(BPT) - Did you know there are more than 8,000 ways a married couple can file for Social Security benefits?With all those thousands of options, knowing how to pick the right strategy for your household could result in $100,000 or more in additional retirement income, according to a recent survey from independent investment advisor Financial Engines.Most Americans overestimate their ability to make good decisions on when to claim Social Security, according to the survey. They also underestimate the complexity of making those decisions. Plus, 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent of unmarried people rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their retirement income, according to the Social Security Administration. So deciding when to claim Social Security benefits can be one of the most important planning decisions you can make.While it’s complicated, it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are Financial Engines’ top five tips to help you make the most of claiming Social Security benefits and maximizing your income in retirement:1. It pays to delay (claiming). While you can start collecting your earned Social Security benefits as early as age 62, you’ll generally get higher payments if you wait. For every year you wait, until as late as age 70, your payments will increase by 6 to 8 percent – guaranteed by the government, under current conditions. If you delay claiming from age 62 to 70, that can result in about 75 percent more money in your pocket each month.2. Decide as a couple. If you are married, add “claiming Social Security” to the list of things you and your spouse should do together. By approaching the decision as a household and making the most of spousal benefits, you can maximize expected lifetime benefits for the two of you. And while it’s not pleasant to think about, you can also help plan a more financially secure future for the one who outlives the other.3. Worry more about living long than dying young - especially if you’re female. No one knows when they are going to die, and that’s one reason why retirement planning is so challenging. A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, to age 84, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman who reaches age 65 today can expect to live until age 86 (on average). Even so, one spouse will likely outlive the other by an average of 11 years, so planning for the survivor is extra important.4. Consider tapping your retirement accounts to help defer claiming. The bottom line is that delaying Social Security looks like one of the best deals going. Tapping your other retirement accounts to make delaying possible could make smart financial sense. Remember that Social Security will adjust for inflation every year to help you keep up with rising costs.5. If divorced, you may be eligible for more than you think. While your marriage may not have lasted, you may receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history if you were married at least 10 years and you are unmarried at the time you file for Social Security. But if you have remarried, you usually can’t receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.If you’re starting to think about retirement, considering your Social Security benefit claiming options now could help you experience the best of your Golden Years. Want to learn more? Test your knowledge about claiming Social Security with a fun online quiz and try Financial Engines’ Social Security planner, which is available at no cost, at financialengines.com. 

6 tips for managing your year-end tax planning

(BPT) – The end of 2014 is shaping up to be relatively quiet compared to the challenges of recent years – such as the fiscal cliff. After this year’s mid-term elections a lame duck Congress needs to fund the operations of the federal government, so it is possible new tax law changes could affect current income tax and financial planning. For the time being, though, the current laws provide the guidelines of how taxpayers need to plan.   Robert Fishbein, a vice president in the Tax Department for Prudential, offers some tips and caveats to keep... 

(BPT) - Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview.Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available."All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device," says TaxACT Spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You're well qualified to do your taxes because you're the expert of your finances."With the affordable and even free DIY tax programs, it's like having an expert personally guiding you. You're asked straightforward, simple questions about your income and financial situation. Meanwhile, the programs determine which tax deductions and tax credits you qualify for while completing the necessary math and tax forms.The top solutions offer several means of tax and technical help if you need it, including robust help within the application or on the website, and one-on-one help via email, chat and phone.If you're the curious type who wants to better understand taxes (after all, they will impact your personal finances for the rest of your life), DIY tax programs have plenty of easy-to-understand explanations and tips if you want them. Some even offer planning and guidance for next year's tax return.The interfaces of these DIY tax programs use the sophistication and technology of other secure Web and mobile applications, carefully designed to be extremely easy to use, intuitive and fast.Follow these simple tips to successfully file your taxes for the first time and every year after that.First, don't procrastinate. Waiting until the last minute causes undue stress, and rushing increases potential for typos and overlooked information. While you can do your taxes in one fell swoop, it's unnecessary. Tax programs save as you go, so you can stop and finish at your leisure. You may reap benefits from starting early - as soon as October (when TaxACT releases its solutions) - because tax programs point out potential savings requiring action before Dec. 31 or April 15.  Second, gather all your tax forms and documents before starting your return, including:* Form W-2 from your employer (you should receive by Jan. 31)* Form 1099s if you're self-employed or a contractor* Form 1098-E from your lender if you've paid student loan interest (even if you don't receive this form, you can still deduct interest paid).* Form 1098-T for tuition paid and scholarships or grants received* Statements for retirement savings accounts* Receipts for charitable donationsAfter filing, keep these papers or make electronic copies to save with a copy of your return.Finally, carefully compare top DIY tax products before choosing one. Read expert and user reviews. Look at the situations and tax forms each includes, as some require you to upgrade for certain forms. If you have to file a state return, compare prices. Using a mobile filing app? Choose one that also provides access to your data on a browser for convenience and peace of mind in case you lose your smartphone or tablet.Dolmage offers another tip for tax refunds: "To avoid delays, e-file your return and have your refund direct deposited into your bank account."For more tax tips and filing information, visit www.irs.gov. Get a tax checklist and file your federal return free on your computer, tablet or phone at www.taxact.com.

