Personal Finance:

Build Your Credit Portfolio Review Brokerage Statements How To Pay For College Update Your Savings Account Financial Planning For College Prepare For Hurricanes Independent Foreclosure Review



Tips On Taking A Strategic Approach To Credit

(NAPSI)—People have different attitudes about credit. For some, taking on any kind of debt is to be avoided. For others, credit is necessary for buying what they want, when they want it.

The fact is, credit is neither inherently good nor bad—it’s simply a tool that requires responsible use. And like any tool, the outcome depends on the skill with which you use it.

What Type Of Credit Is Available?

Approaching credit strategically starts by understanding the different types of credit. It’s important to carefully consider which type of credit to use for each financial goal you have. For example:

• Credit cards can be used for everyday purchases, unplanned expenses and large purchases.

• Personal loans or lines of credit can be used for large purchases, unplanned expenses and debt consolidation.

• Auto loans are for new or used vehicles, or refinancing a car loan to lower the interest rate or payment.

• Private student loans help pay for tuition and other eligible education-related expenses.

• Home equity loans or lines of credit can be used for major repairs or improvements, debt consolidation or other major purchases or expenses.

• Mortgage loans are for home purchases and/or refinancing to lower the interest rate or payment.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Qualifying for these different types of credit will include an examination of your credit history-the track record you’ve established managing credit and making payments over time.

If you don’t have an established history, you may need to build one. There are credit products available that use nontraditional information as a substitute for credit history. Once again, strategy comes into play.

For example, if you don’t have enough credit history, you might consider applying for and responsibly using a cell phone account, secured credit card, or gas or retail credit card. You could take out a loan with a co-borrower or a loan secured with savings or a CD. To learn how credit scores work, you can visit

If You Have A Less-Than-Perfect Credit History, You Should:

• Be sure to pay bills on time.

• Check your credit reports annually for free at

• Correct any mistakes on your credit reports.

• Pay down high-interest-rate debt first.

• Pay more than the minimum amount due.

• Avoid opening new credit accounts you don’t need.

• Apply for a secured credit card or loan, which is typically easier to qualify for than unsecured credit but will require some kind of collateral in order to open the account.

If you have too much debt for your income, here are some steps you can consider:

• When possible, consider consolidating debt into a lower-interest-rate loan or account.

• Pay off high-interest-rate debt first.

• Build your personal savings.

• Develop a budget and maintain it.

• Consider whether you have other income sources you may want to disclose when you fill out an application for credit.

• Consider whether to include a co-borrower on your loan when you decide the time is right to apply.

As you build your credit portfolio and you’re approved for higher credit lines, it remains important to stay current on all your payments. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on payment history. As you make regular on-time payments to your loan or credit card, you can begin to build a good credit history.

More important, a late payment on your credit report could lead to being charged a higher interest rate or being declined for credit.

Getting Information About Credit

How you manage your credit can help you reach your goals—or it can hold you back. Learn more about how to use credit responsibly to achieve your goals by visiting the Smarter Credit™ resource center at

To learn more about your credit options, visit

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Reviewing Your Brokerage Account Statements

(NAPSI)—Investors need to carefully review the information in their brokerage account statement and trade confirmation report.

That’s the word from experts who say investors should always keep a close eye on the statements they receive from brokers and other financial institutions. These reports are designed to help you stay on top of your investments and provide information that can alert you to errors or even misconduct, such as unauthorized trading.

To help, here are five tips that will help you understand and make the most of the information in these reports.

• Check key account information. Make sure your statements and confirmations include a statement period or end date, and that your account number, name and contact information are correct. You should also make sure your financial professional’s firm and contact information are correct.

• Follow the money. If your confirmations list whether trades are solicited or not, you should check this, too; trades should be properly categorized as “solicited” (the broker’s idea) or “unsolicited” (requested by you).

• Scrutinize fees. If there’s a fee you don’t understand—such as a handling or mailing charge or a markup or commission—ask your broker to explain it. These costs ultimately impact the overall return on your investment and you have a right to ask about fees being charged.

• Be alert to fraud. If your statement or confirmation looks unprofessional or altered in any way, this may signal fraud. For instance, if a logo has poor resolution, this is a red flag—sometimes, fraudsters cut and paste logos of legitimate firms onto their own fake statements.

• Take action. Immediately contact the firm that issued the statement or confirmation about any entry you don’t understand or didn’t authorize. If the problem is not resolved, you can file a complaint at

“Investors whose portfolios have taken a hit might not be keen to open their account statements,” said Gerri Walsh, FINRA Investor Education Foundation president.

“But they should review their statements carefully—and immediately call the firm that issued the statement about any fee they do not understand or transaction they did not authorize.”

For more fraud-fighting resources, visit the FINRA Foundation’s website at

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How To Choose And Pay For College

(NAPSI)—When your son or daughter sets his or her sights on a career goal, the best place to start is to determine the higher education it requires, how many years of school are needed, and what it will cost. The following tips from Sallie Mae can help you choose the course to college and create a plan to achieve it:

• Set a Course. Find resources that will help you plan every step of the college and post- college journey, such as Sallie Mae’s

• Save Up. It’s never too late to save for college. Set up an automatic savings plan with as little as $25 a month. Encourage kids to get invested. They can put away money from a job, allowance or birthday gifts for college. The more you save now, the less you’ll have to borrow in the future.

