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Insuring Your Home Business

(NAPSI)—If you have a home business, did you know that most homeowners insurance policies don’t protect all your business assets?

Sure, standard homeowners insurance may provide some protection for business equipment, but coverage varies and it may not be enough. In addition, your homeowners policy won’t cover your business if a customer or supplier is injured on your property or while using your product. To protect yourself and your home business:

• See if you can add an endorsement to your homeowners policy. Your insurer may offer one that could add property coverage and some limited liability coverage.

• Purchase in-home business insurance policies. Some insurers offer specific in-home business insurance policies with some of the same features as larger commercial policies but with lower policy limits and at a lower premium. For example, if you have to shut down your business because of damage to your house, the in-home policy will cover the income the business loses and ongoing expenses, such as payroll, for up to one year.

• Get a business owners policy. Many insurers offer policies combining property insurance, business interruption service and liability insurance.

Using Your Vehicle For Business?

Think again. Your personal auto insurance policy covers your vehicle for personal use but may not cover business use. All vehicles used primarily to conduct business must be protected with commercial auto insurance, generally a combination of bodily injury, property damage, collision and comprehensive coverage.

Are You Hiring?

Business is booming and you may have just decided to hire. Most states require that you have workers’ compensation insurance. And it’s likely the most complex insurance coverage, so make sure you check with the state department or work with an insurance agent familiar with your state regulations to determine the best solution for you.

More Is Often Better

Depending on your assets, you may want to consider the additional protection of an umbrella liability policy. It provides extra protection that takes effect when lawsuit-related costs exceed an auto or general liability policy’s limits. You can get the coverage you need now and increase your limits as your company grows.

How Do You Choose?

A sound business plan includes insurance coverage that provides the protection you need today, yet can easily expand to grow with the changing needs of your home business. Visit www.wellsfargo.com/insurance or call an agent at (866) 860-3030 to learn more.

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Helping Working Mothers Keep Their Balance

(NAPSI)—For many women, feeling good about the company they work for is a matter of balance. Specifically, it’s about being able to balance work and family obligations.

For some, it’s about having paid parental leave as a benefit; for others, it means having access to backup child care; and for still others, it’s having on-site fitness facilities. While the specific benefits may differ from company to company, what the “good” places to work for seem to have in common is a commitment to helping women balance their responsibilities when it comes to work and family life.

For example, one company that has demonstrated that kind of commitment over the years is Chrysler Group LLC. Recently, it was named to Working Mother magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies”—the 13th time it has been named to the list.

The company earned this distinction by outscoring hundreds of other applicants on the magazine’s extensive survey of benefits, women’s issues and advancement, child care, flexible work arrangements, parental leave and company culture.

Said Nancy A. Rae, Senior Vice President−Human Resources, Chrysler Group, “We strive to provide programs and resources that help our employees balance the demands of work and family.”

According to Rae, the company has developed many of its work-life programs working with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Both Chrysler and the UAW believe that employees will be more productive and engaged when they have peace of mind at home and that the company’s work-life programs reflect that belief.

Said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, Director of the union’s Chrysler department, “We’re very proud to work with Chrysler Group to provide ‘people programs’ that help employees maintain a healthy balance in fulfilling their job and family responsibilities.”

Chrysler Group has also been named to Hispanic Business magazine’s annual Diversity Elite 60 list for implementing strategies to reach more Hispanic customers and to pursue more business with minority- and Hispanic-owned suppliers.

To learn more, visit www.chryslergroupllc.com.

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Is There Time To Go Back To School?

(NAPSI)—Going back to school is a big decision, one that can ultimately pay off in terms of future income and career opportunities. Many working adults—especially parents and managers—would love to finish their degree, get a certificate or even earn an advanced degree, but are convinced that they just don’t have the time. They would like to put themselves in a position to earn a promotion or become an authority in their field but they feel there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

The reality is that, while going back to school is not always going to be easy, it does not have to mean neglecting your job or family or even being an “all or nothing” proposition.

