March 27, 2013 5:24 pm
(BPT)—Everyone makes money mistakes. Some are harmless - like writing last year's date on checks or buying a big-screen TV the day before they go on sale. Others can be downright harmful, especially when they could mean the difference between getting a good interest rate and paying thousands more in interest over the life of a loan.
Although uncommon, errors can occur in your credit report. Ensuring everything is being reported accurately is key to unlocking the benefits of a positive credit history. A strong, accurate credit report will help you get the credit you want at the best rates available. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to notify lenders when you believe something is being reported incorrectly so that the information can be updated in the lender's records as well as in your credit report.
In order to find errors, you should check your credit report regularly. Websites like freecreditscore.com can help. By enrolling in freecreditscore.com, subscribers receive unlimited access to their credit report and score, and the chance to get credit score alerts, identity protection alerts and fraud resolution support. A mobile app allows users to monitor their credit on the go, and monthly reports and statements can help consumers stay on top of their credit and be aware of changes quickly.
When you review your credit report, check for these five issues:
1. Identification that doesn't belong to you - Your credit report lists information that is reported by lenders as belonging to you. Look for variations in name spelling, names you've never used, different street numbers or Social Security numbers. They may just reflect typos in a lender's records. But, they also could be a sign of identity theft. In either case, once found, the credit reporting company can help you correct the information or assist with fraud recovery.
2. Accounts that don't belong to you - Like variations in identity information, an unrecognized account may be a sign of fraud that requires immediate action. Know that accounts may be reported under a name you don't recognize. For example, a retail account may be reported under the name of the lender that actually manages the account for the store. If so, it would be no cause for concern, but it's best to monitor your report for extra peace of mind.
3. Incorrect payment status - Late payments hurt credit scores more than anything else. If an account is reported as late but you made the payment on time, you can contact the credit reporting agency to help get the information updated.
4. Public records that don't belong to you - Your credit report can include civil judgments, tax liens and bankruptcy public records. If your credit shows a lien against you for a home you don't own, or you have never declared bankruptcy but your report shows a court record or account as included in bankruptcy, your credit can be affected.
5. Inquiries you didn't make - Your credit report contains a list of creditors who have asked for it. Each entry on the list is called an inquiry. If you see inquiries you don't recognize, it could be a sign of fraud.
Your credit report likely won't have any errors, but if it does, one thing is certain: they can adversely affect your credit score, thereby hindering your ability to secure credit at favorable terms. The best way to spot credit report errors is to stay on top of your credit and to review your report regularly.
March 27, 2013 5:24 pm
(Family Features)—Taking good care of your lawn requires the right equipment -- and that includes the right lawn mower. But with so many options available, how do you know which lawn mower is right for you?
Know Your Yard
Spend a few minutes assessing your yard. How big is it? Is it flat and smooth, or does it slope? Do you have trees and garden beds to mow around? All of these will factor into the kind of lawn mower you choose.
- Size - If your yard is smaller than half an acre, a walk-behind mower will work just fine for you. For yards larger than that, you may want to consider a riding mower.
- Topography - If your yard has uneven terrain, a self-propelled mower will make cutting up hill much quicker and easier.
- Obstacles - For mowing around trees and landscape beds, pay attention to the mower's maneuverability and ease-of-use when making tight turns.
- Turf - The thickness and coarseness of your grass will play a part in how much power you need to ensure a clean cut. Lawns with thicker, tougher grass will need a mower with higher horsepower and larger wheels.
- Additional yard tasks - If your list of seasonal chores includes collecting fall leaves, fertilizing your lawn or removing snow, look for a lawn tractor with attachment options that can help keep your yard in good shape year round.
Operating any piece of power equipment requires taking safety precautions. Before you buy a mower, make sure you know what safety features come standard. For example, the blades on John Deere riding lawn mowers will automatically shut off if the operator leaves the seat while the blades are in motion. And, be sure to familiarize yourself with the operator's manual so you understand all of the features on your equipment.
March 27, 2013 5:24 pm
Rent control. Government-imposed restrictions on the amount of rent a property owner can charge.
March 27, 2013 5:24 pm
A: They often give themselves away. The telltale signs:
Pressure is used to get you to sign a contract;
Verifying the contractor’s name, address, phone number and credentials is impossible;
Cash payments are only accepted, not checks made out to a company;
Payment for the entire job is demanded up-front, whereas most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50% of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33% for large jobs.
The contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home;
The contractor offers information that is out-of-date or no longer valid;
No references are available;
An inability by the contractor to communicate the project well;
Exceptionally long guarantees are offered;
The contractor fails to listens and talks over you; and
The contractor fails to notify you of your right to cancel the contract within three days; this “right of recision” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.
March 26, 2013 6:38 pm
(BPT) - Saving for retirement is a scary prospect for many Americans. In fact, just 14 percent feel confident they will have enough money to live on when they retire, according to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And 60 percent say they have less than $25,000 saved for retirement, the survey reveals.
Retirement planning and saving doesn't have to be frightening or fruitless. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to preparing financially for retirement, the more you know, the more likely you are to succeed - and feel secure about your future in your golden years.
How much is enough?
Uncertainty over how much they need to save is a big concern among workers. Thirty-four percent of Americans have no retirement savings at all, according to a poll by Harris Interactive. How much you need to save now in order to have a good life when you retire depends on many factors, including your current income and age, the age at which you plan to retire and the expenses you anticipate you'll face during retirement.
Fortunately, retirement calculators can help you get a better picture of how much you need to save. You'll find plenty of calculators and information about saving for retirement from resources like freecreditscore.com. The calculators can give you an idea of how much income you'll need from investments to live on during retirement, and how much of your current income you need to save between now and retirement.
Crunching credit numbers
Another important consideration is how you will interact with credit when you retire. It's important to manage credit wisely during retirement, just as it is throughout your adult life.
Studies show that many Americans don't regularly monitor their credit, which can be a costly mistake. In fact, 65 percent of Americans have not ordered a copy of their credit report within the past year, and 31 percent don't know their credit score, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling's Financial Literacy Survey.
Your credit report and score are important during retirement for a number of reasons. First, your score directly affects the cost of many important financial needs, such as auto insurance and interest rates. Also, while you should strive to minimize debt during retirement, it may not be practical - or even desirable - to completely eliminate credit use in your golden years. Finally, not keeping an eye on your credit report and score may mean you fail to quickly catch instances of fraud or identity theft. Senior citizens are often a favorite target for identity thieves and scammers.
Understanding your credit - leading up to retirement and during - should be a key part of your retirement planning. Websites like freecreditscore.com can help by offering enrolled members monthly statements, credit reports, credit score alerts, identity protection alerts and fraud resolution support.
Understanding your Social Security benefits
Too often, people planning for retirement either rely too much on Social Security or overlook it altogether. Neither route is best. It makes sense to incorporate Social Security as part of your overall retirement saving plan, as long as you understand what to expect from the program.
The Social Security Administration provides every taxpayer with statements about how much they can expect to receive when they retire. Your SSA statement is now available online. Simply log on to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount for an estimate of the amount of Social Security benefits you could receive upon retiring. Knowing how much you can expect from Social Security can help you plan your retirement savings strategies.
Saving for retirement doesn't have to be intimidating. It's never too late - or too early - to take control of your retirement savings goals.
March 26, 2013 6:38 pm
(Family Features)—Spring into action and surprise guests at your Easter gathering with eggcellent desserts and treats. From pastel-colored cakes to homemade kid-friendly candies, Wilton has simple ideas to brighten any holiday table and help you make delicious sweet treats that will have your guests hunting for more.
"Holiday get-togethers are the perfect time to try new recipes, have fun in the kitchen and showcase your baking skills," says Nancy Siler, vice president of consumer affairs at Wilton. "Get the kids involved with candy molds and Easter-themed cupcake kits, or add an element of surprise with a festive cake that reveals its pastel perfection when sliced."
Try these tips from Wilton to make your desserts hop off the table:
Celebrate Spring Fashion:
Play up seasonal pastel colors by using an ombre technique. Fade through shades of rose, aqua or mint to add personality and chic spring flare to your cake.
Some 'Bunny' Special: I
nvolve kids in the process; let them put their creativity to work by adding finishing touches like seasonal nonpareils, bunny with jelly bean icing decorations and sprinkles.
: Impress guests by creating your own candy lollipops with Wilton's Easter Candy Making Kit Mega Pack. From Easter eggs to butterflies, there are fun and tasty shapes to tempt guests of all ages.