• Finish Strong. In the last two years of high school, it’s important to select the right courses and be sure college admissions requirements are met.

• Understand College Costs. Determine the sum of tuition, room and board fees, books and any other personal or travel expenses to get the total cost of attendance. Estimate how much you may need to borrow and make sure it aligns with the starting salary of your field of choice.

• Don’t Forget FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid must be filled out to be considered for federal aid. The FAFSA may also be required by colleges, state agencies and some scholarships. Be sure to check your state’s FAFSA deadline.

• Find Free Money. Look for scholarship and financial aid.

• Upromise. Consider signing up for Upromise, where you can get cash back for college by doing things you do every day, such as online shopping, buying gas and dining out.

• Fill the Gaps. After considering savings, working at school, and applying for student aid and scholarships, you may need a loan to cover the remaining costs. Consider federal loans first, and if needed, consider responsible private loans that allow you to make interest payments while in school, such as Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan.

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Breaking Up Is Smart To Do
Why You Should Consider Splitting Your Checking and Savings Accounts

(NAPSI)—Keeping cash at your local bank is probably costing you more than you think. And in today’s financial climate, finding safety and growth for your savings is more important than ever.

That’s why it’s surprising that many people still keep their checking and savings accounts at the same institution. Chances are, they’re not getting the interest they deserve.

Most banks don’t really focus on your savings. Though they’re more than happy to accept your deposits, the national average interest rate is only 0.45 percent on savings accounts, which doesn’t even keep up with inflation.

Banking on Inertia

Switching your bank accounts can be a headache. Most people don’t realize how many savings options they have, or that their money could earn higher interest elsewhere. But by doing a little homework, consumers can find superior options through Internet banks.

Internet Banks Change the Game

Today, a growing number of consumers are taking advantage of a variety of interest rates offered by Internet banks and the relative ease of moving cash for savings online. Without the need for brick-and-mortar real estate, these institutions have a lower cost structure, and they can pay you a better interest rate. Internet banks are also insured by the FDIC up to $250,000 per depositor, and they generally charge no fees. You get more interest without sacrificing safety—and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Time to Upgrade Your Savings

We all know that moving a checking account is a headache, especially when all your other banking services—bill pay, direct deposit, etc.—are linked to it.

“Our suggestion is to keep your day-to-day cash where it is, but take your long-term savings to an Internet savings partner,” explains Raymond J. Quinlan, executive vice president, Banking at CIT Group.

“Whether you open a savings account or buy a CD that pays a fixed rate of interest for a set period of time, you’ll find both safety and growth. You’ll earn better interest and enjoy FDIC protection,” he adds.

The choice of a CD or a savings account depends on your situation. If you’re not sure when you’ll need your money, a savings account allows you to make withdrawals without penalty at any time. If you are looking for a longer-term savings vehicle, however, then you’ll want a CD’s greater return.

Evaluate Your Options and Find the Right Savings Partner

Breaking up may be hard to do, but when it comes to checking and savings, breaking up is a smart move. So look around. Evaluate your options. And choose a savings partner, not just a bank, to meet your long-term goals.

CIT Bank offers a variety of CDs with attractive yields and a high-yield savings account with competitive rates. CIT’s 100-year heritage of reliability and expertise in helping small and midsize businesses across America, combined with CIT Bank’s products and perspective, can help you take control of your financial future. For more information about CIT Bank’s savings options, visit CIT Bank is a member of the FDIC.


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Are You Financially Prepared For College?

(NAPSI)—College is a major investment, but the data proves it’s an investment worth making. According to information released by the U.S. Census Bureau in February 2012, workers with a college degree earned nearly twice as much as those without one in 2009. In order to make the best investment possible, families should begin planning early in order to gather and understand all available information. Every situation is different and sound planning can go a long way in helping families reach educational goals while minimizing the financial impact. The following are a few points to consider before making the higher education investment:

• Develop a timetable and list of tasks to be completed that can assist you in your planning efforts. To ensure you don’t miss anything, sign up for CollegeSTEPS®, a free planning program offered by Wells Fargo. Register at

• Talk with your family about what you can afford to spend on school. Share your beliefs and values about various approaches for paying for school, from using income to leveraging your home or savings accounts to taking out student loans to pay for college.

• Avoid getting your heart set on going to one particular school. Apply to at least three schools and compare what it will cost you to go to each. Understand how much the school, scholarships and other funding options will cover and what your total costs will be.

• Apply for grants and scholarships. Start searching for scholarships the summer before your senior year of high school. Check online, with your high school guidance counselor and with organizations you are affiliated with, including your religious organization. In addition, some organizations have tuition reimbursement or scholarship programs for employees or their dependents. Every bit of “free money” makes a difference.

