Personal Finance:

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Long-Term Care Insurance College Scholarships Job Opportunities Salaried Internships Education And
Career Goals
Protect Financial Information Affinity Fraud
Don't Fall For It
Protect Property And Possessions

Transportation Bill Infrastructure

 

Six Questions About Long-Term Care

(NAPSI)—One of the most common objections to buying long-term care insurance is the notion that you can pay for long-term care services yourself if and when those services are needed. According to Mutual of Omaha Vice President Brad Buechler, however, there are many reasons self-funding may not be in your best interests.

Ask yourself these six questions:

1. What about your spouse? Even if you think you have enough money to pay for long-term care, think about what will happen if you need care for several years and the financial impact on your spouse’s retirement and future care.

2. Have you considered the tax implications? Most people don’t have money set aside specifically for long-term care. That means they may have to liquidate assets. When that happens, capital gains tax, income tax and potential penalties can all take a bite out of the returns those assets were expected to generate.

3. Are you prepared to invade your plan? People with significant assets generally have a plan for those assets. No one wants to use money that’s been set aside for retirement or a child’s inheritance to pay for long-term care services. You don’t want to have to cash in an asset meant to fund something else.

4. Have you thought about the cost of lost opportunity? Even if you have funds specifically to pay for long-term care services, that money must be invested so there’s enough available to pay for care 10, 15 or 20 years down the road. That could require setting aside a large sum or investing conservatively to ensure money will be available when needed. If you purchase long-term care insurance, you may be able to invest more aggressively and earn higher returns on your retirement nest egg.

5. Can you really save enough? There are a lot of “what ifs” when it comes to investing your own money to pay for long-term care services. What if you don’t save enough? What if your assets don’t earn enough interest? And the biggest “what if”: What if you need long-term care tomorrow? There’s no guarantee anyone will have 10 or 20 years to save.

6. Are you sure you’ll get the care you need? Most people who say they’ll self-fund are reluctant to use long-term care services because they know the cost is coming out of their own pockets.

Learn More

For more information, visit www.mutualofomaha.com.

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Make Your Scholarship Essay Stand Out

(NAPSI)—There could be good news for many students. Plenty of generous people and organizations donate each year to scholarship funds that help Americans meet their educational goals. Aspiring students can easily learn where and how to apply by visiting sites such as ScholarshipAmerica.org.

A critical part of the application process is often a personal essay on a single, weighty topic: Who has influenced you the most and why? Why do you want to be in your selected profession? Ten years from today, where do you see yourself? and the like.

Before you even think about opening up a Word doc, though, you may care to heed this advice to help you avoid essay mistakes:

1. Don’t rush. Good writing requires time and clear focus. With school, friends and extracurricular activities competing for a share of your life, it’s easy to push that scholarship essay aside until the last minute. Bad idea. Start the essay long before it’s due, put some time aside to work on it a little each night or on the weekends, and remember: The best writing is rewriting. Schedule time to revise.

2. Know your audience. Some scholarship funds like an upbeat essay, others prefer a formal voice. You won’t know until you do a little research. Go to the sponsoring organization’s website and read its mission, history and programs. You’ll get a sense of the organization’s “personality,” which will help you tailor your essay to fit what reviewers want.

3. Obey the rules of good writing. U can get away w/ broken English when ur texting or chatting w/ friends but it wont work for ur essay. Scholarships want 2 give $ to smart peeps and writin like this makes u look like u don’t care. So write in English not in text and use proper grammar and punctuation. K? :)

4. Be interesting. Scholarship reviewers read hundreds, sometimes thousands of essays every year. So yours needs to stand out. Answering the question is a must, but so is creativity. Don’t fill space with superficial and predictable information. Use images, examples, anecdotes and other storytelling techniques to make your writing richer. Consider this example: “My father inspires me because he puts his life on the line daily as a Chicago police officer.” Compare that to this essay opening: “Every day at 5 a.m. sharp, Dad rolls quietly out of bed, puts on his police uniform and carefully buckles his gun belt around his waist. Meanwhile, Mom starts her day with a prayer that Dad will come home safely from the streets of Chicago.”

5. Read it out loud. People learn language by hearing it, so the clearest voice is close to conversational. Instead of simply using your eyes when you revise, employ your ears as well. With a pen-and-paper copy in hand, read your entire essay aloud, jotting changes as needed. By hearing how the document flows, you can catch clunky sentences and eliminate those pesky grammar mistakes that your eyes might overlook.

6. Get a second opinion. See if your school has a writing center where you can get advice on your essay. Take advantage of these resources. Or e-mail your essay to your parents or other trusted advisers. A fresh set of eyes can prevent a big mistake.

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Students Start Careers

(NAPSI)—Many internships may be difficult to get but they’re an increasingly effective route to launching a successful career.

Here’s why: On average, 62 percent of college graduates who had paid internships were offered full-time jobs. Fully 74 percent of the students who received internships through one organization received job offers.

