Blog Archive

Friday, December 8, 2017

All You Need To Know About Open Enrollment

 

 
Open enrollment is here again, and for many Americans this time period – and the entire health insurance market – spells confusion.

Is Obamacare still in effect? Are premiums really increasing as much as predicted? Do I need to take action now if I’m happy with my insurance plan? What’s the difference between all the plans offered in the marketplace?

So many questions! No worries, though. We’ve got answers. Read on for the complete rundown on open enrollment, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and today’s health insurance options.

1.) The ACA – still in effect?

Before you go shopping for a cheaper or better insurance plan, bear in mind that the Affordable Healthcare Act is still up and running. Many people are under the mistaken impression that the current administration has overturned the program or will soon do so. While an alternative health care plan has been proposed, there has been no change in the current system thus far, and it is not likely that there will be within the next few months.

What does this mean for the average American?

The ACA has made it mandatory for every American to have sufficient health care coverage. The penalty for failing to comply with this law is the higher of $695 per adult or 2.5% of household income.

The ACA also oversees the government-run health insurance marketplace in which insurance plans can only be purchased during open enrollment. In most states, the open enrollment period for 2017 is about 6 weeks long, running from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. The following states have extended their enrollment period: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.
2.) Rising premiums or cheaper rates?

If you ask the average Jane or John Doe if insurance costs are rising or falling, you’d probably get an earful about ever-climbing premium rates and health care costs. On the flip side, though, is the government, claiming their subsidized plan and the expansion of Medicaid has health care costs steadily declining.

In fact, both arguments are true. The silver plans on the ACA marketplace rose by an average of more than 30% this past year – and 2018 is looking a whole lot worse. Premiums are expected to rise by as much as 34-50% this coming year.
The current administration has claimed it will stop paying for many of the key payments to insurers it’s previously shouldered as part of the ACA. This factor, coupled with the overwhelming uncertainty surrounding the ACA, has led insurers to drastically increase their premiums.
The 80% of customers who receive subsidized insurance through Obamacare will be shielded from these price hikes; it’s the other 20% who will bear the brunt of the unstable marketplace.
The premium increase rates will vary by state and by the individual, but it is quite possible for an Obamacare customer who was paying $593 a month in premiums in 2017 to be saddled with a monthly premium of $1,001 in 2018!

All this uncertainty has led to another significant development: Many providers have left the marketplace plans. This means your doctor may no longer be part of your insurance plan. Be sure to find out about any possible changes before open enrollment is up, even if you aren’t looking to change your plan.

3.) Where to apply
If you do not receive insurance coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or your workplace, you may want to consider changing your insurance plan this year. To find out what your options are, visit healthcare.gov. Most states offer insurance coverage through this site, while others will redirect you to a private state-run site where you can purchase a marketplace plan.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Surviving the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact



The holiday season is a special time. With Charlie Brown on TV and carols on the radio, and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get carried away.  The pressure to over-shop and overspend when you’re rushing to buy everything on your list can be overwhelming. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for fantastic pre-and post-holiday tips to ensure you’ll have a holly, jolly December without breaking the bank.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

7 Ways To Save On Thanksgiving Costs This Month



Thanksgiving means giving thanks for all the good in our lives. It also means stuffed turkey and gravy, cranberry pie and mashed potatoes. It’s a time-honored tradition of spending time enjoying a delectable holiday meal while in the company of those we love.

Friday, November 3, 2017

How Can I Shop Safely On Black Friday?




Q: I’m an incurable bargain hunter and I thrive on finding incredible deals. I’m really looking forward to Black Friday, but I worry about the risks. From the possibility of being trampled or getting into a fistfight with a fellow shopper, to the chance that my shopping bags will be stolen or that my credit card will be frauded, there’s so much that can go wrong! How can I protect myself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mutual Funds For The Beginner Investor

 

Are you ready to dip your big toe into the deep sea of investing?

Monday, September 25, 2017

International Credit Union Day: Dreams Thrive Here



Are you as excited as we are to celebrate International Credit Union Day?

Friday, September 22, 2017

How To Spot A Credit Repair Scam   


Repairing your credit can be an uphill battle. You’re looking at months of hard work, negotiating with creditors, reworking your budget and identifying the factors that are making your credit score lag. In short, it’s a hassle and it takes lots of time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

How To Shop For Fall On A Budget



That long-anticipated day has finally come and gone. Your kids looked sharp and neat sporting spiffy backpacks and dressed in their spanking new back-to-school clothing. You watched them board that bus and waved them off from your perch at the bus stop until your arm hurt.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Helping Harvey Victims Without Getting Scammed



Hurricane Harvey has wrought more devastation than any natural disaster in the U.S. over the last decade. The death count is still climbing, thousands of people have lost their homes, and the estimated cost of relief is currently topping $10 billion.
 
The news reports recounting the stories of Houston residents whose lives have been upturned by the storm can really tug at your heart. In fact, you may be moved enough to open your purse strings and donate whatever you can to help the victims of this horrific hurricane.
 
Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what many scammers are counting on. When emotions run high, they know they can count on your caution to be thrown to the winds and your wallet to be thrown wide open.
 
If you’d love to assist with relief funds, but want to make sure your money is really being used for helping victims – and not padding the pockets of scammers – use this handy guide as your reference. Now you can give with confidence!
 
1.) Avoid Harvey Scams

Opportunists using this crisis to con you out of your money are great in number, but with just a bit of awareness and precaution, you can avoid all scammers.
 
First, make sure your computer’s security systems are updated to the most recent versions, as scammers will first prey on unprotected devices.
 
Second, as always, never share your personal information with an unverified source.
There are hundreds of “must-watch” hurricane Harvey videos circulating the web, each with attention-grabbing titles and thousands of views. Many of these, though, will ask you to input your email username and password before you can watch them. Doing so can infect your device with malware and give scammers an open door into your computer.
 
Similarly, do not click on any links or download anything from suspicious sources. Remember, the urgent “Donate Now” ads on your social media pages might look convincing, but may actually be the work of a sophisticated scammer.
 
Finally, it’s best not to donate over the phone because it’s difficult to verify a charity’s authenticity that way.
 
2.) Verify a charity’s validity

While Harvey scammers abound, that doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of sincere people who are genuinely concerned for victims and are collecting donations to help them out.
 
If you come across a charity you’d like to donate to, you can easily determine its validity. Check out the charity on the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Be sure the charity’s name matches the listed charity exactly. Alternatively, contact the organization yourself.

You can also ask a representative to share details about the charity with you. If they seem reluctant to answer questions or they brush off your concerns, that’s a red flag – proceed with caution!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is It Worth Traveling To See The Total Solar Eclipse?



On Aug. 21, 2017, for the first time in decades, a total solar eclipse will occur across the continental United States. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the United States in 38 years. That being the case, this is certainly a rare astronomical event you’re not going to want to miss. In fact, there won’t be another such occurrence in the U.S. until April 8, 2024. This remarkable event occurs when the moon completely blocks the sun, turning daylight into night, leaving the sun’s atmosphere momentarily visible.

The path of the total eclipse will be relatively thin, and it will sweep across portions of 14 U.S. states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in every U.S. state. To view the total solar eclipse, you must be in the path of totality.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Creative Ways To Save On Energy Costs



We’ve all heard it before: Close the vents in rooms you don’t use, regularly replace your AC filters and vacuum the coils on your fridge. But what if you’re following all the conventional energy-saving tips and your summertime electricity bill is still astronomical?

Here’s where we come in! You know how much we at CORE Credit Union love helping you save money. So we’ve compiled a list of 10 creative ways to lower your electricity bill – even when the humidity is thicker than pancake mix. And don’t worry; You won’t find any mention of refrigerator coils here!
 
1.) Plant some trees and shrubs
Trees are a whole lot more than oxygen-breathing beauties; they’re also your key to trimming your electricity bill.
 
Take a good look at your home’s exterior walls. If there are lots of west-facing windows, you’re likely getting loads of sunlight each afternoon that’s heating your home and forcing your AC unit to work harder. By planting trees and shrubs in front of some of these windows, you’ll lower your energy use in a clean – and green – way.
 
2.) Go solar
Getting your home’s electricity through solar panels is wonderful – and also incredibly expensive. If you’d love to go green on your home’s energy but can’t afford solar, consider leasing the panels instead of buying them. You’ll be given a set monthly fee, which makes budgeting easier, with no surprises during high-energy times of year. Also, according to Jonathan Bass of SolarCity, the monthly payment for leasing solar panels is often 15% less than the local utility rate.
 
3.) Rethink your roof
Is your roof dressed in black for 90-degree weather? No wonder your home is so warm! Consider installing a sunlight-reflecting “cool roof” or adding an approved coating to your roof that will deflect heat. Both can reduce your roof’s temperature by up to 60 degrees, which can then trim your AC use by as much as 20%.
 
4.) Keep your cool
Large, heat-generating appliances can warm up a room quickly. Consider running your washing machine and dishwasher at night or in the early morning when it’s cooler outside.
 
5.) Lighten up
Lighting generally eats up 25% of residential electricity bills. Listen to what your dad always told you and shut the lights in a room when you walk out. Also, consider leaving lights off completely if it’s sunny out and your windows are open. Lastly, switch to CFL or LED bulbs. By swapping out just five heat-generating incandescent light bulbs in a high-traffic area in your home, you can save $65 a year on energy costs.
 
6.) Fix leaky windows and doors
If your home isn’t a new build, you likely have leaking windows and doors. Caulking regularly shrinks. Structural walls of houses tend to shift with time.
 
