINGTON (9/29/10)--The nation’s unemployment rate continues to hover near its highest level in 27 years at 9.6%, despite 3,000 fewer Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits during the first weeks of September (MarketWatch.com Sept. 16). While this reflects a slight improvement in the jobs market, long-term unemployment continues to be a problem. Four of 10 (42%) of those filing for unemployment have been out of a job for six months or more (SmartMoney.com Sept. 15). It can be difficult for those who have been out of work for a long time to think of different methods for finding employment. These three ideas can help the long-term unemployed land a relevant job:
* Temp agencies. Temporary work lets you continue searching for work while generating income, provides an opportunity to network with other professionals, and potentially to be hired full time by a company for whom you perform temporary work . * Résumé gaps. Potential employers may view large employment gaps on your résumé negatively. Fill gaps by including any volunteer work, business blogging, or other relevant activities on your résumé. This demonstrates you have been actively using or improving job skills during your long-term unemployment. * Job search. More work opportunities become available when job seekers expand their search beyond previous roles. Examine how your skills might apply to different positions in your industry, or consider how your abilities could apply to a different industry.
For more information, read “Keep Your Head When Facing Job Loss” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Job loss changes credit card usage rules

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NEW YORK (9/27/10)--If you already lost your job or expect to get a pink slip in the near future, throw out some commonly held bedrock principles for using credit cards. Your No. 1 priority is to conserve cash (CreditCards.com Sept. 17). In good times, the rules are clear: Pay credit card bills in full, or at least pay more than the minimum due. Use windfalls--tax refunds, bonuses, inheritance--to make extra payments and zero out existing balances as quickly as you can. Use credit cards for emergencies. When faced with a job loss, the rules change. It’s not a good idea to use credit cards as a fallback. If you’ve relied on credit cards because the equity in your home dried up, you already may be overextended. And lingering economic troubles could make it difficult to find another job--up to six months or more (Walletpop.com Sept. 20). Follow these revised rules so job woes don’t turn into credit card woes:
* Build an emergency fund first, then reduce card balances. When faced with the choice of saving vs. paying down debt, experts agree that beefing up your reserves--to at least six months of living expenses--takes precedence during hard times. At the same time, continue to make minimum payments on all debts: Draw up a budget and cut out or cut back on anything that’s not necessary. Find spending leaks by tracking where your money goes each day. Stash the cash you save in an insured account. Obviously, building your emergency fund will be easier before you lose your job. * Avoid late payments. The late payment fee is the least of your worries: Employers can look at your credit report before hiring you. If you’re unemployed, missing payments, and your credit score drops, you’re less likely to get hired. * Drastically cut back on credit card use. You don’t want your balances to balloon out of control if you’re unemployed or think a layoff is looming. * Don’t use credit cards to prop up your lifestyle. The sooner you make changes to your spending habits, the less likely you’ll wind up in credit trouble if your job search drags on for several months. * Stop thinking of plastic as a financial backup plan. Card issuers can reduce your credit lines at any time, and new credit is not easy to get. Experts advise you use existing lines of credit wisely. Even a small increase in spending could trigger a review by some bank card issuers, and changes could result in higher interest rates or lower credit limits, which could hurt your credit score. * Switch to cash when you can, but avoid cash advances. Pulling out cash makes you more conscious about your spending, but using cash advances will cost high interest rates and fees, leading to even more debt.
Finally, this rule holds true in good times and bad: Come clean with your creditors. Don’t wait until you miss a payment. Call creditors and explain your situation--the advance warning likely will give you more leverage if you need to negotiate a payment plan. Ask if they’ll temporarily lower your monthly payments and reduce interest. Do this before your situation becomes dire. For more information, read, “Get Back in the Game After Losing a Job,” in Home & Family Resource Center.

