Archive for October, 2012

Every season, all across the country, the weather can cause all kinds of problems.  Blizzards in the Plains, tornadoes in the Midwest, ice storms east and west of the Mississippi – the weather commands respect for the problems it can cause.

Hurricane Sandy, furiously barreling up the Eastern Seaboard this very minute, is a perfect example.  Weathermen are predicting Sandy will merge with a cold front coming from the west and turn into the Storm of the Century.  Sandy has the potential to wreck havoc on some of the most densely populated areas of the country, with power outages predicted to last weeks instead of days.

Are you ready if the power goes out?  Do you have enough food to feed everyone for at least 3 days, in case you can’t get out?  Clean drinking water is very important, and each person needs to have access to at least a gallon a day –  some people will need more.

It’s not too late to put together a basic disaster supplies kit, and if you can’t collect everything you need, collect as much as you can.

BASIC DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to rig shelter
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench and pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following:

  • Eye glasses
  • Prescription glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records;  store in a waterproof, portable container
  • First Aid book for emergency reference
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket(s) for each person. Consider the temperature and decide if you need extra
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. If the weather is cold, add coats, jackets, hats, and gloves
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – when diluted 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use bleach to treat water by adding 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. (Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies, adult diapers, toilet paper, personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
Don’t Forget Special Needs

Your family may have unique needs.  Take some time to think about each person in the family and what they require. Do you have a baby or very young child?  Does an elderly parent or grandparent live with you?  Are you responsible for a disabled family member dependent on certain medical equipment, or medications?  Do you have medications that require refrigeration?

A baby will need:

  • Formula
  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk
  • Medications
  • Moist towelettes
  • Diaper rash ointment

An Senior in the family may need:

  • Denture supplies
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eye glasses
Someone Could Get Hurt

In any emergency a family member or you yourself may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.

Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection, and assist in cleaning a wound:

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/wound wash/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or for use as general wound wash
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. If you are storing meds long term in anticipation of an emergency, you should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

 

Emergency Supply Kit Printable Checklist

Track Hurricane Sandy at the National Hurricane Center

Track Hurricane Sandy on your Mobile Device

 

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Oct
24

Who Do You Know?

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It’s the middle of October, and a cold snap is due to hit next week.  I’m going to have to turn the furnace on, and it needs to be serviced.  I read the other day that 1/100 of an inch of dust on the motor can reduce the efficiency quite a bit.  I have no doubt there’s enough dust on the motor that a cleaning is needed!  The furnace is getting up there in age, too, and it really needs to be checked for carbon monoxide.

The price of a regular seasonal furnace check from any of the licensed companies in the city is approx. $150.  I was able to find a few coupons, which would bring the cost down to about $100.  If I want to bundle services and buy a package deal for both summer and winter check-ups, the cost is around $200.

I’m going to spend $50 to service the furnace – because I know Jerry..

Side Work Is Lucrative

In April, my husband lost his job. I had an appointment scheduled the very next week for an AC check-up, and I’d scheduled the package deal for $200.  When I made the appointment weeks before, the package deal made sense – buy summer and winter and get a discount!  Of course, I took the package deal!  Because of the job loss, however, I was reluctant to spend that kind of money – even with an emergency fund available.

The next day, during a trip to the mailbox, I ran into my next-door neighbor.  I asked him if he knew anyone that did home AC servicing, and did they do side work?  Bingo!  He did know someone – a young man who worked for a heating and cooling company in the city, and had serviced my neighbor’s appliances for the last couple of years.

I made a call to Jerry, who came out that weekend.  While chatting with Jerry, I found out he was in his early 20’s, had a 3 year old daughter, and had been doing appliance service work in the 3 years since he’d graduated from Vo-Tech school.  He worked for a family-owned small business that had been in the business for 30 years.  Jerry played hockey on the weekends, and serviced all the rental homes of a couple of real estate agents in town – and one of those I happened to know.  When Jerry was finished servicing the unit, he gave me a written report about the unit and its performance – and a bill for $50.

