Archive for the ‘Household Finances’ Category

Avoiding Common Mortgage Scams

October 15, 2010

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Despite tougher mortgage guidelines and better loan disclosures for consumers, mortgage fraud is on the rise, according to the FBI.

Fraud has many varieties and it’s estimated cost to the nation is between $4-6 billion annually.  Today, common mortgage fraud scams target homeowners behind in their mortgage payments and/or facing foreclosure. And, despite the hordes of legitimate organizations that dedicate themselves to helping consumers, mortgage fraudsters proliferate.

In this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn to spot common frauds, and to avoid them.

Some of the frauds highlighted include:

  1. The Rent-to-Buy arrangement
  2. The Bait-and-Switch
  3. The “Phantom fees”

With respect to mortgage paperwork, it’s always wise to read what you’re signing, and to take time to understand what it means. If you’re uncomfortable reading mortgage documents, ask for an attorney’s help. And don’t worry if you don’t have the budget — many states offer free or discounted help via advocacy groups.

Household Finances : Which Bills Should I Pay First?

July 8, 2010

Morning television can be “light”, but as far as personal finance interviews go, this Suze Orman segment from The Today Show is loaded with practical financial planning advice.

Titled “What Should You Do First?”, Ms. Orman addressed the real-life, money management conundrums households face, such as:

  • Should I pay off credit card bills, or create an emergency cash fund?
  • Should I pay off student loan debt, or pay off credit card bills?
  • Should I save for a child’s college tuition, or save for my retirement?

In 5 minutes, the segment covers a half-dozen scenarios like the ones above, explaining what to do, and why to do it.

Ms. Orman’s style may not interest you and financial advice is rarely universal, but the piece is worth watching.

Watch the clip on the NBC website.

 

Shopping And Paying Bills Online? Here’s Methods To Protect Your Online Financial Identity

June 15, 2010

In May 2010, Retail Sales at non-store retailers — a category that includes Amazon and eBay — topped $29 billion, up 16 percent from May 2009. Clearly, Americans are doing an increasing amount of shopping online.  And we’re paying our bills online, too.

But how well are we protecting our identities?

In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the basics of online fraud and methods to minimize the likelihood of identity theft.  Furthermore, the tips go beyond the basic “choose a challenging password”.  For example, you’ll hear about:

  • Why you shouldn’t pay bills from a coffee shop
  • Who might be hiding behind an unprotected public wifi network
  • The dangers of storing credit card numbers with an online retailer

And, although, at one point, the interviewee goes over the top with respect to spyware and anti-phishing prevention, the point being made is a good one — you can’t be too careful with your online financials and common sense goes a long way.

The Average Household Will Get $2,800 In Tax Refunds. Will You?

March 25, 2010

April 15 is Tax Day and the IRS estimates that the average U.S. household will receive a $2,800 tax refund this year.  If you’re among the Americans expecting a refund, this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show may be helpful. It’s a talk about how to receive a refund and what to do with it.

Some of the key points discussed include:

  1. Why state-issued tax refunds may be delayed this year
  2. How wage-earning people can claim their “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $800
  3. How to direct a tax refund to a 529 college savings plan for an even bigger tax refund

There’s also some sensible pointers on using tax refunds to pay down credit card debt, and to fund retirement plans, among other purposes.

If you haven’t started your tax planning yet, try to avoid leaving it for the last weekend.  Not only will your tax preparer have more time for you now, but you’ll leave yourself more time to track down important statements and receipts that can boost your federal and state tax deductions.

Taxes are due in 21 days.