To check if your doors and windows are leaking air, thus making your AC put in extra effort to keep you cool, run the match test. Shut off your AC, and close all doors and windows. Light a match and hold it near the windows and exterior doors of your house. You’ll see an air flow if the flame moves, meaning there are leaks.
And, if you’ve got air leaks, you can easily reseal your windows by weatherstripping the problem areas. Your leaky door may need a door sweep replacement. Just peel off the old one and bring it to a home improvement shop so they can help you find a new one that fits your door.
Sealing leaks is easy, economical and can cut your energy costs by 30%.
 
7.) Get smart!
We live in the age of the smart … everything! By installing a smart thermostat, your home will be programmed to cool off at exactly the times you need. Best of all, you can control the settings even when you’re away from home. Let your AC cool off people, not empty rooms.
 
8.) Pull out the plug
Did you know that up to 75% of energy consumption by home electronics happens when they’re turned off? Save money by pulling out the plugs when you’re done with your electronics, both big and small. Think toaster, coffee maker and even entertainment center. Why pay for something you aren’t using?
 
9.) Fire up the grill
If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen! An oven that’s cranked up to the standard 350° and a flaming stove-top will both make your AC unit work harder. But who wants to stand over a hot stove on a beautiful summer day anyways? Step outside for a cold picnic supper or make good use of your grill for dinner prep. You’ll keep the heat out and enjoy the glorious sunshine at the same time!
 
10.) Laundry smarts
An incredible 90% of the energy used when doing laundry comes from heating the water. When possible, choose the cold setting on your washing machine to reduce your energy consumption. The next big culprit in electricity use in the laundry process is the dryer. Hanging your clothes to dry will trim your bill significantly. If you must use the dryer, consider sticking some tennis balls in there to make the dryer more efficient and help it finish its job faster.
 
Your Turn: Do you have an energy saving hack that keeps your electric bill manageable, even in the summer? Share it with us in the comments!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beware Of Fake Checks! Protect Yourself From The Latest Scam




Despite a rapidly changing economy and a constantly evolving banking system, personal checks don’t look all that different from the way they looked 50 years ago. They represent a system of trust and goodwill. Recently, though, they’ve been used as the means for pulling off some nasty scams.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has recently cautioned consumers to be extra wary of an uptick in the circulation of fake check scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also recently issued an alert regarding a fake check scam.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Beware Of Phishing Scams!


Scammers never take a break! Just when you think they’ve run out of steam, another scam surfaces in which fraudsters try to quietly take both your money and information.
 
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned of a recent upsurge in phishing scams involving credit unions. With just a bit of online digging, scammers lure victims into forking over thousands of dollars or divulging confidential information.
Like all phishing scams, the scammer contacts the victim, posing as a legitimate business or service provider that the victim is familiar with. In this case, the scammers claim to be a representative of your credit union.
 
The fraudsters use social engineering to trap their victims. This means they take advantage of social norms to inspire trust and manipulate people into clicking on their links or answering their emails. It’s almost impulsive for people to download attachments that look like they’re from friends or a familiar business.
 
The scammers most commonly reach out via email, but they may also use mediums like phone calls, text messages or social media sites. They convince the victims of their legitimacy by providing some personal details about the victim – which they easily pull off the internet.
 
Victims are lured into providing information with the promise of compensation for a survey or by claiming the victim needs to verify or update an account. Once the scammer has the information, they can empty the victim’s accounts, track their online activity and/or steal their identity.
 
Alternately, the scammer may lead a victim to click on links that are embedded with spyware. The links lead to a website that may look just like the credit union’s site, but is actually bogus. In such instances, the victim is probably certain they’re browsing their credit union’s website, and won’t hesitate to share information or input usernames and passwords.
 
The biggest clue that these transactions are scams is their means of communication. Your credit union will never ask for sensitive information through insecure channels. We also won’t ask you to verify your account number – we already have that information!
 
Despite this red flag, hundreds of people are falling prey to phishing scams. Don’t be the next victim! Here are four tips to help you protect yourself from phishing scams:
 
1.) Ignore suspicious emails
When online, be on guard. If you receive an email from an unidentifiable source, ignore it. Don’t reply to the email, click on any embedded links or open attachments. If you suspect an email is from a scammer, delete it and add the domain and email address to your spam filter to prevent a recurrence.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Charging Your Phone In Public? Watch That Port!



Smartphones have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Even if it’s just there in case of emergencies, having a charged cellphone can provide a serious sense of security. That’s why, when the battery meter starts to tick down, a cold sense of panic rises in your stomach.

Many public places have begun to adapt to this change, and provide USB ports in addition to electrical outlets. Rather than jockeying with laptop users and carrying bulky outlet converters, smartphone owners can plug directly into the wall.

Sadly, this wonderful public good has become a playground for thieves. Scammers have hooked tiny computers into some of those ports. When you plug your phone in, they can install malicious programs on your phone. These programs report back personally identifiable information that thieves use to commit identity theft. Alternately, thieves can use the connection to your phone to look through your phone’s contents, stealing browser history data — including passwords. It’s called “Juice Jacking,” and it can take as little as three minutes for them to break your phone wide open.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Independence Day Celebrations, Yesterday And Today




Do you know exactly what happened on July 4, 1776? What do our Fourth of July celebrations commemorate, and why?