In July, on the hottest day of the year, the house woke up to a broken AC unit.  I called Jerry that morning, and at 8 PM, after he had finished his work schedule for the day, he came by and fixed the unit.  A capacitor had burnt out and needed replaced.  Total cost:  $75.  This fix normally would have been a $150 repair.

If you know the right people, or know the people who know the right people, you can save money on just about anything.  Auto mechanic, auto body repairman,  heating and cooling, hair dresser, roofer, concrete finisher, brick layer, teacher, carpenter – these are the occupations of people that I personally know that work a regular 8-5 job, but will also do side work.

Ask around, you never know who your friends know!  Not only can you save money, but the person doing the side work also profits.  Depending on the job, a lot of money can be made by doing side work.

Side Work to Self-employment

If you have dreams of owning your own business, or simply going out on your own and away from any employer, you can use side work to build up a clientele.  Once you’re got enough money coming in that you can replace your employee income, jump out into your dream.  (Beware of any contracts you signed for your current employer:  non-compete, exclusivity, etc)

 

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Oct
15

Get Your Free Obama Phone!

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The Obama Lady 

The political ads and graphics are everywhere:  TV, newspaper, YouTube, Facebook, email – we’re inundated 24/7 with political advertising, and most of it isn’t very nice.  One of the not-so-nice videos I’ve seen floating around Facebook via YouTube is “The Obama Lady”.

The video is of a woman, jumping around and waving a poster board sign in a reporter’s face, all the while ranting about her “Free Obama Phone”.  In 2008, an email with the same script made the rounds, but four years down the road, technology has moved the email to video.  “The Obama Lady” video is tasteless, with the intent to convince the public that their tax dollars are going to give free cell phones, courtesy of President Obama, to every disadvantaged person in Cleveland, and, in turn, the entire country.  It’s an effort to embarrass and disenfranchise the poor among us, and generate anger toward the current White House Administration.

Lifeline Phone ServiceA few things in the video ARE true.

The government does give out “free” phones.  They’ve been doing it for almost 30 years, based on a Congressional mandate that ensures communication is available to all Americans.

In 1985, a program named “Lifeline” was started that gave discounted phone service to the poor, the elderly, disabled veterans, and the sick.  “Lifeline” was there so that if someone needed to call 911 due to an emergency, or make an appointment with their doctor, or call and check on a job application because they were unemployed and trying to find work, they could.  If Grandma fell and broke her hip, she had a phone to call for an ambulance, even when her Social Security check didn’t reach far enough each month to cover the phone bill.  The program started by furnishing land-line service, and expanded in 2005 to include limited, pre-paid cell phone service.

Do You Need a Hand-Up, Not A Hand-out?

The “Lifeline” program is available in every state, but it doesn’t come without rules and regulations.  Since its beginning, the program has required that anyone participating must have an income at or below the poverty line or participate in one of the following low-income assistance programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps or SNAP
  • SSI
  • Section 8 Housing
  • Low-income energy assistance
  • Free school lunch program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • Head Start
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

There are other rules, too.  Only one Lifeline phone is allowed per household.  The household can have a land line or a cell phone, but not both.  The program doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles – this is basic and limited phone service.  The cell phone service is pre-paid with a limited number of minutes, and the land line is limited in service.  You’ve got to reconfirm eligibility on an annual basis in order to remain in the program.

Are You Eligible?  Is Grandma? 

If you’re interested in the Lifeline program, start by calling your phone company.  Over 2,000 phone companies across the country provide discounted phone service through Lifeline.  You can find a list of companies by state here:

Lifeline Support Companies By State

You can also use the Lifeline Pre-Screening Tool and check eligibility status.  It takes about 15 minutes:

Lifeline Pre-Screening Tool

 

Learn more about Lifeline here:

USAC – What Is Lifeline?

Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers

Lifeline Public Service Announcements 

 

Who Pays for Lifeline?

The phone companies contribute a percentage of their revenues to the Universal Service Fund (USF).  Your phone service provider may charge you a service charge called “Universal Service” if they try to recoup part of the cost of the program from customers.  The USF is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Universal Service Administration (USAC), which pays for the discounted Lifeline phone service out of the fund.

The USF is also responsible for other communication programs.  In addition to Lifeline, the fund also makes discounts available to schools and libraries for telecommunication services, Internet access, and information services.  Rural health care providers, through the fund, have the capability to link to city hospitals and medical centers, giving rural America access to medical services they wouldn’t normally have available.

Find out more about the USF and FCC here:

FCC Consumer Guide

 

 

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How to Plan Your Budget When You are in Financial CrisisAlicia is a financial tech writer from the UK, and is guest posting today with interesting budget ideas that you may use in dealing with a financial crisis.

 

An unexpected and unavoidable financial crisis can be difficult for anyone to overcome, especially when income levels are low and debt levels are very high. If you are facing such a situation in your life then it is time to plan and evaluate the situation, and create a budget plan to handle your financial crisis. Here are a few steps that help you to create an effective budget plan when you are in financial crisis:

Step 1: Determine your expenses; this will enable you to know how much you are spending every month and where your income is going. Writing down all your expenses and analysing your spending habits is a good to start in creating an efficient budget plan. Start with your monthly income and check for any opportunity to save your money by trimming unwanted expenses; this could help you save lot of your money.

Step 2: Analyse your spending and trim expenses especially whilst in the midst of financial crisis, this means eliminating all the unnecessary expenses. If you have any monthly financial obligations such as paying off your mortgage, auto loan and so on then allocate your income to fund those expenses, don’t delay any monthly bills as they could increase due to late fees.

Step 3: Another important step you can take when you are in financial crisis is to reduce your utility or monthly bills.  Make a list of fixed and variable costs in your budget plan; this is how you can save some money wherever possible.

Step 4: Your savings account is very useful to resolve your emergency situation; it is very difficult to save money from your income while in financial crisis. Consider payday loans which are the short-term loans that are secured against the borrower’s next pay cheque, they don’t require any collateral and even a person with bad credit can avail urgent cash to resolve their financial emergency.

Step 5: If you could develop an efficient budget plan that suits your lifestyle then it is just a good idea to save some money. Adjust your plan if your income is not balanced with your regular expenses, review your budget frequently and find the easiest way to stick to your budget plan. Find an extra source of income if you cannot fund your basic needs through just a single income. There are plenty ways you can earn some money with a part time job.

Author Bio

My name is Alicia. I am a tech writer from UK. I am into Finance. Catch me @financeport

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Oct
11

Emergency! Emergency!

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No Job SignSix months ago, April 6th, on Good Friday (oh, the irony!) – my husband lost the job he had for 13 years. This came completely out of the blue, with no warning. I now know what the bug hitting the zapper in the back yard feels like.

Once the initial shock wore off, we took stock. We had an Emergency Fund, and my husband was owed vacation pay. When I added the two together, we had approx. $25,000 cash. I knew we’d be alright for a few months with the emergency fund, but I also knew we’d have to cut spending to the bone. We didn’t have any credit card debt, nor any car payments, which was a big plus. Those are expenses that can drain finances quickly. We did have a mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, gas – basic and necessary expenses that kept the roof over our heads, the Internet lights on, and food on the table.

I wasn’t overly worried. MrBP is good at his job. I knew the phone would be ringing fairly soon with a job offer, or he’d be able to network a bit and find an opening. This layoff was going to be just a little bump in the road in the overall scheme of things, and we would be fine.