• Use the FAFSA4caster to get an early idea of your eligibility for federal aid and loans. To get a complete and accurate picture of your eligibility, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA form prior to each academic year, but the FAFSA4caster is a helpful tool for those who want to get a head start. Register for a PIN with the Department of Education and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of your senior year.

• Gather information and make a list of the options available for paying for school. Consult with your bank, your financial advisor and the financial aid office at prospective schools. One source that might be helpful as you go through the planning process for college is, a free online community of students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and financial advisors devoted to creating an open dialogue about the college-planning process. The community hosts a number of ongoing topic discussions and is open to anyone looking for information on college planning.

• If you determine that you’ll need to borrow money to pay for school, carefully consider the full cost of the loan, including the type (fixed or variable rate), interest rates, origination fees and repayment options. Whether your loan is federal or private, it will accrue interest while you are in school.

• Borrow only what you need. Working with a responsible lender can help you better manage your loans.

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A Rare Opportunity To Prepare For Hurricane Season

(NAPSI)—According to the National Weather Service, the possibility of an El Niño weather pattern this year means the likelihood of a significant hurricane is lower than average. That means homeowners have more time to prepare.

The United States is struck by a major hurricane about once every two years, meaning that the next big storm could be brewing in the not-so-distant future. The potential for a slower season affords residents in hurricane-prone areas a rare opportunity to shore up defenses and prepare for the next big storm.

Every hurricane that makes landfall causes about $3 billion in damage.

“Even with eight of the 10 most deadly hurricanes striking the U.S. in the past eight years, building along the East and Gulf Coasts continues and property values are increasing,” says Karen McCague, claims operations manager, Liberty Mutual Insurance. “It is imperative that coastal residents are prepared. We see it time and time again: Those who have planned ahead fare far better during and after a major storm and are back on their feet sooner.”

McCague recommends following a preparation outline she calls “The Three Ps,” to ensure safety of people, property and possessions:

• During a hurricane, follow all evacuation directives. If evacuations are optional and you decide to stay in your home, take precautions against extended power outages by replacing batteries in flashlights and filling bathtubs and sinks with clean water in case the water supply is compromised.

• To secure your home, install hurricane shutters, prune back trees and secure loose roof shingles to minimize damage from heavy winds and rain. When the storm approaches, turn off all electronics and circuit breakers to prevent damage from power surges.

• Every household should have a fully stocked hurricane emergency kit, which includes first-aid supplies, food, water and other necessities. All families should identify an out-of-area contact. This person should have copies of your important documents (passports, birth certificates, property deeds, etc.) as well as an up-to-date phone list.

• Have an evacuation plan mapped out well in advance and make sure you know the best route to a predetermined meeting point or shelter. Fill your vehicle with gas ahead of time to protect against long lines at the pump and gas shortages.

Regardless of your level of preparation, always follow instructions from local authorities and evacuation directives. For more information, visit

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Treated Unfairly During Foreclosure? Help is Available

(NAPSI)—In recent years, millions of homes across the nation have entered into foreclosure. Unfortunately, not all homeowners were treated fairly during the process.

As part of legal settlements with mortgage servicers, the government launched the Independent Foreclosure Review (IFR) program to provide assistance to homeowners who were unfairly or wrongfully impacted by inappropriate lender practices during a foreclosure process that took place in 2009 or 2010. Varying amounts of compensation may be available for those who received a foreclosure notice during that time period.

The Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF), which runs the national Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline to provide free financial counseling to distressed homeowners, encourages those who may be eligible for an IFR or other mortgage remediation to call the Hotline at (888) 995-HOPE (4673) to learn more about their options. The Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and offers housing counseling in over 170 different languages.

The deadline for submitting required review request forms has been extended to December 31, 2012. Additional information, including eligibility requirements for the program, can be found at, the website established by the federal government to help mistreated homeowners.








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Save While Shopping For School Supplies And Clothes

(NAPSI)—When it comes to saving money on school supplies and clothes, parents may benefit from doing a little homework.

Studying up on ways to save can even put some money in your educational piggy bank.

• Shop at home. Only buy the things you need. Walk around your house and open some drawers; you may have all the pencils and rulers you need.

• Make a list and stick to it.

• Shop early. That way, you won’t be tempted to make last-minute impulse buys.

• Shop around. Look at weekly sales circulars. Visit a few stores.

• Buy clothes during tax-free holidays.

• Look for free shipping. If you are shopping online or shipping supplies off to college, shipping costs can add up.

• Consider saving on your everyday purchases through Upromise now allows you to earn 5 percent or more cash back on eligible online purchases. Use the new Upromise Mastercard® and you can earn 10 percent or more cash back on eligible online purchases through Upromise.

The cash back you earn goes directly into your Upromise account. Saving money for college can pay off, as having a college degree is becoming more and more valuable.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $20,000 more than high school graduates in 2011.

Upromise members can use their earnings in one of four ways: transfer the funds into 529 college savings plans, pay down an eligible Sallie Mae−serviced student loan, make a deposit into an FDIC-insured Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account offered through Sallie Mae Bank, or request a check.

You can learn more or join for free at








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