Filing taxes for the first time? Easily conquer taxes with 3 simple tips

(BPT) – Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview. Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available. “All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device,” says TaxACT Spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You’re well qualified to do your taxes because you’re... 

(BPT) - It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping. But how careful are you when you’re entering personal information online to purchase gifts for your loved ones?“Today’s technological landscape allows us to share more of our personal information online, whether we’re updating our social media profiles or shopping,” says Gary Hoberman, executive vice president at MetLife. “Because our sensitive data can be found in many different places across the Internet, it’s important for families to learn how to protect themselves.”According to recent reports, experts predict that consumers will spend $89 billion online this gift-giving season (Forrester). With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to practice safe shopping habits to prevent risks like identity theft or financial fraud.* Identity theft awarenessThe ease of making quick bank transactions over public Wi-Fi or purchasing last-minute gifts online may make your life easier, but it could also lead to the exposure of your financial information or even identity theft.To keep your data safe, it’s a good idea to routinely change your passwords and stay away from using your birthdate, your name or even your pet’s name, as this information can be easily discovered on the Internet.* Cyber security tips this holiday season1. Keep it a secret: When shopping online, provide the minimum amount of information necessary to complete your order and be wary of questions that seem unrelated to your purchase. Maintaining privacy is the best way to ensure fraud protection.2. Don’t click to win: If an email or social media post seems suspicious, delete it or mark it as spam. Some have malware embedded within them set to attack your computer files. Exit out of new windows and turn on your browser’s pop-up blocker.3. Avoid public Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured networks that criminals use to distribute malware. If you are shopping online for gifts, it’s best to make sure you do so from a secure network rather than transmitting your sensitive data over public Wi-Fi.4. Read privacy policies: As tedious as it seems to read the fine print on a website, it’s a smart idea to make sure that your information won’t be sold to third-party marketers. Be aware of who has access to any information that is shared with a company to avoid credit card fraud or identity theft.5. Be proactive: Educate yourself on safe Internet practices so you can be in-the-know and avoid threats like identity theft before they become reality.6. Get protected: Sign up for a free 30-day trial of MetLife Defender, a comprehensive personal data protection service that will monitor and protect you and your family’s important information online.Learn more at metlifedefender.com.

How to keep your information safe this holiday season

(BPT) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping. But how careful are you when you’re entering personal information online to purchase gifts for your loved ones? “Today’s technological landscape allows us to share more of our personal information online, whether we’re updating our social media profiles or shopping,” says Gary Hoberman, executive vice president at MetLife. “Because our sensitive data can be found in many different places across... 