The first thing MrBP did was file for unemployment. Unemployment in this country is not fair to the unemployed, as I’m sure anyone out of work will tell you. MrBP did qualify for the maximum amount of weekly unemployment: $320.00. Wow. I know $320 is better than nothing, but a month of unemployment checks still wouldn’t cover the mortgage. MrBP could also draw unemployment for the maximum number of weeks: 20. Another Wow. Twenty weeks of unemployment equals thirteen years of work history. If he had worked the for company for 30 years, 20 weeks was still the maximum number of weeks he could draw. There is something wrong with that government math!

When a person files for unemployment it takes some time to get that first check. Remember that vacation pay I mentioned? That had to be claimed as income for 3 weeks.  (If what you claim is more than the amount you’re eligible for – you don’t get paid unemployment that week)  At the end of the 3 “vacation” weeks, a waiting week had to be “put in”. This happens to everyone – the first week you are unemployed basically doesn’t count – for anything. Unemployment benefits don’t become available until the second week a person is out of work. Checks don’t come the second week either – the process of being approved for unemployment can take 2-3 weeks, or much longer. Considering the majority of the working population lives paycheck to paycheck, losing a job can be a big deal. All of this waiting for money is going on when people need that money the most!

MrBP was out of work for a month. He never did draw an unemployment check, because the 3 vacation weeks and the 1 waiting week took up that month. We had enough money in the bank that life went on as normal – we just didn’t spend any extra, we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t go to the movies. Cutting out all unnecessary spending opened my eyes to the kind of money we did spend in some areas. Because there was enough coming in, neither of us had paid much attention to some of the conveniences that were going out. (After all, life shouldn’t be all work and no play, right?)

If we hadn’t had our Emergency Fund, life would have been a completely different story. We would have been in financial trouble fast, as fast as the bills came due. We spend $3000 monthly on house, utilities, insurance, and cell phone payments, but that doesn’t count food, gas for the cars, incidentals, etc.

Emergency Funds are as necessary as homeowners insurance is if you own your home, as necessary as car insurance is if you drive a car. Everyone should have an Emergency Fund. If you don’t have one, you need to start one. Don’t tell me you can’t afford one – you can’t afford NOT to have one!

An Emergency Fund is intended to replace income if you can’t work, but it’s also nice to have when the car needs major repair or the AC unit quits on a 100 degree day in July.

Most financial planners recommend having 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved. But, due to the state of the economy, the average length of time a person is unemployed these days is 9 months (Bureau of Labor Statistics). If you’ve only got a 3 month cushion, what are you going to do the other 6 months when the rent is due, and you’re still looking for work? I know what you’re thinking – you’ve got those credit cards in your billfold, and you’ll fall back on those if you really need to. Let me ask you this: when the credit line is used up, how are you going to repay that debt?

Starting and regularly adding to your Emergency Fund may feel daunting, and may seem like an insurmountable task.   The good news is, you may not need as much as you think. Sit down and make a list of every single bill you pay every month. Go through your bank statement and write down all debit card transactions and what they were for. Check the bank statement for ATM cash withdrawals, and write down what those were for. Get out your credit card statements and add those transactions to the list of money going out for the month. Add all the numbers up.

Now, cut out what isn’t absolutely necessary. The mortgage payment is necessary. $5 at Starbucks twice a week is not. Look closely at bills such as cell phone, cable, gym memberships, newspaper delivery, lawn care – if it came down to it, are these as necessary as food and electricity? No?  Cut those out. Once you figure out the basic living expenses you need to survive, multiple that by 12. Write that number down. Your savings goal is 12 months of basic living expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Work out a savings plan, even if all you can do is save $1 a week, or $25 a month, or the change from your pocket at the end of the day. Put that money in savings and forget it. Cut out one or both of those lattes every week and put that money in savings instead. Treat your Emergency Fund like it’s your water or gas bill, figure out how much you can save regularly, and pay the savings account just like it’s the mortgage company.  Start today.