Auto insurance overdraft protection on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (9/24/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio Program, rebroadcast from an earlier taping, addresses online consumer resources from the U.S. government, auto insurance and overdraft protection for members of the armed forces, and tax help for the elderly. 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:
* “Federal Citizen Information Center: Consumer Resources Online.” Teresa Nasif, director of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Federal Citizen Information Center, Washington, D.C., highlights the many resources available to consumers online at pueblo.gsa.gov. * “10 Things You Need to Know About Auto Insurance for Military Personnel.” Ethan Ewing, president, Bills.com, San Mateo, Calif., explains how servicemembers can insure their vehicles while away on active duty or when moving to another state for service orders. * “Non-Sufficient Funds Fees and Overdraft Protection Programs at Military Financial Institutions.” Marocco Roberts, U.S. Army banking and credit union liaison officer, discusses financial services and protections available to members of the military. * “AARP Tax-Aide: Tax Help for the Elderly.” Bonnie Speedy, national director of AARP Tax-Aide and vice president of the AARP Foundation in Washington, D.C., talks about free tax preparation assistance available to the elderly and to people with low to moderate incomes.
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 “Your Tax Bracket Tells Just Part of the Story” and watch the “Use Direct Deposit and Automatic Transfers to Simplify Finances” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Act now for energy tax breaks

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NEW YORK (9/22/10)--Act soon to save some green while going green. Energy tax incentive deals expire at the end of this year and it’s unclear if Congress will renew them (msn.com Sept. 10). Consider these tax breaks but be sure to read the fine print when making purchases. Not everything advertised as “energy saving” or “energy efficient” qualifies: The nonbusiness energy property credit equals 30% of the cost of energy-efficient products. Qualifying products include energy-saving doors, windows, insulation, metal and asphalt roofs, water heaters, biomass stoves, and heating and cooling equipment. Basically you can spend up to $5,000 on single or multiple products for your principal residence that you own and live in and get $1,500 (30% of $5,000 = $1,500) back as a tax credit. This credit can be used in 2009 and 2010. If you got the entire credit in 2009, you can’t get an additional break in 2010. Shop carefully because not all products qualify. Check the Energy Star’s website and ask for the manufacturer’s certification statement that verifies the product qualifies for the tax credit. Be sure to check on installation costs; they aren’t covered for all products. Projects must be completed by Dec. 31. Use Internal Revenue Service Form 5695 to claim the credit. Remember to save your receipts, any contractor certifications, and the manufacturer’s certification statement. The energy efficient appliance rebate program provides an incentive to replace older, inefficient models. Each state and U.S. territory designed its own rebate program and a few already have used up allocated funds. Some rebates require preregistration with a mail-in rebate form; others provide a voucher to use at time of purchase. Check the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) website for details. This site is the only official DOE-sponsored site; be cautious of fake sites. To learn more details about the appliance rebate program, read “Appliance Rebates: Save Now and Later” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Online car buying is growing