The Reason We Celebrate July 4

July 4, 1776, is the date written on the original Declaration of Independence, even though it wasn’t signed until Aug. 2 of the same year. July 4 was the day in which the Continental Congress officially agreed and approved the final edits to the document that Thomas Jefferson wrote. It declared the words that would establish a new nation, independent of Great Britain’s control.

Thirteen American colonies were already at war over oppressive taxation, but residents weren’t consistent in their opinions and their efforts until the words of the Declaration united them and gave them a foundation for the Revolutionary War victory in 1783. Because the Declaration was also understood to be the first formal statement by any group of people asserting a right to choose their own form of government, it was a significant document for all citizens of the world, not only for the colonists.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Financial Self Defense

What You Need To Know About The Petya Attack


 
A massive cyberattack swept through Europe this week, throwing hundreds of businesses into chaos and confusion. The attack originated in Kiev, Ukraine, and quickly spread to the Middle East and the United States, affecting many types of businesses, hospitals and financial institutions. Ukraine was hit the hardest, with systems compromised at its central bank, municipal metro, in Kiev's Boryspil Airport and at the Ukrenergo electricity supplier.

The damage the virus caused was widespread and severe. Maersk, the huge Danish shipping company, has reported systems down across multiple sites. The virus reached servers for Rosneft, the Russian oil company. Closer to home, the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck has reported substantial damage caused by Petya.

Here's what you need to know about Petya and how to protect yourself from future ransomware attacks:

1.) What is Petya?
Petya is a strain of ransomware. Like its predecessors, Petya encrypts the victim's computer, rendering it unusable unless the victim pays a ransom. Petya demands that $300 be paid to a static Bitcoin address, and that a Bitcoin wallet and installation key be emailed to a Posteo email address.

Sound familiar? It should. This virus comes hot on the heels of last month's WannaCry attack, which hit more than 150 countries across the globe.
In fact, the two attacks are eerily similar. A quick analysis of the virus by two separate firms confirmed that the new ransomware uses the same EternalBlue exploit harnessed by WannaCry. The exploit targets Windows' SMB file-sharing system, and was allegedly developed by the NSA and later shared by the Shadow Brokers hacking group. Microsoft has since patched this weakness, but many computers remain vulnerable.

Early reports identified the virus as a variant of the Petya ransomware, although the company later clarified that the virus is a new strain of ransomware, which it named "NotPetya." Later, the virus was officially dubbed "GoldenEye," and has since been interchangeably referred to as "Petya" and "GoldenEye."
Unfortunately, you don't need to be personally breached to be infected. You can be a responsible user, with updated security systems, and still be tricked into downloading malware through emails or even a shared Word document.

Though WannaCry affected hundreds of thousands of computers, it is amateurish when compared to GoldenEye. The newer ransomware not only encrypts crucial files, it ruins the victim's entire hard drive.

2.) Should I pay the ransom?
If your computer has been infected by GoldenEye, do not pay the requested ransom. As always, the demand for payment is merely a ploy to milk you for money. The attackers do not seem to have any intention - or any capability - of restoring an encrypted computer to its original state. If you pay the ransom, you won't see your money, or your files, again. To make it even worse, you will mark yourself as an easy target for future attacks.

3.) Who is behind Petya?

The origins of the attack are still unclear, but the involvement of Ukraine's electric utilities, and the fact that approximately 60% of Petya's damage was concentrated in Kiev, casts heavy suspicion on Russia.
The bigger question, though, is why the attack was carried out. Usually, ransomware has one objective: to make big bucks for the cybercrooks behind the attack. The creators of Petya, though, do not seem intent on raking in the dough. The virus has proven to be incapable of decrypting infected machines, discouraging ransom payouts. Also, Petya has an outrageously complex payment system, based on a single email address, which was shut down almost immediately after the virus went public. At last count, the Bitcoin wallet associated with the attack had netted only $10,000 - a woefully meager payout by ransomware standards.

This begs the uncomfortable question: What if money wasn't the point? What if the attackers just had a political agenda? As of now, there are no answers, only questions.

4.) Is there a fix?
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no complete fix for the ransomware. There is a way to block GoldenEye, but it won't shut down every infection. Experts have determined that it is impossible to find a killswitch for Petya, like there was for WannaCry.

5.) How can I protect myself from future attacks?
Perhaps the most disturbing factor in this attack is its resemblance to WannaCry - and the reality that the two attacks struck just weeks apart.

WannaCry should have been sufficient motivation for people to strengthen their computers' protection. Unfortunately, though, it appears that most people read about the attack and went on with their lives.
In the wake of the WannaCry panic, Microsoft released special patches to protect outdated computers from the NSA exploits. And yet, according to Avast, an antivirus company, 38 million PCs scanned last week still had not patched their systems.

Don't be the next victim!
Protect your computer by updating your security systems to the latest versions.