The nation’s largest nonprofit resource for salaried corporate internships, INROADS, helps prepare qualified college students for success by offering them comprehensive training in essential workplace skills that range from interview techniques to business ethics to utilizing technology.

So far, INROADS has placed students in over 125,000 paid internships and graduated over 25,000 into full-time professional and managerial positions, with over 1,000 corporate partners, many in the Fortune 500. In fact, INROADS graduates had a conversion rate of 65 percent from internship to full-time employment with an INROADS Corporate Partner, while the national average graduate conversion rate is only 57.7 percent.

To learn more or to donate, visit www.INROADS.org.

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Never Too Old To Graduate

(NAPSI)—Helping adult college students complete their degrees could begin with asking their birth date.

Age influences how adults manage the stress of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, according to a new report by Apollo Research Institute. Different support systems—from students’ workplaces, their personal circle or the school they attend—also had varying effects on their decision to stay enrolled.

The stakes for reducing the dropout rate are high. Over half of all adults in four-year bachelor’s degree programs quit before graduating. With 8 million U.S. adults pursuing higher degrees—a number projected to rise 20 percent by 2018—they’re today’s fastest-growing category of collegians.

“Higher education is critical to helping workers gain the skills they need to stay employable over a long career,” says Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute. Up to 3.7 million jobs may go unfilled because U.S. workers lack the required education and skills.

More than 4,400 adult students participated in the Apollo Research Institute study to identify college-related stress factors that could interfere with graduating. Among the most common challenges that students face are anxiety and stress over the expense of college, not spending enough time with friends or loved ones, and worrying about whether they are smart enough to complete the coursework.

Students from different age groups—Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials—had distinct reactions to school-related stressors. After cost—a chief worry for all three groups—Baby Boomers’ second-highest cause of stress was worrying about their intellectual ability to do coursework, while for Gen Xers and Millennials, it was missing out on time with friends or family. Millennials were also most likely to worry that college-related stressors would lead them to drop out.

Support from spouses or significant others, faculty members and academic departments is most effective in convincing adults to finish school. By contrast, workplaces were graded less effective in supporting adult learners. “Because 63 percent of adult students work while enrolled, employers can play an important role in helping employees to map their educational goals to their career advancement,” adds Dr. Wilen-Daugenti.

Adults of all ages can cope with college-related stress by making a long-term financial plan, building a personal support network, and using academic resources, such as writing labs and online tutorials, to fill learning gaps. Among the rewards: Graduates can expect higher lifetime earnings and greater career options than nongraduates.

Learn more at www.apolloresearchinstitute.org.

 

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Tips On Protecting Your Financial Information

(NAPSI)—By partnering with financial institutions-such as banks, credit unions and credit card companies—and taking a few easy steps, you can help to protect yourself from fraud.

Guard personal and financial information: Take extra measures to protect your Social Security number. That means not sharing it unnecessarily, not using it as your password and not carrying information with you that contains the number. You should also avoid sharing personal details that are often used to access financial accounts—such as your birth date, home address and mother’s maiden name.

Monitor your accounts: Remember to review account activity regularly, especially during the holiday shopping season, when you may be spending more than usual. By monitoring your accounts online—at your bank and credit card websites—and setting up account alerts that can be sent via e-mail or mobile device, you can spot suspicious activity early. Notify your financial institution immediately of any unknown or suspicious transactions.

Go paperless: Fraudulent activity can result from mail and garbage theft, so consider switching to online statements. Online bank statements look and function just like paper statements—you can use them for record keeping and taxes.

When possible, replace paper invoices, statements and checks with electronic versions if your employer, bank, utility provider or merchant offers them. If you have to keep some paper statements, be sure to shred them before discarding, and always shred documents that contain personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers.

Recognize fraudulent communications: Fraudsters use a variety of methods to obtain your information: Phishing is when fraudsters send an e-mail that appears to come from a reputable company with links to spoof websites requesting your personal and account information. Vishing is a phishing attempt made through a telephone call or voice message, and smishing is a phishing attempt sent via SMS (Short Message Service) or text message to a mobile phone or device.

Never share personal or financial information through unfamiliar e-mails, websites, social media networks, text messages or phone calls.

Ensure you’re protected: Check with your financial institution to learn if you’re covered if funds are removed from your account without your permission. For example, Wells Fargo’s Online Security Guarantee provides added protection against unauthorized access to your accounts.

Visit Wells Fargo’s Fraud Information Center at www.wellsfargo.com/privacy_security/fraud for more tips on how to protect yourself.

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You Don’t Have To Fall For Affinity Fraud

(NAPSI)—For many people, peer pressure and trusting the judgment of others can be significant factors when making investment choices. However, using this kind of decision making to select investments can be a big mistake—even dangerous.

That’s the word from experts such as Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

According to Walsh, this type of behavior—relying on peer pressure when investing—Is called “social consensus,” and has been used by many con men to commit affinity fraud.

