FINANCE

Financial Planning For Caregivers

Prepaid Card For Federal Benefits Ticket To Work Receive Benefits Create Jobs Buy Made In USA Veterans Gold Card Fight Financial Fraud National School Choice Public School Spending

Support For Siblings

(NAPSI)—More than 65 million people, 29 percent of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. We also know many are the primary care provider for an adult brother or sister. Yet far more attention is typically paid to caregivers in the role of spouse, parent or adult child. While the caregiver role can be enjoyable, even inspiring, it can also be a lot of work.

To help, Easter Seals and MassMutual Financial Group conducted a study looking specifically at the needs of adult siblings caring for their brother or sister with a disability. The study found sibling caregivers often don't take advantage of resources and supports that are available to them, including Easter Seals.

Sibling Survey Discoveries

Here are a few of the other findings:

• 30 percent of primary caregivers say they don't get support—emotional, physical and financial help—from friends and family.

• Nearly a third of respondents expect to take on the role of primary caregiver in the future.

• Roughly 80 percent say they have a close relationship with their sibling with a disability and that this relationship enhances their life; just 60 percent of the general public respondents feel the same way about their sibling.

• Approximately 60 percent say having a sibling with a disability has a positive impact on their quality of life—helping them develop patience, understanding, compassion, and providing perspective.

• About one in five say having a sibling with a developmental disability has had a negative impact on the cohesiveness of their family, their relationship with their parents, their interactions with extended family or the quality of their lives. Many cite increased stress and having a limited social life as some of the additional challenges they face in caring for their sibling with a disability.

• Two in five say taking care of their sibling with a disability has caused a lot of financial stress for their family.

• 60 percent wish they knew more about how to plan for their sibling's care and finances.

• Less than a third of respondents are currently involved in a support group, though nearly half say that they would like to know more about them.

"The findings will help us shape our supports for families caring for someone with a disability and raise greater awareness about the challenges caregivers face," says Patricia Wright, Easter Seals National Director of Autism Services.

Learn More

If you are caring for a sibling with a disability or expect to be someday, you can visit www.MassMutual.com for financial planning resources for caregivers. See more study findings at www.easterseals.com, where you can also find nearby services and supports.

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A Financial Tool For Older Americans

(NAPSI)—Beginning March 1, 2013, the U. S. Treasury will no longer issue paper checks for federal benefits, including Social Security, instead requiring recipients to switch to electronic payments. If beneficiaries do not set up their own electronic direct deposit to a bank account, they will receive their federal benefits on a prepaid card.

To provide older Americans with more choices, AARP Foundation has endorsed a full-featured reloadable prepaid MasterCard® card from Green Dot Corporation designed to serve as a direct deposit option for government benefits and everyday use. Available online or at participating CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid and Walgreens stores nationwide, the AARP Foundation Prepaid MasterCard from Green Dot can be used everywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted, including to shop online. It does not require a credit check to sign up and never charges overdraft or low balance fees.

There are no monthly service fees as long as the cardholder makes a direct deposit of at least $250 in that month. This amount is well below the average monthly Social Security benefits of $1,200 for a retired worker and $600 for spouses and children. Otherwise, the monthly fee is $5.95.

Services on the card include an interest-bearing savings account, a nationwide ATM network with no withdrawal fees, a free online bill-paying service, and free paper statements upon request. The card and savings account are issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Bancorp, Inc. The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

"Social Security is a major income source for millions of older Americans," said Jo Ann Jenkins, president, AARP Foundation. "The AARP Foundation Prepaid MasterCard from Green Dot provides a safe and reliable option to help them manage their finances and protect their benefits."

"This product is more than just a prepaid card for federal benefit recipients," said Kostas Sgoutas, Green Dot's Chief Revenue Officer. "It's a convenient, low-cost option for older Americans that can also be reloaded with funds from other sources, such as a part-time job, or with cash."

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Helping People Move From Benefits To Work

(NAPSI)—There's good news for the millions of Americans who receive disability benefits from Social Security and want to work. There's a free, voluntary program that just may be their ticket to employment.

The program, called Ticket to Work, makes it possible for those who receive Supplemental Security Income—also known as SSI—or Social Security Disability to begin a job while maintaining access to some of their benefits.

In the case of Terry Anderson, it was more than a ticket to work. It allowed her to take control of her life. Terry went on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) after being diagnosed with cancer and losing her job due to downsizing. As a result, she took an extended period of time away from work.

A year later, with her cancer in remission, Terry learned about the Iowa Development Workforce Center, an American Job Center that's one of over 1,000 disability employment-focused organizations that provide free employment-related support services to Social Security beneficiaries through the Ticket to Work program. She decided to see what her local American Job Center had to offer.