Basketful of Fun:
Display your Easter candies and sweets in spring floral themed baking cups, and send guests home with leftovers in bunny treat bags and boxes for a festive touch.
March 26, 2013 6:38 pm
(Family Features)—Freshen up your home with a simple pantry staple that can handle all your cleaning needs without the harsh chemicals or heavy price tag. Here are some fast and easy ways to get your home looking, feeling and smelling fresh in no time with baking soda.
Destroy Kitchen Odors
- Deodorize smelly drains and disposals, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing by pouring baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water.
- Absorb lingering food odors in the dishwasher with just a sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda in the bottom.
- Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to neutralize the odor (4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water).
- Keep recyclables from smelling unpleasant by sprinkling baking soda on top as you add to the container. You can also clean the recycling container with baking soda on a damp sponge.
Safely Clean Kids' Rooms and Toys
Tackle the Bathroom
- Freshen up stuffed animals that can collect everyday odors by sprinkling with baking soda. Let sit for 15 minutes and then brush off to remove residue.
- Refresh your closet and keep clothes smelling like new with an open box of baking soda on the shelf. Remember to replace every 30 days or use the Fresh-N-Natural Baking Soda Box.
- For a safe, gentle clean, soak plastic baby toys in a solution of 4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water. Wash them off with a clean, damp sponge or cloth, rinse and dry.
- Deodorize the diaper pail with baking soda, sprinkling some on top of dirty diapers to neutralize odors until you can empty the container.
Bring Life to the Living Areas
- Glub in the tub? For safe, effective, scratch-free cleaning of bathroom tubs and sinks sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge, scrub as usual and rinse.
- Clean and deodorize a vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean, damp sponge. Scrub the shower curtain, rinse clean and hang it up to dry.
- To get rid of dirt and grime from tile or no-wax floors, mix 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water. Mop and rinse the floor clean.
- Guests on their way? Freshen carpets, upholstered furniture and pet beds fast by sprinkling baking soda on the surface. Wait 15 minutes and then vacuum.
- Keep the litter box fresh, too. Cover the bottom of the box with baking soda, and then fill as usual with litter. In between litter changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter.
March 26, 2013 6:38 pm
Real estate salesperson. Person who has passed a state examination for that position, and must work under the supervision of a broker.
March 26, 2013 6:38 pm
A: Damage, destruction, or loss of property from fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters are deductible from both state and federal income taxes.
If destruction is caused by an event deemed a federal disaster by the president, homeowners can deduct their losses in the tax year before the event happened by filing an amended return. This helps to dramatically cut the wait for tax refund money that can immediately be used to make repairs or pay for living expenses.
March 25, 2013 6:04 pm
Every once in awhile, I like to drop in on the folks at Get Organized (shopgetorganized.com) to check out the cool new gadgets to help make your life more interesting, fun and easy. So this month we're going back into the kitchen to scope out a few new and classic kitchen tools.
Remember your mom's or grandma's heavy metal meat grinders? That classic metal design remains very popular as a kitchen accessory, with reliable models starting at around $30.
Use your classic metal grinder to process fresh ground meats, tasty hash or delicious vegetables with the turn of a crank. Even basic models adjust for coarse to fine chopping, and these units typically attach easily to counters or table tops.
Get Organized offers an alternative model of metal and plastic that is dishwasher safe for about $25. This manual winding meat grinder is a fast, easy way to grind uncooked meat into perfect spaghetti strands for making it more malleable.
It features a no-slip suction cup base, a safety pusher, three exchangeable blades and extrusion plates.
At $50, the space-saving Elevat carousel tool is another clutter reducing accessory to consider. It comes with six essential cooking utensils - solid and slotted spoon, spaghetti server, slotted and flexible spatula, and ladle - that hang from a slim, rotating base for easy accessibility.
Each Elevat carousel tool has a hygienic stand built into the grip to raise the head off the counter to prevent contact, mess and the spread of germs.
And if you love nuts, for about $25, you can go nuts with Hazel, the cast aluminum nut chopping squirrel accessory. Coarsely chop nuts for a salad or dessert by filling 'Hazel' with almonds, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts.
Then, twist the tail to dispense your precision chopping into a glass, 8 oz., dishwasher safe and mess-free measuring jar so there's no waste. In our next segment we'll check out some cool new small appliances for your kitchen.