September 23, 2018

Protect yourself from ID theft: Freeze your credit for free

Under a new federal law that just took effect, you can freeze (and un-freeze) your credit at no charge. Previously there was a charge allowed in many states.
"Congress passed the law in response to last year’s massive Equifax hack, which exposed the private information of more than 145 million Americans."
Why freeze your credit? It's one of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft.
you need to contact each of the three major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The Federal Trade Commission has links to those pages on its identity theft information website.
"Additionally, the law allows for a free credit freeze for children under age 16, something that was not previously allowed in all states. This helps prevent criminals from creating fraudulent accounts under a child’s identity, a problem that often goes undetected until they are adults and seek credit of their own."
"A credit freeze is considered one of the most effective ways to protect criminals from opening credit in your name. It is different than credit monitoring, which tracks a person’s credit and alerts them of changes in activity."
Read the full article by SARAH SKIDMORE SELL, Associated Press personal finance writer, at:

September 21, 2018

Health Care for ALL Americans: We're asking the wrong questions

Paul Waldman provides the answer to the question posed by opponents to universal health care.
"With Democrats becoming increasingly ambitious in their policy goals, Republicans believe they have a killer answer to any new proposal: How are you going to pay for it?
The fact that this question is asked in complete bad faith — the GOP is the party that recently passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy without bothering to pay for it — doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. And one reason is that it will probably also be asked by the Washington media, people who as a group are enthusiastic deficit scolds, at least when it comes to programs that actually benefit ordinary people."
Opponents to universal health care (Medicare for all) claim it will cost $40 million (in next 10 years) that we don't have. Waldman reports:
"This $50 trillion number comes from the most recent projections by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which say that America will spend $3.7 trillion on health care this year, a figure that will increase by 5 to 6 percent per year in the coming years. Their projections go only to 2026, so I extended them out two years, assuming a 6 percent increase per year, to reach a full decade from 2019 to 2028. When you add the numbers up, you get $50.3 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s what we’re going to spend if we change nothing."
So, our choice is to pay $50 trillion on our current broken system or $40 trillion on a system that covers all Americans.

September 20, 2018

Beware Scammers Offering Student Debt Relief

One of my favorite resources, the Squared Away Blog by Kimberly Blanton, reports:
"Despite numerous state efforts to crack down on fly-by-night firms falsely claiming to reduce or eliminate young adults’ student loans, new firms keep popping up."
"Their social media pitches and websites promise borrowers things the companies can’t possibly deliver on." They appeal to potential customers struggling to pay student loans with slogans like “Get Rid of Your Student Loans Today!” or “$17,500 in Up Front Forgiveness” – “100 percent guaranteed!”
These debt relief firms use similar tactics. "They charge an average $500 to $700 in upfront fees, and sometimes monthly fees, and purport to offer services that unsuspecting young adults could’ve received for free from the U.S. Department of Education. The fraudulent companies often give the misleading impression they are affiliated with the federal government."
Learn more:

September 18, 2018

Homeowners Insurance DOES NOT cover floods! (or earthquakes)

Moody's Analytics is forecasting losses of $22 Billion for the impact of hurricane Florence in North Carolina. 
So you think you don't live in a flood area. That's what too many North Carolina residents thought, especially if their mortgage holder didn't require them to have flood insurance. Other homeowners thought that FEMA would reimburse them for their losses from flooding.
Similar to what happened last year with hurricane Harvey in Texas, far too many North Carolina residents are facing financial disaster because they failed to buy supplemental insurance to cover flooding.
Fewer than 10% of residents along the N.C. coast have flood insurance. FEMA grants amount to only a few thousand dollars per household hardly enough to clean up and never more than $33,000 which won't rebuild a house. It's just enough to replace a vehicle. With continued extreme disasters resulting from climate disruption, many of these property owners should NOT rebuild in their current location.
So check your homeowners insurance now.