Remember: If you use an older OS, you are more vulnerable to attacks; be sure to use the Microsoft patch to keep your computer safe.
Also, make sure your antivirus software is updated regularly; many antivirus companies have also released patches to block Petya and this latest version of the virus.

Finally, use caution. Back up your computer on an external hard drive regularly. Be wary about opening unfamiliar emails and never download anything you can't explain.

With a bit of precaution and lot of protection, your computer will be safe from all malware attacks.

Your Turn: Did you take any action after last month's WannaCry attack? Why, or why not? Share your take with us in the comments!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

6 Ways To Save On Your Summer Vacation



The ocean is calling – and so is the open road. Your dream vacation awaits! But first, you need to work out the financial details. How are you going to pay for your getaway? How much can you realistically spend? Where is the money for your vacation going to come from?
Ideally, a plump vacation fund that’s fed throughout the year is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, we often don’t think about how to pay for vacation until it’s a few weeks away. To make things even worse, according to LearnVest, an alarming 74% of Americans go into debt to pay for a vacation.
 
Don’t become part of that statistic! Be proactive in planning your vacation by saving up for it in advance. Forgo some luxuries in the months or weeks leading up to your vacation and save the extra cash for your getaway. Consider running a yard sale featuring all of your forgotten treasures and use the profits to fund your trip. Skip your weekly dinner out for a while and put the money in your vacation budget.
 
Now it’s time to plan your vacation! When you’ve got the money saved up, create a realistic vacation budget. These six vacation saving tips will help you plan the perfect getaway while staying well within your budget.
 
1.) Timing is everything

Be a savvy shopper. There is an ideal window for buying everything, and booking airline flights is no exception. Flight prices generally fluctuate until departure day, but experts say the sweet spot is 54 days before your travel date. If you don’t want to be busy checking prices all day, sign up for emails from a savings alert site. Let them know which dates and locations you’re interested in, and they’ll let you know when a flight goes on sale so you can book your discounted tickets before they’re sold out.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Skip-a-Payment: Free Cash Flow With A Summertime Break From Your Loan Payment


Risking It When Investing


Q: My wife is a risk taker and wants to invest in things that aren’t really in my comfort zone. I know it’s generally considered better to invest where returns are higher, but that also means a higher risk! Is there some sort of middle ground?

A: It’s great that you’re thinking this through. Many couples face the same question, and while the simplest solution might be to split your funds down the middle and invest as you each see fit, that’s not likely to bring peace or wealth into the relationship. In a marriage, for one thing, whether accounts are titled separately or jointly, they are considered marital assets (even 401Ks). And a healthy relationship depends on working jointly toward financial goals, not going it alone.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Financial Tips For Single Parents

 Smart money management is always important, but it can take on more urgency for those who are without a partner. Whether you’re divorced, widowed, or single by choice, single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges.
Marilyn Timbers, a Connecticut-based financial advisor, says of having to raise a child on one income: “Children are a joy, but they do not come cheap.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes in a report that it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18, and some single parents have to shoulder that responsibility alone. Even if child support is adequate – unfortunately nearly 50% of that support is never paid – you’ll do yourself a favor if you think ahead about financial matters as a single mom or dad.
 
Estate planning is your first priority, according to Lisa Hay of Ascend Financial. It’s essential to make arrangements for your children should you become incapacitated, and this means spending time on two documents that no one enjoys thinking about: a will, which specifies a guardian for your children and how you’ll pass assets down to them; and a “power of attorney,” which gives someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.
You may also want to set up a trust. A trust is a legal structure in which your assets can be held for the children. It is overseen by a trustee. And check with your employer to see if it offers a disability benefit. Generally, you will get a reduced income amount when you claim disability – anywhere from 50% to 70% of your salary. “Your income is your most important asset,” says Tom Morrill, owner of Morrill Insurance Group. Insuring it can be especially crucial for single parents who don’t have a second income to cover a gap.
 
Hay also says be sure to have life insurance. What you purchase will depend on your finances, but a term policy is most economical because it’s a straightforward death benefit. A healthy 33-year-old woman, for example, would pay roughly $240 a year for a 20-year term, $500,000 life insurance policy. This would get your child through college should something happen to you.

Health insurance is “the number one insurance need for a single parent,” according to Morrill, who considers life insurance a close second. People often complain about the cost, but if you’re uninsured, a serious medical procedure or hospital stay can be disastrous to your finances. And, of course, losing a job or becoming ill is still more catastrophic as a single parent than as part of a two-income couple. A recent Harvard study revealed that 62 percent of bankruptcies were caused by medical debt. You can comparison-shop for policies at your state’s marketplace or at HealthCare.gov.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Kick Off A Safe And Healthy Summer


Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer in the U.S., and for many of us that means time spent outdoors, swimming, picnics and travel. Here are some tips to help keep your family healthy, happy and far from the ER this summer.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

8 Things You Thought You Knew About Memorial Day

Tags:

Everyone Understands the True Meaning of the Day
In 2000, a Gallup Poll showed that only 28% of Americans understood the true meaning of Memorial Day. In response, President Clinton issued an official memorandum for all federal departments, stating in part:

“… I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad Or Mega Distraction?