First, weigh the payoffs with the sacrifices. How would your life be different if you pursued more education? Will you have regrets if you continue to put off pursuing this education? What kind of example would you like to set for your family, your colleagues and others in your life? You may have to give up a little time now but down the road you may save time you would have spent worrying, working additional jobs or distressing over lack of advancement in your career.

If you have decided that returning to school is the right path for achieving your goals, much like many students do by using Bellevue University’s www.makeithappennow.org, set a game plan for making the journey doable. You are ultimately seeking to improve your life, not make things harder on yourself. Some tips to factor in while determining this plan include:

• Save yourself both time and money. When you enroll, make sure to inquire about every source of transfer credit the school accepts. This will save you repeating (and paying for) courses covering knowledge you already possess. Sources of credit could include military training, standardized testing, life experience or credit from previous schools (including community college or technical school).

• Consider studying online. First, depending on your proximity to the college or university, you could save yourself many minutes driving round-trip. Second, opening your search up to online options expands your range of schools and gives you a better chance of finding the school that works best with you to accomplish your goals.

• Determine what your schedule can realistically accommodate. Work with an academic adviser at the school you will be attending to set realistic goals. For example, if your schedule allows you to take classes only part-time right now, do not pressure yourself into taking a full course load with expectations of a perfect grade point average. Remember, no step is too small in walking toward your goals; do it at your own pace.

“Many online programs are asynchronous, which means you do not have to turn in your coursework or attend lectures at a set time,” said Dr. Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University. “Our online students have the fullest, most hectic lives you can imagine and many of them tell us they could not have accomplished their goals any other way. From service members deployed overseas to working parents submitting coursework after putting the children to bed, our graduates tell us time and again that going back to school was worth every sacrifice they had to make to do so.”

• Assess your support system. Make sure your employer is aware of and supportive of your efforts. Ask about schedule flexibility; for example, may you use your lunch hours for study time? Can you work a different schedule—go in an hour earlier or work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days—to accommodate your schoolwork? Also, ask if your employer offers any sort of tuition remission—this may save you time figuring out how to pay for your new endeavor.

Equally important in your support system, if not more so, are your friends and family. Everyone is willing to provide support in different ways. Talk to your friends, your spouse, your co-workers, your siblings and your parents. Know up front whom you can call when you need someone to help with the kids, lend an ear or run an errand you just don’t have time to get to. Most people are willing to help, especially when you are pursuing a worthwhile goal, but they will not know how to help if you do not ask.

Once you have a plan in place, it is time to put it into action. Before you know it, you should have adjusted your time management and reached your goal. You can move on to bigger and better things as a result.

Learn more at www.makeithappennow.org.

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Choosing A School For Your Child: The Independent Private School Option

(NAPSI)—Parents everywhere want what’s best for their children, and education is a priority. With all the school options out there, how do you find the right one for your child?

For more than half a million families each year, the answer is an independent private school, according to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

Each independent school has a unique mission that guides its offerings. According to NAIS president Patrick Bassett, this means that “whether you’re looking for a specific style of teaching, a particular class or sport, or a community that shares your values, you can find an independent school that meets your child’s needs.”

Independent private schools ask students to apply for admission and the admission process typically begins almost a year before the student wants to enroll. In the fall, families read school websites, visit school open houses and narrow down a list of the schools to which they’d like to apply.

As a first step, it helps to consider what the ideal school for your child would be like. Is it small or large? Competitive or more nurturing? Are there aptitudes or interests you’d like to foster in your child? Challenges you’d like to address? Are you looking for a school nearby or is living away from home at a boarding school more appealing?

Most applications are due in January but deadlines can vary from school to school. Independent schools usually require some testing for admissions, transcripts from the child’s last school and recommendations from current teachers. Interviews with students and their families take place in the fall and winter. For very young children, schools often conduct group interviews or have the child visit a class to help gauge whether the school is the right fit for the student’s needs.

“It’s very important to check with the school about its specific requirements and deadlines,” notes Bassett. The admissions office can also tell you about various options for paying for an independent school education. Most schools offer financial aid for families that qualify and some offer tuition payment plans, which spread fees out over multiple payments. Bassett adds that “if you’re concerned about paying for a private school education, asking about options makes good sense.”

