Finance

Financial Records

Retirement Planning Help Your Health and Wealth Prepaid Card Cars and Cash Medicare Plan Ticket to Work Save Money

Tax Season A Good Time To Update Financial Records

(NAPSI)—April 15 is a date many Americans view with some hesitation as they endure the paperwork needed to file their taxes. But with almost 75 percent of Americans receiving an average annual refund of $3,000, there is positive news for most. And many consumers find this a good reminder to annually update other financial records.

Start with records that might be less familiar. Consumers are aware they can get a free annual credit report from annualcreditreport.com. They should also know that they are entitled to other types of consumer reports that may be used if:

• Paying by check for a purchase

• Considering applying for insurance

• Planning to lease an _apartment

• Asked by a potential employer for their written authorization to get their work history.

“It’s smart to know what’s in your credit report before applying for home financing or an automobile loan. Similarly, there are times when it’s a good idea to exercise your right to check other sources of consumer information,” stated Stuart K. Pratt, president and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association.

Working with CDIA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put together a list of different types of consumer reporting agencies. “While not all companies will have information on every consumer, it’s a good idea for consumers to have a complete picture of information that may impact financial decisions about them. The CFPB website has a list of companies that have specialized databases dealing with other information that benefits consumers,” Pratt said.

You can find the list on the CFPB’s website (www.consumerfinance.gov). Type “consumer reporting agencies” into the search box or go to http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201207_cfpb_list_consumer-reporting-agencies.pdf.

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Building Confidence Through Retirement Planning

(NAPSI)—Will you have enough savings to last throughout all your retirement years? If this question is the source of many sleepless nights or one you would rather ignore altogether, you are not alone. In fact, a majority of Americans nearing their retirement years are lacking confidence in their financial preparations, according to the latest research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI).

There are numerous reasons for the confidence shortfall. For one, preparing for retirement can be a challenging process. Experts say longer life spans, uncertainty with Social Security and Medicare, changes in employee benefits, and the rising cost of health care have placed the burden of funding retirement squarely on the shoulders of consumers.

But according to IRI President and CEO Cathy Weatherford, a little planning today can make a big difference tomorrow. Crafting a holistic retirement plan including a strategy for attaining retirement income-income that will last as long as you live-will lead to more confidence in your financial future.

That’s why the National Retirement Planning Coalition, a group of prominent consumer education organizations and financial industry leaders, spearheaded by IRI, organizes National Retirement Planning Week®. This year’s event will run April 7-11. During this time, Americans are urged to develop, review and update their retirement plans.

To get started, the coalition offers a variety of retirement planning resources, which are available for free at www.retireonyourterms.org. These resources range from retirement planning worksheets to interactive retirement tools and calculators. The website also features a series of educational tip sheets on topics such as Social Security, budgeting basics, investing, asset management, longevity risk and health care.

Americans needing additional assistance are encouraged to consult a financial professional. Advisors can assist in creating a holistic retirement plan, and in the process, build consumers’ confidence in their retirement plans.

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How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Health And Wealth

(NAPSI)—No matter where you hurt—neck, shoulder, back, knee—physical therapy may improve your quality of life and save you time, trouble and money.

With physical therapy, you’ll be better able to move freely without discomfort, feel renewed and maybe avoid injury altogether.

It may also help you avoid painful, invasive and expensive surgery. Research shows that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, can be just as effective as surgery when it comes to relieving such conditions as osteoarthritis of the knee.

What’s more, falls among the elderly are prevalent, dangerous, and can diminish their ability to lead an active and independent life. According to the National Council on Aging, about one in three people over 65 will fall at least once this year, perhaps with disastrous consequences. A physical therapist can design an individualized program of exercises and activities with an emphasis on strength, flexibility and proper gait.

Despite all the advantages of physical therapy, some people are not getting all they should and that their doctors have prescribed because of high co-payments. These have caused many patients to face a sad dilemma: health care vs. making ends meet.

When co-payment plans were first introduced, it was thought they’d lower medical costs by decreasing unnecessary care. Empirical evidence, however, shows that high co-payments can actually increase health care costs.

According to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, high co-payments led to patients skipping ambulatory care. This increased health care costs because the patients then needed more acute care, such as at a hospital, later on. The study concluded that “raising cost sharing for ambulatory care may have adverse health consequences and may increase total spending on health care.”

“When you have patients, who are in pain and recovering from injuries, avoiding medically necessary care because they can’t afford the high co-payments, you know there is a problem,” said Matthew R. Hyland, PT, Ph.D., MPA, CSCS, President of the New York Physical Therapy Association.