(BPT) - Are you ready to be on vacation for 20 or 30 years?That’s what planning for retirement compares to for many people as life spans have increased dramatically over the past few decades. A male who celebrates his 65th birthday today can expect to live until age 84 on average, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman can expect to live to age 86.With the potential to live decades in retirement, it’s more important than ever to start saving as soon as possible. The more time you have, the better your chances of accumulating enough assets to live comfortably once you stop working.No matter where you are on the retirement planning continuum, there are specific time-related and time-tested strategies that can help you prepare.“When you invest for a long-term goal like retirement, an event that for many of us is years and years down the line, time is on your side,” says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president for MassMutual’s Retirement Services division. “The sooner you start saving and investing, the more time you have to accumulate retirement savings and put the power of compounding to work. Time also allows you to ride out stock market volatility and potentially recover from underperforming years.”Although the stock market can fluctuate daily, monthly and yearly, the Standard & Poor’s 500 has netted an average annual return of 9 percent since its inception and 11.5 percent in the past 30 years.The longer-term gains attributed to stock investing are particularly helpful to younger investors in their 20s and 30s, according to Sarsynski. By saving and investing 10 percent of your income a year, including an employer match if available, you can potentially accumulate enough assets to replace between 60 percent and 80 percent of your income in retirement, she says.Those who are well into their 30s, 40s or older and who haven’t started saving should consider putting aside 15 percent or 20 percent of their income. Saving larger percentages of salary can help late savers catch up, Sarsynski says.What if you are in your 50s or older and have little retirement savings? Time can work for you as well if you extend your retirement date by working longer, giving yourself more time to save and postpone taking your Social Security benefits. The IRS allows Americans age 50 and older to save an additional $5,500 above the $17,500 annual limit on retirement plan contributions. In addition, Social Security retiree benefits increase by 8 percent every year income is deferred past the full retirement age.A key benefit in saving and investing for retirement, no matter what your age, is the power of compounding, according to Farnoosh Torabi, best-selling author and financial planning coach. Your percentage of earnings growth is derived from your current and past contributions as well as previous earnings, exponentially increasing with time. That’s why it’s so important to start saving as early as possible, Torabi says.As an example, a 30-year-old who has $10,000 in her 401(k) retirement plan and contributes $300 a month until retiring at age 67 would accumulate $761,261. That’s based on an annual interest rate of 7 percent, compounding monthly.Conversely, a 50-year-old with the same amount in his retirement plan and who contributes $300 a month would wind up with $149,795 at age 67. Even doubling the monthly contribution would yield only $266,833. So time is of the essence.Many employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans feature calculators to help you determine how much income your savings can generate both today and the future. The SSA also features calculators to help you determine your Social Security retirement benefits.“Everyone should take the time to calculate their estimated income and expenses in retirement before deciding when they will retire,” Torabi says. “If you have a gap between your projected income and expenses, you need to increase your savings. Many people ultimately decide to live a little more frugally today so they can afford to retire more comfortably tomorrow.”For more information about planning your retirement, go to www.retiresmart.com.

Planning for your 20-year vacation

(BPT) – Are you ready to be on vacation for 20 or 30 years? That’s what planning for retirement compares to for many people as life spans have increased dramatically over the past few decades. A male who celebrates his 65th birthday today can expect to live until age 84 on average, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman can expect to live to age 86. With the potential to live decades in retirement, it’s more important than ever to start saving as soon as possible. The more time you have, the better your chances of accumulating enough... 

