November 29, 2011

Early Retirement Scams

Tempted by seminar offers of early retirement? Be careful.

Scam artists know the appeal of retiring early. If you find yourself receiving an invitation to an “early retirement seminar,” be leery because most seminars offer flawed or fraudulent investment pitches.

"To help you spot trouble, the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, has published “Early Retirement Seminars 101: Smart Tips for Spotting Retirement Scams.” The guide explains how such ruses work, particularly those that “dangle the prospect of early retirement with little or no reduction in income compared to your working years.” The publication also offers real-life examples of fraudulent pitches and where to turn for help."

Note that these scams are not related to legitimate early retirement packages that may be offered by your company

Source: Glenn Ruffenach's Smart Money blog.

November 28, 2011

Taking Over a Loved One’s Financial Affairs

Join AARP and National Family Caregivers Association on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 7 pm ET (5 pm MST) to discuss “When it’s Time to Intervene—Taking Over a Loved One’s Financial Affairs.” This free Webinar will help caregivers and loved ones alike understand:
  • What happens to our bodies as we age.
  • What to assess when evaluating your situation.
  • How to recognize signs that something is wrong.
  • The need to create a plan for the future, and
  • How to get help.
You can register for the Webinar at:

November 26, 2011

Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself

“You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail, and maybe even calls offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:

'Credit problems? No problem!'

'We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!'

'We can erase your bad credit — 100% guaranteed.'

'Create a new credit identity — legally.'”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says, "do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam. Indeed, attorneys at the nation’s consumer protection agency say they’ve never seen a legitimate credit repair operation making those claims. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.”

Learn more from the FTC at:

November 23, 2011

Before you spend all that money on Black Friday...

Will you really "save" money by spending?

Do you really need to give gifts to all the people on your list? Or might you honor them by donating to their favorite charity or with tickets to a play or concert?

Is it time to start teaching your (grand)children about giving (especially on Thanksgiving)?

Do any of us need more clutter in our house? We are getting new floors in our house so all the furniture (and most of the stuff in closets) needed to be moved into the garage or from room to room as the work progressed. As part of the process my husband and I have been getting rid of STUFF! Some will go to Somebody's Attic thrift shop (couch and double bed with frame) but a lot of little stuff will go into the trash where it should have gone long ago.

"It's time to say goodbye to all that stuff" Jane Brody recently wrote in the New York Times. Brody refers to a new book “The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life” (published Tuesday by Rodale Books) by Robin Zasio, a clinical psychologist and a star of the show “Hoarders.” If you need motivation to clean out excess stuff and to reduce your gift buying, read Brody's article.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 11, 2011

Age-enhanced photos encourage more retirement savings

When people see what they might look like at age 65, they tend to save about 33% more toward retirement, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research. While many Americans are investing less for retirement due to unemployment, market volatility and financial anxiety, a study suggests that age-enhanced photos can change some people's minds. "When people are exposed to realistic images of their future selves, they are more willing to act in future-oriented manners, such as taking money that could be spent today and saving it for tomorrow," researcher Hal Hershfield says.

Read the study at:

November 6, 2011

Bank Fees & Bank Transfer Day

Did you ditch your bank yesterday? It's not too late to switch to a more consumer-friendly credit union (CU) or community development financial institution. Over the years surveys have repeatedly shown that consumers are better off at CUs than at banks. News reports indicate that 650,000 consumers joined CUs and moved $4.5 billion to these accounts in the past month in response to the proposed $5/month debit card fees. Almost anyone can join a credit union and CUs have been advertising heavily to attract customers. Transferring accounts takes some time and careful monitoring if you have your paycheck automatically deposited and various bills paid automatically. Set up the new account and make sure your auto deposits and payments are transferred over to the new account before you cancel. And then check to be sure these payments are made on time.

One commentator said that the monthly debit card fee at least was upfront and clear as opposed to so many bank and credit card fees that blind-sided consumers. You can be sure that financial institutions (and CUs are not immune from needing to raise revenue, as well) are hard at work in the back room figuring other ways to increase revenues after new federal legislation limited the fee income from debit card transactions. So be sure to read those notices included with your statement.

Check out to comparison shop for checking accounts and other financial products.

November 5, 2011

Great financial website & blog

Check out the Financial Security website and "Squared Away" blog from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. This excellent, research-based information should be the foundation of your education about investing and planning or retirement. I've been following the research reports from the Center for a number of years and they are on the leading edge of consumer (and policy)-oriented research. The "Squared Away" blog is written by a former Boston Globe financial reporter. Although geared to financial planning practitioners, it provides spot-on valuable info for the general public.

November 4, 2011

New Developments affect Student Loans

On October 25, the Obama administration announced its plan to “make college more affordable and to make it even easier for students to repay their federal student loans.”

The new initiative has 3 goals:
  1. Allow borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income.
  2. Improve ease of making payments and reduce default risk by consolidating loans
  3. Provide consumers with better information to make college selection decisions
If you or someone you know has student loans or is contemplating taking out loans, check out the details:

November 1, 2011

Want to spend less? Spend cash!

Behavioral finance studies find that adding so-called “felt losses” helps deter poor behavior.

For example, consumers who buy non-essential luxury items or treats with cash are likely to spend a lot less than they would if they used credit or debit cards. We actually feel psychological pain when we pay with cash. Just think how you would feel if you had to pay cash to fill the tank on a large SUV or pickup! Swiping that card, whether debit or credit, is far less painful than parting with cash.

Research confirms that consumers who use credit cards spend more than those who use cash. Further, credit card users are much more likely to spend more than they intended. That’s why every department store offers incentives to sign up for their credit card.
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