Fortunately, the staff was able to provide her with expert advice about disability benefits and employment. For example, she learned about special Social Security rules called "Work Incentives," which are intended to help people who receive disability benefits transition to the workforce and become financially self-sufficient.

She also found out that recipients of SSDI can keep their Medicare coverage and their cash benefits while gaining work experience during the Trial Work Period. Terry also learned that thanks to another Work Incentive called "Expedited Reinstatement," she might be able to restart her Social Security benefits without a new application, if she has to stop work because of her disability within five years.

Eventually, Terry found work as a loan-servicing specialist and now works a second job at Walmart, where she trains cashiers and enjoys interacting with customers.

Grateful that Social Security helped her "…get through the storm," Terry acknowledged she was happy to leave benefits behind.

To learn more about the program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at (866) 968-7842 (V); (866) 833-2967 (TTY/TDD) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work.

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Website Promotes Products Made In U.S.A.

(NAPSI)—There's good news for those who would like to shop in a way that helps to create jobs in the U.S. and promotes businesses that are kind to the environment.

There's a website that offers over 3,800 products—all made in the U.S.A. —from over 600 American companies, many of which are family owned.

The products on the site—called MadeinUSAForever.com—range from clothing to personal care items to home furnishings and furniture-and more.

Shoppers will find many familiar brands, such as Schaefer Ranchwear, men's clothing by Anderson-Little, robes by Telegraph Hill and bedding by Maine Heritage Weavers.

The site was founded by Todd Lipscomb. Lipscomb spent over 10 years in the high-tech industry and is author of the book "Re-Made in The USA" (Wiley & Sons 2011). His goal with the site is to provide an easy, fun way to buy products made in the U.S.A.

Said Lipscomb, "When you buy goods made in the U.S.A. , you help create jobs and keep the American economy growing. Plus, U.S. manufacturing processes are much cleaner for the environment than those in many other countries."

He believes that many brands sold in the U.S. are produced in countries using dangerous, heavily polluting processes. That means when you purchase American-made products, you know that you're helping to keep the world a little cleaner for your children.

To learn more or shop, visit www.MadeinUSAForever.com.

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The U.S. Department Of Labor Is Here To Help

(NAPSI)—As you are well aware, a great deal of the energy and attention in this country is focused on creating jobs. As the Secretary of Labor, this challenge is foremost on my mind. But creating jobs is only part of the puzzle.

By 2020, 17 of the 30 fastest-growing occupations will require a postsecondary certificate or degree. In fact, employers are actively looking to fill nearly 4 million job openings in America right now. So we have to do more to help you get the specific skills local employers want to see from day one.

On Labor Day 2012 and every day, my No.1 priority is to help those looking for work, get the training they need for good-paying careers. Here are a few tips:

• Not sure where to begin? Get to know your local American Job Center. These nearly 3,000 "one-stop-shops" are a part of a nationwide network where you can work with employment professionals to update your resume, strengthen interview skills and find companies looking to hire. Find your local center by visiting CareerOneStop.org.

• Looking for a fresh start? Check out MySkillsMyFuture.org to explore different careers that build off of your existing skills, connect you to free training programs and even find local employers looking to hire. The site will also tell you how much different jobs pay near you or across the country, as well as the additional skills you'll need to succeed.

• Not sure what career is right for you? Visit MyNextMove.org to find the job that's the perfect fit. You can fill out a questionnaire listing your interests and abilities, and get suggestions for different employment paths in more than 900 careers. It will also show you local apprenticeship and certificate programs to help you get a job in high-growth industries.

• Are you a veteran? My Next Move for Vets is just for you. Enter your military occupation code and this site can help translate your military skills to match them up with those needed to fill civilian jobs. If you're a post-9/11 era veteran, you can also download a Veterans Gold Card at DOL.gov/VETS to access additional services from your local American Job Center.

• Don't have Internet access at home? We've partnered with local libraries all around the country to make sure that you always have a place to log on to our online resources. Most American Job Centers offer free access for those looking for a job, too.

• Have more questions? Call us. You can reach our toll-free helpline at (866) 4-USA-DOL for the most up to date resources. Nearly 160,000 people do it each month.

Make no mistake, the American workforce is back on track. Every day Americans are going back to work. At the U.S. Department of Labor, our role is to help make that process easier. And we won't rest until every American who wants a job can find one.

The Hon. Hilda L. Solis is the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

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Financial Fraudsters Exploit Relationships

(NAPSI)—From your family to your social networks, the people around you often have the most influence on your life. But according to experts, fraud artists can also use those bonds to convince you to invest in a scam.

"This tactic is called affinity fraud, and it is one of the most common types of investor fraud, because it exploits the bonds you share with others," said Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. "A fraudster will create a common bond strongly shared with community members—like in a church or the military—and then use this bond to take advantage of their trust, luring multiple investors in the community."