Hot News
(BPT) - Did you know there are more than 8,000 ways a married couple can file for Social Security benefits?With all those thousands of options, knowing how to pick the right strategy for your household could result in $100,000 or more in additional retirement income, according to a recent survey from independent investment advisor Financial Engines.Most Americans overestimate their ability to make good decisions on when to claim Social Security, according to the survey. They also underestimate the complexity of making those decisions. Plus, 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent of unmarried people rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their retirement income, according to the Social Security Administration. So deciding when to claim Social Security benefits can be one of the most important planning decisions you can make.While it’s complicated, it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are Financial Engines’ top five tips to help you make the most of claiming Social Security benefits and maximizing your income in retirement:1. It pays to delay (claiming). While you can start collecting your earned Social Security benefits as early as age 62, you’ll generally get higher payments if you wait. For every year you wait, until as late as age 70, your payments will increase by 6 to 8 percent – guaranteed by the government, under current conditions. If you delay claiming from age 62 to 70, that can result in about 75 percent more money in your pocket each month.2. Decide as a couple. If you are married, add “claiming Social Security” to the list of things you and your spouse should do together. By approaching the decision as a household and making the most of spousal benefits, you can maximize expected lifetime benefits for the two of you. And while it’s not pleasant to think about, you can also help plan a more financially secure future for the one who outlives the other.3. Worry more about living long than dying young - especially if you’re female. No one knows when they are going to die, and that’s one reason why retirement planning is so challenging. A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, to age 84, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman who reaches age 65 today can expect to live until age 86 (on average). Even so, one spouse will likely outlive the other by an average of 11 years, so planning for the survivor is extra important.4. Consider tapping your retirement accounts to help defer claiming. The bottom line is that delaying Social Security looks like one of the best deals going. Tapping your other retirement accounts to make delaying possible could make smart financial sense. Remember that Social Security will adjust for inflation every year to help you keep up with rising costs.5. If divorced, you may be eligible for more than you think. While your marriage may not have lasted, you may receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history if you were married at least 10 years and you are unmarried at the time you file for Social Security. But if you have remarried, you usually can’t receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.If you’re starting to think about retirement, considering your Social Security benefit claiming options now could help you experience the best of your Golden Years. Want to learn more? Test your knowledge about claiming Social Security with a fun online quiz and try Financial Engines’ Social Security planner, which is available at no cost, at financialengines.com. 

(BPT) – The end of 2014 is shaping up to be relatively quiet compared to the challenges of recent years – such as... 

(BPT) - Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview.Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available."All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device," says TaxACT Spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You're well qualified to do your taxes because you're the expert of your finances."With the affordable and even free DIY tax programs, it's like having an expert personally guiding you. You're asked straightforward, simple questions about your income and financial situation. Meanwhile, the programs determine which tax deductions and tax credits you qualify for while completing the necessary math and tax forms.The top solutions offer several means of tax and technical help if you need it, including robust help within the application or on the website, and one-on-one help via email, chat and phone.If you're the curious type who wants to better understand taxes (after all, they will impact your personal finances for the rest of your life), DIY tax programs have plenty of easy-to-understand explanations and tips if you want them. Some even offer planning and guidance for next year's tax return.The interfaces of these DIY tax programs use the sophistication and technology of other secure Web and mobile applications, carefully designed to be extremely easy to use, intuitive and fast.Follow these simple tips to successfully file your taxes for the first time and every year after that.First, don't procrastinate. Waiting until the last minute causes undue stress, and rushing increases potential for typos and overlooked information. While you can do your taxes in one fell swoop, it's unnecessary. Tax programs save as you go, so you can stop and finish at your leisure. You may reap benefits from starting early - as soon as October (when TaxACT releases its solutions) - because tax programs point out potential savings requiring action before Dec. 31 or April 15.  Second, gather all your tax forms and documents before starting your return, including:* Form W-2 from your employer (you should receive by Jan. 31)* Form 1099s if you're self-employed or a contractor* Form 1098-E from your lender if you've paid student loan interest (even if you don't receive this form, you can still deduct interest paid).* Form 1098-T for tuition paid and scholarships or grants received* Statements for retirement savings accounts* Receipts for charitable donationsAfter filing, keep these papers or make electronic copies to save with a copy of your return.Finally, carefully compare top DIY tax products before choosing one. Read expert and user reviews. Look at the situations and tax forms each includes, as some require you to upgrade for certain forms. If you have to file a state return, compare prices. Using a mobile filing app? Choose one that also provides access to your data on a browser for convenience and peace of mind in case you lose your smartphone or tablet.Dolmage offers another tip for tax refunds: "To avoid delays, e-file your return and have your refund direct deposited into your bank account."For more tax tips and filing information, visit www.irs.gov. Get a tax checklist and file your federal return free on your computer, tablet or phone at www.taxact.com.

(BPT) – Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar... 