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them practically everywhere. The small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.
 
The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.
 
If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.
 
And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.
 
While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.
 
Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.
 
While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.
 
Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing
Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.
It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply
One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.
Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos
A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.
Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.
 
Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute
While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.
Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.
 
Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.
 
Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Do You Think The Explosion Of Social Media Is Costing Our Generation Its Ability To Meaningfully Connect?

 
There’s no question that the social media age encourages connection. Some people can’t make a simple purchase or eat a meal without sharing it with their Facebook friends! But do you think this superficial interaction is robbing us of our power to meaningfully connect with one another? Or do you believe the constant sharing is helping us build stronger and better relationships? Share your answer with us, and tell us why you chose it!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ace Your Finals With Memory Hacks


With finals season hurtling toward college campuses, the overwhelming task of conquering information and committing it to memory makes many students panic.
 
You’re probably familiar with all the conventional study tips: Review your notes daily, learn the format of the final, review old tests and the course objectives, organize a group study session, eat well, etc. And don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep before the exam.
 
But what if you’re following these tips and still finding it difficult to remember the information? How can you trick your mind into retaining it all?
 
Read on for five fantastic memory hacks that will help you ace those exams!
 
1.) Link new information to things you already know.
 
Instead of trying to teach yourself a totally new concept, connect it with a fact that’s already ingrained in your brain. Build onto what you already know to make retrieving information easier.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mother’s Day On A Budget

 


Along with the blossoming flowers, the blazing sunshine and the tinkling bell of the ice cream truck come ideas and plans for celebrating Mother’s Day.
 
Our moms are always there for us, as a sounding board, a virtual treasure trove of advice and to dote on us when we need a little pampering. Mother’s Day, then, is when we show them how much we appreciate all they do for us throughout the year.
 
However, between purchasing the perfect gift, buying mom flowers and dining out, Mother’s Day costs can quickly add up to a small fortune. How do you keep within a reasonable budget while still showing mom how much she means to you?
 
Fortunately, with just a bit of forethought and careful planning, you can save big while still celebrating Mother’s Day in style. Here’s how:
 
1.) Frugal flowers
Nothing says “I love you” quite like a vibrantly colored bouquet, but those beautiful blossoms can cost a bundle. Start your savings on mom’s flowers by doing some of the work yourself. Instead of relying on the florist to provide the perfect base for the bouquet, bring your own basket from home. Alternatively, you can pick up a cheap but pretty vase at a craft or thrift store, adding a strand of ribbon to customize it to mom’s style.
 
Also, consider shopping your local grocery store or sidewalk stand before visiting a florist. You might find significant savings – such as a bouquet for as little as $10 – by cutting out the middleman.
Lastly, if you’re shopping at a floral shop, be sure to call first to find out when their flowers are delivered so you get the freshest of the bunch.
 
2.) Gift it right
More difficult than dreaming up the perfect gift for mom is scraping together the money for it. Solve both problems by getting creative. Mom would love something you personally crafted, like a decorated framed photo of a shared memorable moment, or a scrapbook of your best childhood memories. You can even make your mom a playlist of songs that both of you love.
If you’d rather purchase a gift than create one yourself, remember to shop early so you don’t feel pressured into buying something you can’t afford. Also, don’t forget to carefully mine coupon sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and Couponcabin to see if you can snag a deal.
 
Remember, gifts that show effort and thought matter a lot more than how much you spend.
 
3.) Dining out (or in) for less
Of course, celebrating Mom’s special day won’t be complete without sharing a wonderful meal together. But restaurants can be expensive, so don’t book reservations without carefully considering if they’re absolutely necessary.
 
Maybe Mom would enjoy a home-cooked meal more than an evening out. You can whip up her favorite foods, set the table with long candlesticks, your finest dishes and best silverware, and enjoy a deluxe, sumptuous dinner at home.
 
Or throw together a family barbecue. Load the car with Frisbees, balls and kites, pack up a cooler and stake out a corner at the local park. Then, get the grill fired up for a delectable dinner that’s fun to prepare and even more fun to eat!
 
If you’ve got your heart set on taking mom out to a restaurant, shop around for the best Mother’s Day deals. It’s worth making a few phone calls and checking out sites like Groupon or LivingSocial before making reservations.
 
Once you’re at the restaurant, save money by checking the left side of the menu first. Restaurants usually put their pricier dishes on the right side of the menu since that’s where most people’s gazes automatically land. Also, consider sharing a few bigger portions instead of ordering individual plates for every diner. Lastly, be sure to wait a bit between courses so you don’t end up with a table full of leftovers that you’re too stuffed to eat.
 