Cybercriminals target disaster victims

Due to climate change,  more Americans are experiencing extreme natural disasters. Ken Tysiac explains how cybercriminals are targeting these victims.
"Disaster victims, volunteers, and donors are likely to be interacting with unfamiliar people and organizations such as government entities, insurance companies, and not-for-profits, which cybercriminals may attempt to impersonate in 'phishing' attacks."
"Cybercriminals pretend to be reputable and legitimate sources as they contact victims or volunteers through emails, text messages, or phone calls in an effort to acquire personal information such as credit card and Social Security numbers."
"Cybercriminals may pose as charities following a natural disaster, pretending to solicit on behalf of victims in order to obtain credit card or bank account information." Stick to well-known national charities for your donations such as the Red Cross. Double check the charity and don't give cash.
Get the full details at:

Financial Emergency Kit

Whether a hurricane, flood, earthquake or wildfire, we all need a financial emergency kit. FINRA provides detailed information on how to compile a financial emergency kit and what you need to put in it. Here is a summary. For details, check:

Kit Essentials

1. Cash and keys. Your kit should contain enough cash for daily life for a few days.
Tip: You can put a credit card in your kit for good measure, but don't depend on it.
2. Contacts. Create a list with telephone numbers, emails or other contact information that includes family members, as well as key medical, financial and business contacts.
3. Personal identification. After a disaster strikes, you may have to confirm your identity to obtain disaster relief services, file insurance claims, or get access to your property and financial assets.
Tip: Check your financial account information periodically to ensure that your financial professional will be able to contact you in case of a disaster.
4. Paper or electronic copies of important financial records. mortgages, property deeds, legal documents such as a Power of Attorney and insurance policies. financial statements for bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts and statements related to investment.
Tip: Get information about how to keep your tax records safe from the IRS's helpful resource Prepare for Hurricanes, Natural Disasters by Safeguarding Tax Records.
5. An inventory of your valuables and personal belongings.
Tip: Understand what your insurance covers and what will be required to make a claim in the event disaster strikes.

Do it today! Don't forget passwords to access online account!

September 13, 2018

How does your income compare in Utah?

Utah ranks as the most equal of states in terms of income. "The Census Bureau estimates that 20.5 percent of Utah households earn $50,000 to $74,999; 17.9 percent earn $100,000 to 149,999; 14.9 percent earn $75,000 to $99,999; and 12.4 percent earn $35,000 to $49,999."
"Median household income • It was $68,358, up by 1.8 percent from $67,128 the previous year. The national median was $58,820. Utah’s tends to be higher because of large families, and this figure combines income from all household members."
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune 9/13/18 by Lee Davidson

September 12, 2018

Tax cuts contribute to a huge & growing federal deficit

According to the Congressional Budget Office the federal government spent $895 billion more in the last 11 months than it collected in tax revenues. "That’s a 33 percent increase from last year." This is a direct result of massive tax cuts pushed through by Republicans in 2017 combined with huge increases in spending.
"Trillion-dollar annual deficits are going to be the new normal. The money being borrowed to pay for this bender will eventually need to be repaid — with interest. Yet House Republicans are talking this week about a second round of tax cuts that could cost another $2 trillion over the next decade." They are pushing the additional tax cuts to score political points against Democrats as mid-term elections approach. (reported in The Washington Post by James Hohmann 9/12/18.
If you have kids or grandkids or care about the future of our country... think about the burden current tax cuts will have on you and future generations. Say NO to more tax cuts!
Just as hurricane Florence is poised to cream the Carolinas, FEMA is in desperate shape. Why? Because the Trump administration has shifted FEMA funds to ICE! Also, budget cuts due to the tax cuts is affecting FEMA's ability to help Americans in times of disaster.

September 8, 2018

Full loan relief denied defrauded college students

"Under Betsy DeVos, students swindled by for-profit schools are compensated based on their earnings after the program."
By Maria Danilova, The Associated Press (reported in The Salt Lake Tribune, 9/8/18)

"The Trump administration is granting only partial loan forgiveness to the vast majority of students approved for help because of fraud by for-profit colleges, according to preliminary Education Department data..."
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ new policy of partial relief denies full compensation to students swindled by for-profit schools
"Of the roughly 16,000 fraud claims approved thus far by the Education Department under DeVos, slightly more than 1,000 students received full forgiveness on their loans, according to an AP analysis of the data."
"DeVos has been pushing to ease regulations for the for-profit sector and raise the bar for students seeking relief for fraud. Critics say DeVos, who has hired officials from the for-profit sector to top positions in her agency, is favoring industry interests."
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