(BPT) - It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping. But how careful are you when you’re entering personal information online to purchase gifts for your loved ones?“Today’s technological landscape allows us to share more of our personal information online, whether we’re updating our social media profiles or shopping,” says Gary Hoberman, executive vice president at MetLife. “Because our sensitive data can be found in many different places across the Internet, it’s important for families to learn how to protect themselves.”According to recent reports, experts predict that consumers will spend $89 billion online this gift-giving season (Forrester). With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to practice safe shopping habits to prevent risks like identity theft or financial fraud.* Identity theft awarenessThe ease of making quick bank transactions over public Wi-Fi or purchasing last-minute gifts online may make your life easier, but it could also lead to the exposure of your financial information or even identity theft.To keep your data safe, it’s a good idea to routinely change your passwords and stay away from using your birthdate, your name or even your pet’s name, as this information can be easily discovered on the Internet.* Cyber security tips this holiday season1. Keep it a secret: When shopping online, provide the minimum amount of information necessary to complete your order and be wary of questions that seem unrelated to your purchase. Maintaining privacy is the best way to ensure fraud protection.2. Don’t click to win: If an email or social media post seems suspicious, delete it or mark it as spam. Some have malware embedded within them set to attack your computer files. Exit out of new windows and turn on your browser’s pop-up blocker.3. Avoid public Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured networks that criminals use to distribute malware. If you are shopping online for gifts, it’s best to make sure you do so from a secure network rather than transmitting your sensitive data over public Wi-Fi.4. Read privacy policies: As tedious as it seems to read the fine print on a website, it’s a smart idea to make sure that your information won’t be sold to third-party marketers. Be aware of who has access to any information that is shared with a company to avoid credit card fraud or identity theft.5. Be proactive: Educate yourself on safe Internet practices so you can be in-the-know and avoid threats like identity theft before they become reality.6. Get protected: Sign up for a free 30-day trial of MetLife Defender, a comprehensive personal data protection service that will monitor and protect you and your family’s important information online.Learn more at metlifedefender.com.

(BPT) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping.... 

(BPT) - Are you ready to be on vacation for 20 or 30 years?That’s what planning for retirement compares to for many people as life spans have increased dramatically over the past few decades. A male who celebrates his 65th birthday today can expect to live until age 84 on average, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman can expect to live to age 86.With the potential to live decades in retirement, it’s more important than ever to start saving as soon as possible. The more time you have, the better your chances of accumulating enough assets to live comfortably once you stop working.No matter where you are on the retirement planning continuum, there are specific time-related and time-tested strategies that can help you prepare.“When you invest for a long-term goal like retirement, an event that for many of us is years and years down the line, time is on your side,” says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president for MassMutual’s Retirement Services division. “The sooner you start saving and investing, the more time you have to accumulate retirement savings and put the power of compounding to work. Time also allows you to ride out stock market volatility and potentially recover from underperforming years.”Although the stock market can fluctuate daily, monthly and yearly, the Standard & Poor’s 500 has netted an average annual return of 9 percent since its inception and 11.5 percent in the past 30 years.The longer-term gains attributed to stock investing are particularly helpful to younger investors in their 20s and 30s, according to Sarsynski. By saving and investing 10 percent of your income a year, including an employer match if available, you can potentially accumulate enough assets to replace between 60 percent and 80 percent of your income in retirement, she says.Those who are well into their 30s, 40s or older and who haven’t started saving should consider putting aside 15 percent or 20 percent of their income. Saving larger percentages of salary can help late savers catch up, Sarsynski says.What if you are in your 50s or older and have little retirement savings? Time can work for you as well if you extend your retirement date by working longer, giving yourself more time to save and postpone taking your Social Security benefits. The IRS allows Americans age 50 and older to save an additional $5,500 above the $17,500 annual limit on retirement plan contributions. In addition, Social Security retiree benefits increase by 8 percent every year income is deferred past the full retirement age.A key benefit in saving and investing for retirement, no matter what your age, is the power of compounding, according to Farnoosh Torabi, best-selling author and financial planning coach. Your percentage of earnings growth is derived from your current and past contributions as well as previous earnings, exponentially increasing with time. That’s why it’s so important to start saving as early as possible, Torabi says.As an example, a 30-year-old who has $10,000 in her 401(k) retirement plan and contributes $300 a month until retiring at age 67 would accumulate $761,261. That’s based on an annual interest rate of 7 percent, compounding monthly.Conversely, a 50-year-old with the same amount in his retirement plan and who contributes $300 a month would wind up with $149,795 at age 67. Even doubling the monthly contribution would yield only $266,833. So time is of the essence.Many employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans feature calculators to help you determine how much income your savings can generate both today and the future. The SSA also features calculators to help you determine your Social Security retirement benefits.“Everyone should take the time to calculate their estimated income and expenses in retirement before deciding when they will retire,” Torabi says. “If you have a gap between your projected income and expenses, you need to increase your savings. Many people ultimately decide to live a little more frugally today so they can afford to retire more comfortably tomorrow.”For more information about planning your retirement, go to www.retiresmart.com.