I was glad we had savings to fall back on. We spent a lot of it, and it went faster than planned because the AC unit did break down on the hottest day of the year, along with a few other things.

During the 5th week of unemployment, the phone rang and MrBP was offered a job – at the opposite end of the state. A 3 hour drive, one way, from the home we’ve lived in for the last 24 years. Whoa.

The new job – and where it was at – brought up a lot of questions: were we going to relocate? Sell our home here? Rent it out? Rent in the new location, or buy? Where would MrBP live for the near future – with family in that area, and if so, for how long? How much was all of this going to cost? There were so many variables and many unknowns six months ago!  A few things didn’t work out, while great truths were learned … stay tuned to find out what happened!

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Oct
04

Free One-on-One Financial Planning Help

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Financial Planning Day What is Financial Planning?

What financial goals would you like to obtain?  What’s on your “Wish List” when it comes to money?

Do you want to buy a home?  Do you own your home, but dream about a vacation home in the mountains or a weekend home at the lake?

Do the kids want to go to Disney World next summer, but you’re not sure you can afford a local pool pass for the season?

Are you able to save today for college for the kids, or have you put that off until tomorrow? Tomorrow is already here, you know.

What about your retirement – how many retirement accounts do you have, and do you regularly fund those to the max?  Is your retirement diversified, or do you have all of your eggs in one basket?  Can you retire without Social Security and live in the manner to which you are now accustomed?  Have you thought about retirement very much, or is that something you’re going to do “tomorrow”?

Financial planning is a must, no matter who you are or what your circumstances are.  What is your financial plan right now?  What strategy do you have in place – right now – that will allow you to retire financially independent?  Do you know where to start to make your financial dreams your reality?  Do you know how to make your dreams your reality?  Are you lost when it comes to implementing changes to your money situation?

We all have money dreams, but most of us aren’t smart enough to know how to make our dreams come true.  We don’t have the time to do the research we need in order to know where to invest, or how, or how much.  We don’t know what goal to tackle first.  We aren’t sure of the quickest way to the goal line.  We’re lost when it comes to the math.  We need help.  During the month of October 2012, personal, one-on-one help is available in many cities across the country.

Financial Planning Days Initiative

During the month of October 2012, “Financial Planning Days Initiative” is taking place.  Four different non-profit organizations**  are bringing together highly qualified, professional, Certified Financial Planners to provide one-on-one counseling sessions to the public.  There will also be classroom style learning sessions held, and free packets of financial literature given away.  All of the work being done by the professionals is on a volunteer basis, and no payment is expected.  Services are free.  You can sit down with a financial planner and ask for personal advice – with no strings attached.  The volunteers will not try to sell you anything, they won’t even give you their business card.  No business will be promoted at all – the professionals are there to answer your questions and help – that’s it.  (If you are a professional, certified financial planner and would like to volunteer, you can find out how here)

Gather your questions about retirement planning, debt, credit issues, budget questions, taxes, college, mortgage loans, investments, estate planning, small business finance, and insurance together, and find out if the Initiative is available where you live:

Click here to find a Financial Planning Day in your area

A list of 2012 events can be found by clicking here

A list of participating states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virgina
  • Washington

Can’t go?  You Can Still Get the Same Information Packet Being Handed Out

If there is no Financial Planning Initiative in your state, the free information packet information is still available to you and can be found at the links below.  Take a look at the information available, and give yourself a quick education in the basics of financial planning.  Pick up tips and advice on everything from a college savings plan to long term care insurance.

You Can Organize & Simplify Your Financial Life:  A How To Guide

Saving and Investing:  A Roadmap to Your Financial Security Through Saving and Investing

Savings Fitness:  A Guide to Your Money & Your Financial Future

Smart Saving for College – 529 Plans & Other College Savings Options

Guide to Disability Income Insurance

Guide to Long Term Care Insurance

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense

 

** Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.®, Financial Planning Association®, the Foundation for Financial Planning, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors

 

 

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