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NEW YORK (9/20/19)--Will the car-buying process shift to the Internet in the next 10 years? That’s the view of some analysts speaking with CNNMoney.com, which reported an increase in online car buying (CNNMoney.com Sept. 10). Some large dealerships--Autonation, the country’s biggest chain, and Sonic Automotive--are experimenting with upfront Internet pricing that serves as the initial point of contact for buyers. Most consumers already use the Internet to window shop and gather information. But now more are completing the transaction online--hoping to avoid those dreaded face-to-face sit downs with a salesperson. For consumers, the struggle between dealers and shoppers is shifting in favor of the buyer while dealerships, already faced with slim margins, look for a faster sales turnaround. The practiced online shopper can pit dealers against one another from home. The appeal of online shopping is simple for consumers: There’s less hassle. It’s fast and convenient. Online car buying has become more streamlined and competitive, according to Edmunds.com. It has shopped online exclusively for its fleet-testing vehicles during the past eight years. Michelle Dosher, managing editor of Home & Family Finance Resource Center and MoneyMix at the Credit Union National Association, Madison, Wis., offers this advice:
* Line up your financing so you can be a cash-paying customer. Shop around for rates, starting first at your credit union. * Know exactly what you want to buy--the make, model, options, even the color. * Avoid going to the dealership. Call, send an e-mail, or employ a car-buying website to get bids from competing dealerships. Ask them to send you a copy of the window sticker and the invoice price, which is what you are really after. You’ll be surprised how many will do so when they know they are bidding against another provider. * Don’t fill out a credit application from the dealership before you have a firm price. Dealers use it to see whether you’re a qualified buyer. * Resist the temptation to go to the dealership before getting a firm quote. Remind dealers that other providers are meeting your request for a firm bid.
If you buy from an individual or through an unknown provider, Dosher also reminds online shoppers to beware of potential fraud. Visit a loan officer at your credit union to discuss auto financing details. And, to run the numbers, use the “Calculator: What Will My Car Payment Be?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Budget trouble disaster prep card liability on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (9/17/10)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program provides guidance for staying out of budget trouble, preparing for a disaster, and understanding the liability and fraud protections associated with your debit or credit card. 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:
* “Stay Off the Budget Trouble D List.” Susan Tiffany, certified credit union financial counselor and director of consumer periodicals, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., outlines the five behaviors that can sabotage a budget and offers advice for getting your finances back on track. * “Are You Prepared to Survive a Disaster?” Laura Howe, vice president, American Red Cross, Washington, D.C., discusses necessary steps to take before, during, and after an emergency or natural disaster. * “Debit and Credit Card Liability/Protection From Fraud.” Jennifer Kerry, vice president, credit issuer processing, CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., explains liability rules for lost or stolen cards and fraud control features built into the card authorization system.
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 “Stay Off the Budget Trouble D List” and “Preserve Your Family’s Paper Trail” and watch the “Debit vs. Credit” and “Guard Your Plastic Cards” videos in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Your portal to the land of the free

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MADISON, Wis. (9/15/10)--The good old U.S.A. is called the land of the free, and no one knows this better than the smart consumer. Anyone willing to take the time to look--and ask--around is sure to find bargains at the best price of all: nothing. Where to begin? How about the place that has catered to cheapskates since the days of Benjamin Franklin? As one Minnesota credit union member told readers of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA’s) Home & Family Finance Resource Center: "Visit your local library--if you haven't been there for a while, you'll be surprised, as I was, to see what they have to offer. Aside from current books and magazines, you can get free or very cheap DVD rentals. In addition, our county libraries have free museum passes--they give you no-cost admission to many area museums and attractions. No strings attached. It's a great way to get truly free entertainment.” One library resource you’re sure to find useful is the annual list of “fabulous freebies” from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine (Sept. 1). But there’s much more. Libraries all around the country are coming up with ways to offer unusual services for free or a small fee. For example, at many branches you can rent framed artwork for your home. Some libraries circulate toys for kids and household tools for grownups. You might even be able to check out an electricity monitor to modify your home electrical use or borrow an e-reader to take on vacation. Ask library staff to help you track down free opportunities in your area. Many communities have neighborhood festivals and art fairs. Almost all museums have free days or partial days--find out when they are and arrange your visit around those days. See if your children's museum, science center, zoo, or aquarium has free times or free special events. Depending on where you live, the opportunities keep coming. For example, if you're in a college town, find out about free performances by music department faculty or students. If your community has an orchestra or symphony, see if it allows free access--even if it's for rehearsal time. And speaking of free access, most public libraries allow you to get online at no charge. On the Web, participating credit unions provide free financial advice for heads of household (in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center), young adults (MoneyMix), and preretirees (Plan It). With the help of your friendly librarian, you don’t have to be Poor Richard to save a pretty penny.