Said Walsh, “A fraudster will find a tight-knit group of like-minded people who share similar beliefs or interests—like a social group or a church. Then he creates a domino effect, luring investors one by one through their own recommendations within their group. Fraudsters know that potential investors are more likely to follow suit when they see everyone else onboard.”

Tips on Fighting Fraud

It can take more than faith to protect your life savings from affinity fraud. To help, Walsh offers the following tips:

• Learn to spot red flags. Beware if emphasis is placed on the popularity of the investment rather than on critical specifics—such as why it’s the right fit for your financial objectives, how it makes money and how it can lose money.

• Ask questions. Is the investment registered with your state securities regulator or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)? Is the seller registered with FINRA, the SEC or your state?

• Check the answers before investing. Don’t just take the seller’s word for it. Check the information you receive with the proper authorities.

Some Congregations at Risk

Walsh offered the example of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) as a close-knit and trustworthy community that has often been the target of affinity scams.

She shared the experience of Jim and Diane Smart, two very active members of their LDS church in Utah, who lost more than $200,000 to a fraudster masquerading as a churchgoing financial expert.

The con artist promised financial rewards to be used for families and couples to attend mission trips and help better themselves as church members. Like many of the con’s other victims, this appealed to the Smarts’ deep faith.

But experts such as Gerri Walsh suggest you exercise caution, since fraudsters readily abuse this trust and loyalty.

To learn more, visit www.SaveAndInvest.org/LearnMore.

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Wildfires: Preparation Can Limit Their Threat

(NAPSI)—Wildfires can spread with astonishing speed, quickly engulfing brush and trees and threatening lives and property.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take before a fire strikes to limit the damage and help protect your family.

The Value of a Plan

Karen McCague, claims operations manager, Liberty Mutual Insurance, believes that safety starts with a plan—before a fire strikes.

“Each year, more than 3,500 Americans die and more than five times that are injured in fires. Ensuring that you have a fire safety plan in place and that every member of your household understands what to do in the event of an evacuation is paramount to your safety and survival.”

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

People

She says families should create an evacuation plan and practice it throughout the year. The plan should include an out-of-area contact who can serve as a central point of coordination. This person should have copies of important documents, such as passports, birth certificates and property deeds, as well as an up-to-date phone list.

In addition, she thinks at least one family member should receive basic first-aid training.

Property

There are steps you can take to protect your property as well. Removing flammable vegetation around the home, pruning tree branches and regularly mowing the lawn may slow the spread or prevent fires from spreading as a result of flying embers. Make sure that you have a garden hose long enough to reach all accessible areas of the house and a ladder to reach the roof so that you can spray your house before evacuating to prevent flying embers from igniting.

After the fire is extinguished, be sure to check around your house, on the roof and near any other structures for “hot spots” up to 12 hours after returning home.

Possessions

Finally, create an organized photo catalog of your possessions on your smartphone with the easy-to-use Liberty Mutual Home Gallery™ app. Developing a catalog of possessions before a disaster, instead of trying to create it from memory later, will save you time and stress, ensuring that you are back on your feet sooner.

For more information about preparing for a wildfire, visit www.libertymutual.com/prepare.

 

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Transportation Bill Focuses Needed Attention On Infrastructure

by Pete K. Rahn

(NAPSI)—State departments of transportation and related industries applauded congressional adoption of a 27-month transportation authorization recently. The funding program moves the nation’s transportation policy in the right direction but the real question that still remains unanswered is: How will the nation pay for transportation in the future?

After almost three years of wrangling and multiple extensions, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or MAP-21, uses 10 years of savings and new revenues to pay for essentially a two-year bill. Clearly, this is not sustainable.

MAP-21, given the poor outlook for gas tax collections, was a remarkable bipartisan effort between the House and Senate that provides more than $120 billion to fund the two-year transportation bill. This is a positive indication that Congress understands the importance of transportation to our economy and the daily lives of all Americans. A $120 billion investment sounds huge. However, it is an actual decline from fiscal year 2009.

Beyond the funding levels, there are numerous positive elements to MAP-21. They include:

• States get more flexibility in administering the program.

• The bill consolidates the existing interstate maintenance, National Highway System and highway bridge programs, while increasing the percentage of federal transportation funding apportioned to these programs.

TIFIA Funding Is Increased

The bill significantly increases funding for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act programs and allows TIFIA to fund up to 49 percent of a project. These changes will quickly convert dozens of state projects from “on-hold” to “full-steam-ahead” status. It also makes many previously thwarted public-private partnerships and tolling projects financially viable/critical components of any longer-term solution.

With all this good news, the big issue that still remains is where and how to find a sustainable revenue stream to fund a rapidly aging and increasingly congested transportation system. MAP-21 provides some breathing room. However, elected officials and the public must continue to work to increase investment into the Highway Trust Fund in preparation for the next deadline in 2014. America deserves a long-term, well-funded transportation plan that includes multiple modes of travel.

For more information about infrastructure investment, contact the state department of transportation or visit www.hntb.com.

• Mr. Rahn is Leader National Transportation Practice at HNTB Corporation.

 

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