Worst-Case Example

One of the worst cases of affinity fraud in recent history is the case of the "Three Hebrew Boys." These three scam artists used an angle of faith and camaraderie to target church groups and military service members. Ultimately, they conned their victims out of $82 million.

The Hebrew Boys created relationships with high-ranking military officials, who were then used as salespeople to sign on their subordinates—like Joyce Adams, a retired Navy officer who lost almost $40,000 to the scam.

Adams assumed the officials had already done their research on the investment and did not hesitate to invest because the bond with other military personnel gave her "a sense of trust."

Like many fraud experts, Walsh warns investors that just because everyone else is doing something, it doesn't mean it's okay. When it comes to finances, you should take more than trust into consideration.

Helpful Tips

Walsh suggests that you follow these simple steps when considering an investment proposition:

• Ask questions—and expect answers. Even if the person who first told you about the investment is a friend, there may be others involved who are not. Ask the seller if he/she is licensed and if the investment is registered.

• Double-check. Verify that the seller is licensed and the investment is registered at www.SaveAndInvest.org/LearnMore.

• End the conversation. Practice saying "no." Even if you trust the seller, give yourself time to think about the investment. Take steps to make sure your money is in safe hands.

For more tips on spotting investment fraud and protecting yourself, visit www.SaveAndInvest.org/LearnMore.

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Reform A Focus Of National School Choice Week

(NAPSI)—Over 3,500 special events will be used to create what's being described as the world's largest-ever celebration of education reform.

School choice supporters plan to hold rallies, roundtable discussions, educational film screenings, school fairs and other events as part of the third annual National School Choice Week, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, 2013.

The events are independently planned by parents, students, teachers and community leaders across all 50 states and are designed to raise awareness of the need to provide parents with access to better schools for their children.

The Most Challenging Issue

Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, believes that education reform is the single most important—and challenging—issue facing our nation.

Said Campanella, "With one American child dropping out of school every 26 seconds, our country must do much more to provide every child with access to a challenging, motivating and effective school. National School Choice Week provides an opportunity for millions of people who want real education reform in our nation to have their voices heard."

Campanella went on to say that student achievement can increase and graduation rates can rise if states and localities increase access to a variety of different educational options for families, from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning and home schooling.

"Schools are not 'one-size-fits-all,' because every child has unique interests and needs. Parents deserve the opportunity to select the right learning environment for their kids, regardless of where they live or how much money they earn," added Campanella. "Time and again, research shows that when parents are empowered to make these choices, children benefit tremendously."

The effort has drawn diverse support from celebrities—such as Bill Cosby—and elected officials from both political parties. But Campanella said that anyone who supports the concept of school choice can plan and organize an event.

More information, including tips on planning events and a list of planned public events, is available online at www.schoolchoiceweek.com.

 

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Public Schools Burdened By Bureaucrats

(NAPSI)— America 's public schools are bloated with bureaucracy and skinny on results. To curb that trend, a new report has proposed a strict diet: Focus on students, empower their parents, and reward great teachers.

Since 1950, the number of public school non-teaching positions has soared 702 percent nationwide while the student population increased 96 percent, according to "The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America 's Public Schools." That report, from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, shows teachers' numbers also increased--252 percent—but still far short of administrators and non-teaching personnel.

Academic outcomes, however, have not experienced similar growth. Public high school graduation rates peaked around 1970, and government data show reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fell slightly between 1992 and 2008. Math scores on the NAEP long-term trend were stagnant during the same period.

"It really is a travesty when you consider the billions spent on hiring and how little we have to show for it," said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation. "If non-teaching personnel grew at the rate of students, each teacher could be given a $7,500 raise, every child in poverty could get a $1,700 private school scholarship, or taxpayers could see some much-needed savings."

In total, had non-teaching personnel increased at the same rate as students, American public schools would have an additional $24.3 billion annually, according to the Friedman report.

Notably, that hiring trend has been just as prominent over the past two decades. From 1992 to 2009, students' numbers increased 17 percent whereas administrators and other non-teaching staff rose 46 percent. And during that time, some states actually lost students yet kept hiring more non-teachers.

For instance, in Hawaii, student enrollment in public schools jumped about 3 percent, while non-teaching personnel grew almost 69 percent. In the District of Columbia, the student population declined some 15 percent while non-teaching personnel increased 42 percent.

The study also debunks the claim that students today are "harder to teach" than those from previous generations, which some use to defend the decades-long staffing increases.

The Friedman Foundation contends that if all Americans were able to access schools of choice, such as private or charter schools, greater efficiency and productivity could be achieved as parents choose less-bloated schools where their children's funding can go the furthest.

To learn more, visit www.edchoice.org.

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