High co-payments, it appears, add to health care expense and make it hard for patients to get the treatment they need to stay healthy. Many Americans are going to www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to ask their legislators what can be done.

Learn More

For further facts and stats, or to find a nearby physical therapist, visit www.moveforwardny.com.

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Get Your Tax Refund Fast With A Prepaid Card

(NAPSI)—For those who want convenience and speed when it comes to getting their tax refund, they should consider the option of receiving their refund on a prepaid debit card, a convenient tool to manage everyday finances.

Direct deposit of a refund onto a prepaid debit card is free, eliminates the need to pay for check cashing services and will arrive faster than a paper check.

Two attractive reloadable prepaid card options for tax refunds are the Green Dot prepaid debit card and the Walmart MoneyCard® prepaid debit card. Both are available as either personalized MasterCard or Visa cards, which means cardholders can shop everywhere Debit MasterCard or Visa debit cards are accepted and your money is protected if your card is lost or stolen.

Both the Walmart MoneyCard® and Green Dot card offer the added convenience of a no-fee nationwide network of 22,000 MoneyPass® ATMs. Free online bill pay is available with the Green Dot card and Walmart MoneyCard® Plus, Specialty and Preferred cards. Cardholders can enjoy the convenience of the card secure in the knowledge there’s no danger of overdraft or penalty fees. Plus, there’s never a credit check or minimum balance requirement to worry about. All Walmart MoneyCard® prepaid debit cards include the following features at no extra charge:

• Mobile Web registration

• Check cashing reloads

• Account alerts

• Gas discounts

• Pharmacy discounts.

Green Dot cards can be purchased in-store at more than 60,000 retail locations nationwide, including Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS/pharmacy, Dollar Tree, RadioShack, Rite Aid, Kmart and Kroger. Green Dot cards can also be purchased online from the comfort of your own home.

In addition to direct deposit, you can reload your card with cash or from another bank account. The cards do have some fees including reload, monthly and out-of-network ATM fees.

Green Dot Corporation is the largest provider of prepaid debit card products and prepaid card reloading services in the United States.

The Walmart MoneyCard® is brought to consumers by Green Dot and is issued by Green Dot Bank, member FDIC*. Green Dot also sponsored this article.

To learn more or to arrange to have a refund sent to a card, visit www.walmartmoneycard.com or www.greendot.com.

*Green Dot Bank operates under the following registered trade names: GoBank, Green Dot Bank and Bonneville Bank. All of these registered trade names are used by, and refer to, a single FDIC-insured bank, Green Dot Bank. Deposits under any of these trade names are deposits with Green Dot Bank and are aggregated for deposit insurance coverage.

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Saving Cars And Cash

(NAPSI)—The average car on the road today is 11 years old, automakers report. If yours is among them, here’s good news: You can pocket serious savings on repairs with high-quality used parts.

Here’s how it works: Go online to www.pullapart.com to find the price of the part you need and see whether the vehicle’s in stock at the nearest location. If it’s not, you can see which other vehicles have the same part and whether they’re in stock.

At the Pull-A-Part superstore, you’ll see vehicles on stands, arranged in rows. The staff or the store computer can tell you where to find the vehicle you want, and you pull the part yourself. The supply turns over daily, so if you can’t find the vehicle you need today, you can sign up to be notified when it’s available.

As a bonus, you can be green while saving some green. When you buy a used car part, you’re keeping it in circulation instead of sending something perfectly useful to a landfill.

Learn More

Further information is at www.pullapart.com.

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How Many Stars Does Your Medicare Plan Have?

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Ticket To Work—Independence Recovered

(NAPSI)—A federal program offers free employment services to people who get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program helps beneficiaries achieve financial independence. The program, run by Social Security, is called Ticket to Work. Ticket to Work supports people who want to earn more through work but who may need assistance in making the transition from beneficiary to employee.

One Man’s Story

Consider the case of Rob McClain, a successful businessman who was very active in his community. In addition to volunteering as a first responder and working as the Director of Investigations for the Gaming Commission, he ran a trucking company known as Big Rob’s, Inc. (BRI). BRI provided much-needed employment in the community. He was satisfied with its success and with the activity in his 60-hour workweek. But his ambitious spirit was no match for the health challenges he faced.

