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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Cooperatives take center stage on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (9/28/12)--Because October is Co-op Month and 2012 is the International Year of the Cooperative, Sunday's H&FF Radio hosted several leaders who explained what co-ops are and how they help us, how to find or start one, and the difference between credit unions and banks.

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:

  • "October is Co-op Month/2012 is the International Year of the Cooperative." Adam Schwartz, founder and principal of consulting firm The Cooperative Way, Springfield, Va., explains the purpose of co-ops--there are 29,000 in the U.S.--and how people use them, often unaware of just what they are.
  • "Find a Co-op--or Start Your Own." Andrea R. Cumpston, director of communications and marketing for the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), Washington, D.C., talks about how NCBA helps consumers locate co-ops, as well as how to start one.
  • "The Diversity of Co-ops." Jim Bausell, chief operating officer of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, Arlington, Va., discusses the organization's website, which helps consumers conduct energy checkups, and how co-ops help consumers in everyday life.
  • "The Credit Union Difference." Michelle Dosher, a managing editor for two Credit Union National Association (CUNA) consumer microsites, outlines the difference between banks and credit unions (including their status as cooperatives), the qualifications for joining a credit union and how credit unions benefit 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 "Majority of Consumers: Thumbs Up to Co-op Businesses" and watch "Top 10 Reasons to Belong to a Credit Union" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Grandparents Dont give til it hurts

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NEW YORK (9/25/12)--It's only natural for grandparents to want to help their grandchildren financially. But the weak economy and job market are spurring a growing number of older people to give until it hurts (The Wall Street Journal Sept. 14). Financial planners say that's a mistake.

Grandparents living off their savings should consider how gifts they make now, drawing down investment principal, will affect their future earnings. In the worst-case scenario, such gifts could wipe out their savings before they die.

The good news is that there are ways to keep giving now while avoiding trouble later in life. Here's the collective wisdom of grandparents and financial planners across the country:

  • Pare your gifts to offset the pain. Giving to grandchildren isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. You might  be able to stay on track just by scaling back a bit.
  • Make loans instead. Some grandparents opt to become lenders. Loans to their grandchildren can serve as a less formal alternative to co-signing credit union or bank loans. But it's wise to provide specific repayment instructions.
  • Create a teaching moment. Use stocks to impart investing and financial-planning lessons to grandkids, especially if you'd like to pass along the assets anyway.
  • Delay grandkids' gratification. One of the best ways to make gifts to grandchildren is posthumously--leaving them a Roth IRA (individual retirement account), from which inherited withdrawals are free of income tax.
Although heirs have to take distributions every year, they can spread them across their life expectancy, so younger inheritors could choose to leave much of the account intact, with any future earnings income-tax-free as well.

  • Practice equality. Whichever approach you use, think about conflicts that could arise if one grandchild gets more than the others. In the worst-case scenario, family members could wind up in court over such disparities.
For more information, listen to "Retirement Planning in Uncertain Times" and read "Four Key Steps to 'No Regrets' Retirement" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio features FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen

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WASHINGTON (9/21/12)--Along with introducing new FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen, Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program covered success strategies for a tough economy and ways to make your money last.

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:

  • "The Federal Trade Commission's Work on Behalf of Consumers." Host Paul Berry introduces Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen, of Virginia, sworn in as the first Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission appointed by President Barak Obama. Ohlhausen will address such key issues as privacy and mobile devices, and understanding how data are collected.
  • "Everyone Can Be Successful." Well-known author and radio show host, Grant Cardone, Los Angeles, talks about his new book, "Sell or Be Sold," which suggests we can't wait for the economy to get better in order to be successful ourselves.
  • "Don't Outlive Your Dollars." John Addison, CEO of Primerica, Duluth, Ga., shares results of a study that shows two-thirds of middle-class Americans admit to making costly financial mistakes. He offers dollar-saving advice.
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 "Learn to Evaluate Financial Information" and watch "Investing: Dollar Cost Averaging" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Online Medicare tool helps you inspect potential nursing homes

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NEW YORK (9/18/12)--Medicare has revamped its online tool to help you inspect, compare, and get guidance when choosing a nursing home for your loved one (The New York Times Sept. 6).

The new, unbiased, user-friendly version of Nursing Home Compare became available in July. The tool, part of Medicare.gov, provides full text reports from nursing home inspectors. Visit Medicare.gov and search for "nursing home compare." Type in your ZIP code and click "Show Nursing Homes" to see a table of all facilities that are certified to participate in Medicare or Medicaid within a radius of your choice--between one and 100 miles.

A star rating system lets you quickly compare distance, overall ratings, health inspections, staffing and quality ratings among the facilities in your area. You can limit your parameters in one or more ways, for example, by searching for nursing homes that are within a continuing-care retirement community. Click the check boxes for as many as three facilities at a time to compare them side by side.

Click on the name of any facility and get additional information such as the number of certified beds. The site is easy to navigate in order to obtain full reports about health inspections, complaints, staffing, penalties, quality measures and so forth.

Nursing Home Compare is a helpful tool to carefully consider and share with your doctor or other health-care providers. More important: Once you've selected the nursing homes you want to consider, visit each to ask questions, talk with residents and staff  (not just the marketing department), observe how staff interacts with residents, and inspect the latest resident and staff survey results.

Keep up with Medicaid proposed changes requirements

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RICHMOND, Va. (9/18/12)--Medicare has drawn a lot of attention in recent political campaigns, but if you're one of millions of seniors who fear long-term care needs will outlast resources, pay close attention to the details about Medicaid as well (Richmond Times-Dispatch Sept. 9).