4.) Plan ahead
It’s never too early to start saving, and it’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s Mother’s Day. While you obviously can’t buy mom flowers that far ahead of time, shop the post-Mother’s-Day sales for fantastic deals on greeting cards, wrapping paper and gifts for mom.
 
It isn’t that hard to save on Mother’s Day expenses. And it’s worth it. After all, no one will be happier to see you saving money than dear sweet mom!
 
Your Turn: How do you show your mom how much she means to you while sticking to a budget? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Beware of Scams! Give Your Kids Tools For Standing Up To Con Artists

The world is a big and beautiful place.

Unfortunately, it is also filled with unethical people who are trying to take advantage of the innocent and the na├»ve at every turn. Your kids may be too young to have been burned, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t old enough to start protecting themselves. Teach them about scams and con artists and then bring it all home for them with this short, interactive activity.
 
To talk to your kids about con artists, gently explain that there are some people who will always try to cheat others out of their money or personal information.
 
Your child may have actually been hustled on the playground when a dominant child promised to give them a toy for a set amount of money and then took their money but “forgot” the toy at home the next day. And the next day. And the next. Or, a classmate may have marketed a toy as the genuine thing when it was actually just a bootleg version of the real one. Online scams are another area where your kids may have encountered fraud.
 
To begin the activity, help familiarize your children with these four rules:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What To Do After Getting A Raise


Q: This is the year I finally got that raise! What should I do with the extra money?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Regulation D: How Does It Affect Me?

Have you ever wondered about the real differences between your savings and checking accounts? Many people realize there must be more to it than just the fact that one includes checks and the other does not. However, they just don’t know what those differences are. So let’s look at some of the technical differences that define each account type.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Putting Your Affairs In Order


Q: I know it’s important to have my financial affairs in order, especially when approaching an advanced age, but it’s all so overwhelming. How do I go about this task?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Buying A Home In Today’s Economy


Whether you’re a regular news junkie or you rely on your better half to keep you updated on the latest, you’ll get the same conflicting messages about the state of today’s economy. One day you’ll hear about rising wages, and the next day you’ll read about the lagging growth in the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.
 
The only thing certain about today’s economy is that it is uncertain. While things look relatively stable now, no one can guarantee what the next few years will bring.
 
Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on the home of your dreams because of a fluctuating economy. Read on for four steps you can take to make sure your money – and your house – are completely safe regardless of what’s going on.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Beware Of Inheritance Scams!


Who doesn’t dream of becoming an instant millionaire? You might even have some detailed plans for how you’d spend an unexpected windfall if it were to happen. Imagine if a distant relative who’d been rolling in the stuff suddenly passed on and left you as their sole heir. Your dreams could now become a reality! Wouldn’t you do anything to make that happen?
That’s what some underhanded scammers are counting on. Inheritance fraud has been around for a while, but scammers have recently made their ploy even more convincing.
If you’ve been targeted, you’ll receive a long-winded email from a foreign “lawyer” or “bank official” claiming that a long-distant relative of yours has just died intestate, making you the sole heir. You’ll be warned that immediate action is necessary to stop the government from seizing the money.
The letter will then go on to state that your inheritance is difficult to access due to government and bank restrictions, and that you’ll need to pay various fees as well as provide personal details for claiming it.
To make the email appear authentic, it will include identifying documents of the lawyer or bank official, such as a passport, along with legal documents, such as a power of attorney letter for you to sign. The scammer will also provide an overseas address for the bank in which the money is now being held. Recently, scammers have upped their game by using a local address for this step.
Unfortunately, there is no inheritance and the person contacting you is definitely not a lawyer or a bank official. If you respond to the fraudsters, they’ll start charging you various fees, which will gradually increase in size. They’ll remind you that this money will be small change for you once you receive the inheritance. They’ll also claim that all fees must be paid upfront before the inheritance money can be accessed.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Your Personal RV Buying Guide

 Q: It’s vacation time again. This year, we’re thinking about doing something different and buying an RV, but RV lots seem so intimidating! What do we need to know to take some of the stress off?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Feeling Stuck In Your Car Loan? Might Be Time To Shop Around!



Bills are a lot like bad weather. They’re going to come anyway, so you might as well not try to fix them, right? For some bills, that’s the case. For others, though, you can make a big difference in your monthly budget with a little legwork.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Watch For These Product Recall Scams!


When a company has to recall a product, it’s never pretty. Organizing refunds, exchanges, and other considerations for customers takes time. Meanwhile, the customers just want the product they bought to work as advertised!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Charging Your Phone In Public? Watch That Port!