McClain struggled with his weight since childhood, and eventually weighed 550 pounds. “Everything was hard. But the most difficult part was the effect on my health…I couldn’t keep up with work,” he said. When his kidneys failed, he had to stop working. He needed a new kidney, but for a transplant to succeed, other health conditions that could complicate recovery needed to be addressed. McClain and his doctors decided that gastric bypass surgery offered him the best chance. The surgery was a great success.

“I lost 300 pounds, my high blood pressure and sleep apnea,” he recalled. He was approved for SSDI benefits and while awaiting a kidney transplant, he received lengthy dialysis treatments. Always ambitious, Rob decided to use the time spent in dialysis to earn his bachelor’s degree online. After a successful transplant, he was ready to return to work. That’s when a counselor at the state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency told him he was eligible for free employment support services through Social Security’s Ticket to Work.

The Ticket to Work Program

Like McClain, Social Security disability beneficiaries age 18 through 64 qualify for a range of free services to help them prepare for, find and retain employment. State VR agencies and authorized Employment Networks (ENs) offer these services as part of Ticket to Work.

McClain received help with his résumé and job leads. And he got a job—but was apprehensive. “I was glad to find work but didn’t want to lose my disability benefits.” Fortunately for him, Social Security work incentives make it easier for adults with disabilities to enhance their job skills, gain work experience and advance in a career. As a Social Security beneficiary, he felt better about returning to work knowing he would have time to settle into his job without fear of losing his benefits. For SSI beneficiaries, after certain exclusions, for every $2 a person earns each month, $1 is deducted from the monthly benefit. Soon, he was able to give up his disability payments and live off his paycheck. “I love my job,” he said. “The [Ticket] program helped me transition back to stability.”

About Work Incentives

There are many different work incentives available to help disability beneficiaries during their transition to work. Some include:

• Keeping Medicaid or Medicare coverage while working;

• Maintaining cash benefits while testing one’s ability to work; and

• Restarting benefits without another application (if benefits have stopped due to increased earnings within five years of the last benefit payment).

Learn More

McClain found his path to a better future with Ticket to Work. Find yours. For more information about Ticket to Work and work incentives, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 866-833-2967 (TTY), or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work

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Shipping Options That Save Money

(NAPSI)—A common task shared by consumers and small-business owners is shipping, and navigating the different shipping carriers and services can be confusing. But it doesn’t have to be, and understanding the options can save time and money.

Here’s a breakdown of the top carriers—USPS, FedEx and UPS—and their strengths, so that you can send that next package with confidence and ease.

The Cost-Effective Choice for Small Packages

USPS is the most affordable option for small packages-particularly those weighing 5 lbs. or less. It is also the preferred option if you are shipping to a residential address because it does not tack on any residential delivery surcharges.

If you’re shipping something heavier than 5 lbs., consider a USPS Flat or Regional Rate box. These boxes can be a cost-effective choice for small, heavy items.

And remember: If you are shipping to PO Boxes or APO/FPO/ DPO addresses (military and diplomatic addresses), USPS is the only option for delivery.

Other reasons why many choose USPS include:

- Delivery is available—with limited exceptions—365 days a year.

- Tracking capabilities give shippers the visibility they need, with up to 11 scan points.

- Businesses don’t have to go to the Post Office to ship their packages. Instead, the USPS will pick up packages directly from your home, office or warehouse upon request.

Shipping expert and Endicia co-founder Harry Whitehouse identifies the Postal Service’s strengths: “If you’re shipping lightweight packages to residential addresses and not looking at the Postal Service, you should really investigate them as a carrier option. USPS is the most cost-effective option for smaller packages, helping business owners achieve competitive pricing for their lighter-weight goods.”

Cost-Effective Choices for Large Packages

UPS and FedEx are the most affordable options for larger or heavier packages—particularly those weighing over 5 lbs. and incapable of fitting in a USPS Flat/Regional Rate box.

UPS and FedEx are also worth investigating if you are shipping to a business address. It’s worth noting that UPS and FedEx tack on surcharges for residential delivery.

There are other reasons for choosing UPS and FedEx. For example, they have a variety of guaranteed-date and time-specific delivery options. UPS and FedEx are also a better option if a package weighs more than 70 lbs., as the USPS does not accept packages over that weight limit.

Finding The Right Mix

“Each carrier offers individual strengths, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about finding the right shipping mix,” added Whitehouse. “Luckily, consumers and business owners don’t have to go it alone. With help from shipping technologies, such as Endicia (and with the tips offered here), you can easily identify the most cost-effective shipping solution in every situation.”

To learn more about saving on shipping, visit www.endicia.com.

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