Archive for March, 2012

Medigap Buyer’s Guide

Confused about what Medicare covers and what additional insurance you might need?

You may want to build your own customized Medicare Supplement Insurance Planner with a new tool available through the Newton Free Library.

Weiss Financial Ratings Series Online now includes a Medigap Buyer’s Guide and Premium Calculator that provides library patrons:

“step-by-step guidance to learn how to select a Medigap insurance plan, which plans are right for them and which insurance company has the lowest rates. By simply entering their name, age, gender and zip code, users get immediate access to their own 80+ page, information-packed Buyer’s Guide & Premium Calculator, customized just for them.”

This product is available free inside the Newton Free Library or from home to patrons with a Newton Free Library card.  From the website, go to Free Online Databases & Guides, then Business and Finance.  The Weiss Financial Ratings Series Online is listed under Business and Investing. For assistance, call 617-796-1380.

This database is available through the a grant from Smart investing @ your library®, a partnership of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association.

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Rental Housing Basics

Barbara Chandler, Fair Housing Manager, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, was our featured Speaker at the March 21 Financial Literacy at the Library event.

Ms. Chandler introduced us to the basics of rental housing searches including preparation, protections and affordable housing options.

The Preparation Process is the same regardless of the type of housing sought (affordable, market rate, luxury):

  • Know your needs: bedroom count, parking, laundry, proximity to transportation and shopping
  • Know your Credit Score and Credit History by getting your free annual credit report
  • Know what you can afford  – be sure to factor in utilities and transportation costs
  • Have 3 references – preferably past landlords
  • Expect that a CORI criminal background check will be ordered. One may order a copy of their own CORI through the MassLegalHelp website.

Protections available to tenants include:

Landlords may require the following deposits:

  • Security Deposits – can not exceed 1 month’s rent and are required by law to be deposited in a separate account.  Ask for the bank and account number where your deposit is being held.  If your rent increases, the landlord may ask for a similar increase in the security deposit. Upon vacating the unit and following an inspection, the deposit is returned to the tenant.  Repair costs for damages beyond normal wear and tear may be deducted from the amount.
  • First and last month’s rent
  • Key Deposit – must be a reasonable amount

Affordable Housing is available for households with incomes of 80% or less of the area median.  For the City of Newton, 80% of median income for a family of 4 is $65,000.  For all household sizes, see this chart.

Affordable Housing information and listings are available through the following groups:

Remember to read your lease.  You should understand your obligations. Any changes made to the standard lease must be initialed by both the tenant and the landlord to be valid. Fair Housing Rights cannot be negotiated away.

Learn with Sal Khan

If you haven’t yet heard of Khan Academy, it’s the wildly successful website stocked with thousands of 10-minute instructional videos, all done by a single gifted teacher (Sal Khan) who seems to be able to explain anything, using no more than blackboard and colored pens.

In additional to doing topics for kids learning math and science, Khan has also done 200 videos on finance.

Khan says that his video about renting vs. buying a house is “the single most important video anyone can watch.” That’s quite a claim from someone whose videos Bill Gates uses to tutor his own kids and who is funding Khan to put the videos into the public schools and revolutionize teaching.

Other basic Khan financial videos include Bonds vs. stocks, Roth IRAs, Payday loans, and The Rule of 72 for Compound Interest.

For those interested in investment and economic concepts, there are videos on currency exchange, put-call parity arbitrage, LIBOR, Treasury bond prices and yields.

To learn more, go to KhanAcademy.org.

Free Financial Webinars

Want financial guidance from an expert, but like to stay at home? Then consider the “Financial Literacy Live!” webinars offered by non-profit financial counselor CredAbility.org.

Led by live trainers, these free one-hour sessions are offered in rotation at all hours of the day and evening, in both English and Spanish.

Upcoming webinars include (times are EDT):

  • Why Am I a 678?  – How to boost your credit score and enhance your financial life  (Tuesday, March 20, 2012 10:00 am)
  • Where Do I Want to Be in 5 Years?   – Commit to making the right choices  (Tuesday, March 20 12:00 pm)
  • Saying I Do  – Resolving financial trouble spots that lead to marital disagreements (Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 10:00 am)
  • Credit in Crisis  –  How foreclosure or bankruptcy can affect your credit standing and opportunities to get credit in the future (Monday March 26, 4:00 pm)
  • Financial Success Starts Here  –  How to create a priority spending plan to reach your financial goals  (Tuesday, March 27, 2012 10:00 am)
  • How Do I Save My Home? – What to do if you fall behind on your mortgage payments (Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:00 am)
  • Living on 70 Cents – Manage your finances – saving, investing, giving, spending, and debt management (Friday, March 30 12:00 pm)

For the full schedule, click here.

The website also features advice on forclosure prevention, bankruptcy pre-filing counseling, debt management plans, and other credit counseling.

CredAbility.org is a non-profit agency providing credit counseling and education since 1964.

National Consumer Protection Week

In connection with National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 4-10, the FDIC has published a Quick Guide for Consumers on Credit, Debit, and Prepaid Cards to “help consumers, who routinely use cards to pay for goods and services but who don’t always understand the differences in how these cards work or the applicable consumer protections”.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is participating in NCPW by holding a series of “informational workshops in a number of high schools, local community centers, senior centers, and colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth. These workshops are designed to help residents make informed financial decisions, avoid becoming the victims of fraud and safeguard their finances”.

For a schedule and list of locations, go to Mass.gov or click here.

FDIC has also prepared a list of “10 things to know about credit, debit and prepaid cards ” which includes:

  • Be aware of overdraft fees
  • Your liability on unauthorized use of credit cards is usually limited to $50
  • Your liability on unauthorized use of debit cards can vary
  • Make sure you know all the fees associated with your prepaid card
  • Some prepaid cards are covered by consumer protection laws and others are not

For more on FDIC NCPW resources, click here.