For a list of questions to ask to help you find the right school, as well as more detailed information about the admissions process and financial aid, visit www.nais.org/go/parents.

 

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Home Improvement Made Easy

(NAPSI)—The American dream can come in many forms.

When it comes to home ownership, low mortgage rates and housing prices mean that dream can become a reality for many hardworking families. Moreover, the rash of foreclosures has created new opportunities for people willing to take a chance on buying a home and investing in its restoration. This can create a home to live in and an opportunity to earn a return on the investment in a house.

To help, there are a number of government-insured and conventional loan programs that address this opportunity and may open the door for those who need help making the investment in home improvement projects that will create value.

One example of a simple solution to a common roadblock is an independent mortgage lender working to make sure home improvements are within reach and that foreclosed properties are seen as a home-buying opportunity and not a risky proposition.

The company works with homeowners to make the changes and repairs to a new or existing home through an easy lending process. It helps the homeowner combine costs into one simple payment included in a mortgage payment. The loan can be used to buy a new home or refinance an existing one. This method allows the loan to process quickly and the improvement work to get done as soon as possible.

Each Stonegate Mortgage Home Improvement Program (HIP) borrower gets a dedicated project manager who helps ensure that the whole process moves quickly. The project managers work with the borrowers from loan origination to loan closing. They assist in identifying contractors, defining the scope of work and keeping everyone informed of the progress.

As one homeowner looking to make some renovations in the most cost-efficient and comfortable way possible said, “We gutted the interior walls, did a complete remodel of our upstairs, moved a bathroom around and received new flooring. The whole process was incredible. Stonegate was there for me the entire time and expedited my loan so I was able to start right away and not be without a home. Overall, it went very well. I’ve already recommended the program to many of my friends and family.”

To learn more about the program and to hear from homeowners who have participated, visit www.stonegatemtg.com and click on the HIP tab.

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Deadline Extended For Free Foreclosure Review

(NAPSI)—There’s good news for some victims of foreclosure. They now have until December 31 to request a free review and could receive compensation if errors are found.

Ordered by federal bank regulators-the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System-consultants will review each file to identify borrowers who suffered financial injury as a result of foreclosure errors. Where financial injury is found, regulators have directed mortgage servicers to fix the errors and provide compensation or other remedy. Regulators are overseeing the reviews and will approve plans to compensate affected borrowers.

Can I Request a Review?

To be eligible, the mortgage must have been in the process of foreclosure in 2009 or 2010, involve your primary residence, and serviced by one of the companies listed at independentforeclosure review.com. You do not need to have lost your home to participate.

What Kind of Errors Result in Financial Injury?

Some examples include:

• Foreclosing in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or federal bankruptcy laws;

• Foreclosing on a borrower not in default;

• Failing to convert a qualified borrower to a permanent modification after successfully completing a written trial plan;

• Foreclosing prior to expiration of a written payment plan, while the borrower was meeting the terms of that plan;

• Rejecting a loan modification application that should have been approved;

• Charging a higher interest rate in a loan modification than should have been charged; and

• Failing to provide proper notification during foreclosure.

What Could I Get?

In June, regulators published possible compensation. For certain errors, compensation may include payments from $500 for smaller errors involving improper fees to $125,000 plus equity for the worst cases involving the loss of the home. Other remedies may include suspending or rescinding a foreclosure, reimbursing fees, modifying a mortgage loan and correcting credit reports.

How Can I Participate?

Borrowers can check eligibility and request a review at indepen dentforeclosurereview.com or call (888) 952-9105 to request a form and return it by mail.

How Long Do Reviews Take?

More than 225,000 people have requested a review. Reviews are detailed and will take several months to complete. Not all foreclosures involve errors and not all errors lead to compensation. You give up nothing by requesting a review and do not waive any rights to additional action by accepting compensation through this program. Remember, reviews are free, fair and impartial.