Although the eligibility requirements to get Medicaid coverage for nursing-home care vary by state, knowing what it takes to qualify in general today will help you shed clarity on proposed and ongoing changes in the program:

  • Most states require that you have no more than about $2,000 in assets such as cash, savings, investments, or other financial resources that can be turned into cash. This does not include your home--if, in most states, it's valued at less than $525,000. Nor does it include your personal possessions and household goods, one vehicle, prepaid funeral plans, and a small amount of life insurance.
  • If, after your nursing home stay, you can't return to your home, Medicaid can take the proceeds of your house to help reimburse nursing home costs unless your spouse or other dependent relative lives in the home.
  • Once you qualify, you must turn over to Medicaid almost all sources of income, such as Social Security and pension checks, to pay for your care.
  • Just in case you wonder about giving away assets to qualify faster, Medicaid officials will look at your financial records for the past five years to find suspicious asset transfers.
  • If you enter a nursing home and your spouse remains at home, Medicaid has special rules allowing your healthy spouse to keep half of your joint assets up to about $114,000. That amount varies state by state. The healthy spouse also may keep the house, furniture, household goods, and one automobile, as well as a portion of your joint monthly income.
Call your local Medicaid office (call 800-633-4227 for local contact information) or contact a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor (shiptalk.org or 800-677-1116) for eligibility details.

Saving school days and living cheap on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (9/14/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program discussed the importance of early retirement saving, longer school days/years and financially independent kids.

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:

  • "Financial Security for Young Adults." Stuart Ritter, senior financial planner, T. Rowe Price, Easton, Md., tells listeners that no matter what they do, they should save close to 15% of their income for retirement.
  • "Longer School Day/Year." Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president, National Center on Time & Learning, Boston, talks about the advantages of extending the school day and the school year.
  • "America's Cheapest Family." New York Times best-selling authors Steve and Annette Economides, Phoenix, share tips for teaching kids to be financially independent.
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 "Don't Miss Out on Retirement Plan Pretax Dollars" and "Incoming Freshmen: Increase Merit-Based Scholarships Through Appeal" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Not just for farm families Drought tips resources

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DULLES, Va. (9/11/12)--Many communities continue to struggle with one of the worst droughts to hit the U.S. in more than 50 years, and you don't have to be a farmer, rancher, or small-business owner to feel the effects. Your grocery budget could derail quickly unless you take steps to drought-proof it now.

Expect scorched corn and soy crops to bump up the cost of meat, soft drinks, fast food and processed food well into 2013 (Huffington Post Aug. 16). Corn and soy and their byproducts--pervasive in processed food--are in about one of four food items, including hot dogs, packaged cake mixes, margarine, and frozen yogurt.

To save money, cut back on processed food. Consider switching to organic for some foods. Organic fields out-produce conventional ones during droughts, according to a 30-year farming study by Rodale Institute. Buy fresh food locally to reduce shipping and storage costs, which are passed along to you at the grocery store.

Also, be aware of energy ratios, further price drivers. Chicken meat production, for example, consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output. In contrast, beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. Raising broiler chickens requires 3,500 liters of water to produce a kilogram of meat, compared with 2,000 liters for soybean production, 1,912 liters for rice, 900 liters for wheat, and just 500 liters for potatoes.

Farmers and affected small businesses can seek drought assistance to help with recovery:

  • Credit unions:  Last month President Barack Obama announced a relief package that included a provision to increase lending to small farmers and other businesses affected by the drought. The package designates roughly 1,000 of the nation's 7,200 credit unions as low-income credit unions, exempt from federal caps on small business lending, provided they opt-in.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: For 2012 drought disaster updates, including a drought disaster designation map depicting the status of each county in the U.S., visit USDA's Drought and Disaster Assistance site (use the resource link). If your county is affected, you may qualify for emergency loans.
  • Farm Aid grants to farmers: The Family Farm Disaster Fund provides relief for farm families whose crops and farmland are being devastated by the drought. Call Farm Aid at 800-FARM-AID or visit the Farm Aid website. (Use the link).
  • U.S. Small Business Administration Drought Disaster Assistance: Small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations of any size that have been affected by the 2012 drought may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help cover qualifying operating expenses. The interest rate is 4% for businesses and 3% for nonprofits, with terms up to 30 years. Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible. Visit the SBA link for more information.
  • USDA Disaster and Drought Assistance:  Find information about emergency loans, haying and grazing, frequently asked questions about crop insurance, and more at usda.gov/drought. 
  • USDA Food Aid Disaster Assistance:  Find information about food banks, state offices of emergency management, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) in your state, and more. Use the link.
  • Cooerative Extension Service: Your county and state extension offices have drought resources. Visit the link and click on your state and county.
For more information, listen to "Are You Prepared to Survive a Disaster?" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio talks student security marketing to Latinos

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WASHINGTON (9/7/12)--Sunday's Home & Family Finance Radio program shared ways to protect your college student's identity and property, and discussed bridging the gap with Spanish speakers.

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:

  • "Samsung vs. Apple: Consumer Impact." Host Paul Berry discusses this case's verdict and what Apple's $1.5 billion win over alleged patent infringement means to you.
  • "Protecting Your Child at School." Kim Lankford, contributing editor, Kiplinger Magazine, Washington, D.C., covers protecting your college student's identity, phishing scams and renter's insurance.
  • "Respecting the Latino Market." It's Hispanic Heritage Month, and Robert Coven, president and founder, Marketing to Latinos, Athens, Ga., shares details about bridging the divide between the English- and Spanish-speaking business worlds.
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 "Parents Raid Retirement Savings for College Expenses" and "Child ID Theft: When Ignorance Isn't Bliss" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.