Smartphones have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Even if it’s just there in case of emergencies, having a charged cellphone can provide a serious sense of security. That’s why, when the battery meter starts to tick down, a cold sense of panic rises in your stomach.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Women’s History Month: Women In Finance


Because March is Women’s History Month, we’re taking a moment to reflect on many of the important contributions women have made to society. At CORE, we’re proud to be a part of the nationwide celebration of women.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

How To Get A Summer Job: A Guide For Students Of All Ages



Temperatures are rising, days are getting longer and kids are dying to get out of the classroom! This can only mean one thing: Summer is just around the bend. It’s time to start planning trips, summer camps, and summer jobs.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Staying Healthy During Flu Season


It seems like no one can stay healthy during this time of year. Everyone’s got a sniffle or a cough, or worse … the dreaded flu bug! These viruses have evolved over the years to be highly resistant to many of our efforts to contain them.
It may seem like we’re powerless to prevent the spread of disease. Though we can’t prevent it, we can help lower the risk of spreading it around. Here are five tips you can use to beat the flu this year!

1.) Wash your hands

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Beware Of The Fake Tax Form Scam


Tax season is a confusing time. In the midst of a paperwork blizzard, it seems that everyone needs triplicate copies of every document. It’s not unusual for someone to lose a copy of an important document and need it to be re-issued. Of course, everyone’s busy enough that no one wants to double check.

That’s exactly what scammers are counting on with a recent ploy targeting business owners and other people who prepare tax forms. In this scheme, the scammer sends an email claiming to be a hired company or someone from the IRS. They claim to be in need of duplicate copies of W-2 forms. An overworked clerk doesn’t want an earful from the boss or may fear they are out of compliance with the tax authority, so they send the forms along with little questioning.

Unfortunately, those forms contain a lot of personally identifiable information. The W-2 includes a name, an address and a Social Security number. With that information, fraudsters can open fake credit cards and apply for other loans. They can also file a fraudulent tax return in an attempt to grab a refund check. In short, your W-2 in the wrong hands can mean serious trouble.

What to do if you’re targeted
While the scam was originally directed at HR professionals and others at large corporations, scammers have broadened their net to include school districts, tribal councils, not-for-profits and small businesses.  If you prepare W-2s for employees as part of your job or as a small business owner, be on the lookout for these fake emails. Here’s the sample text from one such message:

“ATTN: Due to some complains (sic) we had concerning the W-2 mismatch, We advice (sic) you to send your 2015 filled W-2 form in (PDF) format for confirmation.”
 
Notice the strange abbreviations, the spelling and grammar errors, and the poor punctuation. All of these are signs that this is not the professional work of the IRS.

You may also get a message that looks like it’s from a boss or CEO asking for similar information. Watch for the same errors in spelling and grammar. It’s always worth confirming these requests in another message. Also look out for emails from former employees. Scammers may be relying on outdated information.

W-2 security is a pretty big deal. If someone really needs another copy, the safest option is to mail it to the address listed on the form. While email is generally a secure way to communicate, it’s not fully secure and you may not have assurance that the email is correct or uncompromised. There’s no sense taking chances with sensitive information. It’s also very unlikely that someone would need duplicate copies of ALL W-2s. Be suspicious of any such request.

If your information has been compromised
If you fear your information has been unwittingly released by your employer, don’t panic. There are three steps for minimizing the impact that this data breach can have on your life. Your first step should be a call to one of the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your account. This will force anyone who wants to issue credit in your name to verify that you’re actually the one asking for it first.

Next, order a copy of your credit report. This will show all the accounts that are open in your name. If you see anything you don’t recognize, call the company and immediately close the account. Also, review statements for the accounts you do have. Check for charges you don’t recognize. If you see any, call the issuing institution and shut down the account. Telling them there’s fraud as soon as possible will limit your liability.

Third, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov. This will create a fraud affidavit, a document certifying that fraud occurred. This will help you when it comes time to file a police report and take additional steps.

It’s also worth filing your taxes as soon as possible. If a thief tries to file a tax return using your information after you have already done so, the IRS will be alerted to the fraud and thus prevent further damage from occurring. Filing early will ensure that a complete and accurate return is available to investigators who would be looking into possible fraud.

Your Turn: What red flags do you look for to spot phishing emails or other scam messaging? How do you keep yourself safe? Share your tips in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Is Unlimited Data Worth It?


Q: I’m shopping for a new phone plan for my family. Is an unlimited data plan a good option?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Keeping Friends And Finances: How To Deal With Financially Challenging Friendships

 


Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” What’s left unsaid is that many times, it’s the friendship you can’t afford! In fact, some friends can be a serious drain on your savings.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Best Times to Buy 2017


When you’re mulling over a major purchase, the right price can often tip the scales. If you’re patient, willing to research and time your buys just right, you can save quite a bit of green. Here are the best things to buy during each month for the rest of the year!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Put Your Trust In A Trust: 4 Reasons Trust Accounts Make Sense For You

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Beware Unsolicited Help: Trouble With Tech Support Scams


 “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” wrote noted science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Our computer technology is certainly advanced enough that, to many, it looks like magic. As a result, the kind of wizardry that those with technical savvy can perform can be simply baffling.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Don’t Bet Your Retirement On An 8% Return

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If there’s one lesson in investing, it’s that time in the market matters. The longer you leave your capital alone, the more it can grow. If past growth rates continue, the time you leave your savings alone is more important than how much you save.