Get more information at independentforeclosurereview.com or www.occ.gov/independentforeclosurereview, from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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Prepaid Cards Offer Families A Financial Solution

(NAPSI)—Millions of Americans nationwide prefer the anywhere, anytime convenience of a prepaid card for money transactions versus a traditional bank checking account. Payroll deposits, tax refunds, Social Security and other government benefits, as well as cash, can be received on a prepaid card.

Consumers store their money, shop online, make purchases at stores and restaurants anywhere, withdraw cash and pay bills electronically, and have access to millions of ATMs worldwide…all without the fear of being overdrawn and without a bank credit check.

Prepaid cards are commonly referred to as prepaid credit cards but function more like a debit card than a credit card. Credit cards extend a line of credit to cardholders, whereas prepaid card users can only spend what they deposit to their card account, which can be done automatically by payroll direct deposit or at any number of retail stores providing money transfer services such as MoneyGram. Many people say it helps them to control their spending and stick to a budget.

The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) studied the features and benefits offered by prepaid card companies. The study looked at how consumers use prepaid cards and whether the cards help financially underserved consumers manage their money.

Reloadable prepaid cards function like electronic bank accounts without checks. Consumers load funds on the card and can spend only what they load, limiting the risk of overdraft while providing immediate liquidity. Transaction costs are low and many providers are adding features, including bill payment, money transfer, savings wallets and other new services.

The CFSI study found that such cards have the potential to enhance families’ financial well-being.

Consumers gave several reasons for liking their cards:

Convenience: Cardholders do not have to run to different places to cash a check, buy money orders and then deliver payments. Apparently, the feds find them convenient, too. After March 1, 2013, Social Security, veterans and other federal benefits will all be paid either by direct deposit to a bank account or to a reloadable prepaid card.

Accessibility: Branded cards (with Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express logos) are accepted universally.

Simplicity and transparency: The fee structures of prepaid cards are easy to understand.

Value: Most customers felt the costs associated with prepaid are lower than what they would incur if they used a check-cashing service or checking account.

Built-in discipline: Prepaid cards provide much of the ease of a checking account with a major advantage—they cannot be overdrawn. No credit check is required.

For more information, visit www.accountnow.com or go call (866) 398-3306 to get a card.

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Open Enrollment Mistakes Can Cost Up To $750 Yearly

(NAPSI)—The annual open enrollment process for benefits gives eligible employees the opportunity to select or make changes to their insurance and benefit plans to best fit their physical and financial health needs.

Unfortunately, some workers feel overwhelmed with too many choices and not enough information. As a result, many employees select plans without knowing that the wrong choice can have consequences on their wallet.

According to the 2012 Open Enrollment Survey of the Aflac WorkForces Report, the majority of employees surveyed (56 percent) estimate that mistakes made during open enrollment cost them up to $750 a year.

The vast majority of consumers simply pick the same plans as the year before and often aren’t even aware of the benefits they currently have.

“We’re seeing workers wasting up to four months’ worth of an individual’s grocery budget because of confusion and a lack of understanding about their insurance and benefit options,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of Corporate Services at Aflac. “Employees need to work with their employers to ensure they use the right tools and are armed with the insight to select the best benefits options for their situation.”

The Aflac survey also found that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of employees feel they are only somewhat or not prepared for open enrollment. More than half (52 percent) say that their company has not communicated with them at all about the open enrollment process.

To eliminate misconceptions about the open enrollment process, Tillman suggests that workers need to take the initiative to be better educated about the benefits available to them. She recommends the following:

• Look to experts to help understand your insurance coverage. Discuss benefits choices with an HR professional or insurance consultant at your workplace.

• Review and study your company’s Open Enrollment Guide. Benefits change, so compare your year-over-year benefits options to avoid costly mistakes.

• Calculate yearly medical expenses to plan for appropriate flexible spending account contributions.

“By communicating with employers about their benefits options, workers can discover ways to save a larger percentage of their paychecks for expenses like rent, groceries, savings and other important needs,” said Tillman.

To learn more, visit www.aflacworkforcesreport.com.

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