Who has an 800 credit score

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NEW YORK (9/13/10)--Some people go a lifetime striving to hit a hole-in-one in golf or bowl a 300 game. Others are reaching for an 850 credit score. Ismat Sarah Mangla interviewed several individuals with high scores and asked them to share their success stories (Money Magazine Aug. 26). Chris Peplinski, a stay-at-home dad from Rogers, Ark., has a score of 813. He reads up on the elements that make up a FICO credit score and checks his number every three months. Leland Lim, 41, has a score of 806. The San Francisco Bay Area doctor checks his reports regularly. However, his score suffered from a single error until he had it corrected. Brenda, 69, and Dick Husemann, 66, have matching scores of 818. The retired Wilmington, N.C., couple keeps balances low, charging less than 10% of their available credit. While this keeps their scores low, they also commit to never missing a payment. Payment history accounts for 35% of the FICO score, and making timely payments is the No. 1 way to improve a credit score. FICO, the Minneapolis-based company that created the widely used credit score model, considers five elements when calculating a score:
* Payment history; * Amount owed; * New credit; * Amount of available credit; and * Types of credit used.
myFICO.com also offers information about the basic elements that determine a score. Those interested in seeing their credit scores can request a free annual credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com. Users can report any errors directly to the report provider. While an 850 credit score is a quest for only a few, pushing into the upper 700s is on the minds of many. For more suggestions about improving your own credit score, see the Home & Family Finance Resource Center video “Build Your Best Score.”

HandFF Radio features financial literacy resources National Money Night Talk

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WASHINGTON (9/10/10)--Sunday’s Home and Family Finance Radio program covers financial literacy resources for parents and children and also gears up for National Money Night Talk, a personal finance initiative that encourages families to sit down and have the “money” talk on Sept. 16. 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:
* “Financial Literacy Resources for Kids and Parents,” with Madeleine Green, accredited financial counselor, retired professor of family and consumer science at the University of Maryland, and author, Barnesville, Md. * “National Money Night Talk,” with Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and author of “Not Your Parents’ Money Book: Making, Saving, and Spending Your Own Money,” New York.
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 “Speaking of the Economy…What Do You Tell Your Kids?” and watch the “Talk With Your Children About Family Finances” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Mark Sept. 16 for the Money Talk

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NEW YORK (9/8/10)--Money skills are crucial to the next generation’s ability to live responsibly and independently. Will they get all the important personal finance information they need at school this fall? Probably not. But, there’s something you can do about it. Prepare yourself and your child for National Money Talk Night (ForbesAug. 25). Taking advantage of the back-to-school atmosphere, American Express, with Jean Chatzky, is sponsoring National Money Talk Night, a time for parents and their children to talk about personal finance on Sept. 16. The idea for the night arose from discussions Chatzky, a nationally known personal finance author and media personality, held with American Express, the Jump$tart Coalition and the Council on Economic Education. Chatzky has prepared the tools, information, and even the words you need to have the Money Talk with your child. The information is available for three age groups: middle school, high school and college students. Here’s what you do:
* Visit MoneyNightTalk now. Download and view resources so you can get your own questions answered in advance. Pledge to have the Money Talk with your child. Print the talking points appropriate to your child’s age group. * Mark Thursday, Sept. 16 on your calendar and ask your teenagers and young adult children to do the same. *On Sept. 16, sit down with your kids and have the Money Talk. You can use the MoneyNightTalk website or personal finance information on your credit union’s website during your discussion to help answer your kids’ questions.
Take note of the money attitudes and ideas that come out of your discussions. If you don’t have children, invite your spouse or significant other to this national event. Use the talking points to help you discuss your financial goals.

Retirement saving identity theft topics on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (9/3/10)--Policy experts on Sunday's H&FF Radio show tackle a range of issues facing families during these tough times: retirement saving, financial empowerment for domestic violence survivors, identity theft, and overdrafts. This is a rebroadcast of the H&FF Radio program that first aired Oct. 18, 2009. 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:
* "Five Rules to Retirement Saving," with Bill Losey, certified financial planner and author, Bill Losey Retirement Solutions, Wilton, New York; * "Financial Empowerment for Domestic Violence Survivors," with Sue Else, president, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Washington, D.C.; * "Why We're Losing the War Against Identity Theft," with Robert Siciliano, television news correspondent, author, and security expert, Boston, Mass.; and * "Spending Money You Don't Have? Overdrafts Are Telling You Something," with Susan Tiffany, director, consumer periodicals, Center for Personal Finance, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis.
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 “Overdrafts Are Telling You Something” and watch the “How to Prevent Identity Theft” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.