Archive for January, 2011

Meet the Author

On Tuesday, February 1, at 7:30 pm, the Newton Free Library will host an author talk featuring Mark Williams and his account of the fall of Lehman Brothers.

Uncontrolled Risk:The Lessons of Lehman Brothers and How Systemic Risk Can Still Bring Down the World Financial System traces the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis and provides policy recommendations on how to fix the problem.

A book signing will follow.

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Job Interview No-No’s

A recent The Color of Money column by Michelle Singletary contained worthwhile advice for  job seekers on what behaviors to avoid during that crucial interview.

Like to chew gum?  More than half of the managers in this survey by  CareerBuilder cited gum-chewing as among the top mistakes by applicants.

Other major irritants?

  • Talking or texting on your cell phone.
  • Bringing Mom or Dad to the interview.
  • Negative talk about prior employers.
  • Dressing inappropriately.
  • Looking bored.

Feel like you aced the interview?  Don’t even think about giving a big bear hug to the interviewer.  Hiring managers do not like good-bye embraces.

Want to impress your prospective employer with a college degree?  Just make sure it is your own.  One manager told the story of a candidate who brought in a diploma after using white-out to remove the graduate’s name and replace it with his own.

Read the whole article here.

Borrowing Basics

Julie Soforenko from American Consumer Credit Counseling helped us with the basics of borrowing on Wednesday night at our monthly Financial Literacy at the Library Event.  If you would like to see the video of the event, click here.

Do you know the the 3 types of loans?
1) Revolving Credit (credit cards)
2) Installment (car loans, student loans)
3) Mortgage (home loans)

Credit reporting agencies look for a successful history with all three types.  Having experience with all categories  is a plus!

How else can you improve your credit report? Keep your credit card usage to 20% or below the total limit of all credit cards combined.  The evaluating agencies like to see a high percentage of available revolving credit, so think carefully about closing accounts on seldom used cards.  It may result in a lowering of your score.

Thinking about using a home equity line of credit to consolidate and pay down your credit card debt? It may not be a great idea, especially if you suspect you may soon lose your main source of income due to a job loss or investment setback.  Credit card debt is unsecured and while nonpayment may put you into bankruptcy, it does not lead to the loss of your home.  Alternatively, that home equity loan is secured by your primary residence and several unmet monthly payments may result in foreclosure.  As a general rule, Julie advises against using secured debt to replace unsecured debt.

Confused by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? Teri College Planning with several centers in Boston, and one in Brockton, offers free help with finding scholarship assistance and completing application forms including the FAFSA.  Their counselors speak many languages!

Need tax help? Volunteers are available to assist individuals with incomes no greater than $49,000 in completing their federal tax returns.  Visit one of the VITA locations listed on the www.irs.gov website or call the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) Site Locator number at 1-800-906-9887 to find a site near you.

New Year Resolutions

The January 2011 edition of the Practical Money Skills Newsletter includes an article with a few tips on starting off the New Year right.

Suggestions include:

1)  Design a livable budget.  Get started with this Budget Calculator.

2)  To really know where your money is going, keep track of your spending by writing down every dollar you spend.

3)  Make a list of all your outstanding debts with their corresponding interest rate.  Pay down at least the minimum payment each month, but pay down more on the account with the highest rate.

4)  Build an Emergency Fund.  Start by setting aside a small amount each day.  Gradually increase the amount by doubling it each month.  For help, use this Emergency Fund calculator.

5)  Think about your future goals for inspiration!  Big ticket items like college tuition, houses and retirement require long term budgeting and credit management skills.

For the full story, click here.

New Bank Fees on the Way

With the recently approved government rules regulating credit card and overdraft fees, banks are finding new ways to make money.

A recent story broadcast on Marketplace highlights the new fees that banks will be charging on services such as ATM usage, checking accounts and paper statements.

It is expected that the minimum balance requirements on checking accounts will increase,  resulting in fees being charged for services previously offered for free.

Credit Unions may be a more economical alternative for consumers who do not normally maintain large balances in their checking accounts.

Visit the Marketplace website and read or listen (or both) to the complete story.

Scam Alert

The Consumer Alert column in the Money & Careers section of the Sunday, January 9, 2011 Boston Globe warned about advance-fee loan scams that target consumers with bad credit.   It advised to beware of email offers and online classified websites that ask for the payment of substantial up-front fees.  “After the fees are paid, the loans never materialize”.

The article specifically warned against a “company” calling  itself Cobot Capital with a questionable address in Grafton, MA.

A thorough checking of all prospective lender websites is recommended to insure they are legitimate. Look for identifying details such as corporate officers’ names, company license and registration numbers.

Use the Whois database of Internet domains to search for the registration record of the website.  An older registration date with clearly visible identifying information is preferred.

Investigate the Company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau.

“The Better Business Bureau advises to never wire money on the promise of later getting something in return. …[and] recommends that consumers considering loans do extensive homework to be sure they’re dealing with legitimate operations.”

Optimize your Retirement

Looking for ways to make your retirement check last longer?  Wondering when is the best time to begin collecting Social Security?  Do you know the steps to take to achieve financial security?

The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) has created the MyRetirementPaycheck.org website with lots of helpful information on how best to position yourself for a more financially secure retirement.  Topics ranging from debt to pensions to insurance to fraud prevention are covered, plus the basics on social security and retirement planning.

Whether you are of retirement age or just planning for the future,  the site offers lots of useful suggestions and links.