(BPT) – Are you ready to be on vacation for 20 or 30 years? That’s what planning for retirement compares to for... 

 Latest News Updates
(BPT) - You can't drive it around the block. You can't wear it for an evening out. You can't watch anything on it. And chances are it won’t elicit squeals of delight when opened. But of the many gifts you can give, life insurance might make the biggest difference to those you love.So, what are 10 reasons you should buy yourself a life insurance policy for Christmas? Thrivent Financial suggests the following:1. It’s a generous thing to do. Purchasing an insurance policy isn’t about you at all, because you won’t be around to benefit. It will, however, benefit your family, loved ones, and even organizations that are important to you.2. Freedom from worry. Knowing that your family is prepared financially if you’re no longer around can provide an incredible sense of reassurance. It can help provide your loved ones a measure of security and stability when everything else in their life is being shaken if you’re no longer around.3. It’s a cornerstone of a sound financial strategy. Protecting yourself against risk is an important part of any financial strategy. People often underestimate the extent to which a premature death affects a family's income and assets. Life insurance helps protect your financial strategy.4. It sets a good example. Being financially prepared for an unknown future can speak volumes to those around you - and as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.5. It may assist with paying final expenses. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of money needed to pay for a funeral and other final expenses. A life insurance policy can help ensure those final expenses don’t burden your loved ones.6. It may help pay off debt. Funds from a life insurance policy can alleviate debt that might be hard to pay off in the event of an unexpected death. Survivors can use those funds to cover credit cards, car loans and even mortgage payments.7. It may help pay for college. Leaving a legacy for your children or spouse through the gift of education might be one of the more meaningful ways benefits could be used. Your gift could open doors for them to build a solid financial future for themselves through a life-long career.8. It may help provide for retirement. Depending on the financial circumstances of your loved ones, life insurance benefits can be invested in different ways to provide for retirement.9. Leave a legacy. Life insurance benefits can help more than family members or loved ones. You can use the benefits to donate to charities or causes you care about and leave a legacy of generosity.10. It demonstrates you care about your loved ones. With each bill that is paid, with each gift to charities that were important to you, with each act of financial generosity, those you loved will be reminded of the care you took to help ensure they were left with a healthy financial future.There are endless possibilities of gifts you could put under the Christmas tree this season. And if someone depends on you financially, you likely need life insurance. It’s that simple. So with the gifts all wrapped up, consider adding life insurance as one more gift that could wind up being far more meaningful.

(BPT) – You can’t drive it around the block. You can’t wear it for an evening out. You can’t... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - Are you among the 54 million Americans currently receiving health insurance through Medicare? The Medicare annual enrollment period (AEP), running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, means you have the opportunity to change plans, and possibly find cost savings or better coverage.Seniors and people with disabilities who receive their health care insurance through Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans can make changes to their plans during the AEP. They have a lot to consider this year.More than 200 new prescription drug plans arrived in the Part D market this year and more than 2,000 Medicare Advantage plans were available nationwide.“On average, seniors have about 18 Medicare Advantage plans and 35 Part D plans to choose from,” says Mary Dale Walters, senior vice president of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a nationwide Medicare plan selection service.Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans also continues to increase - nearly 16 million people in 2014 - which indicates that more people like the benefits of using these health care plans. Many Medicare Advantage plans also have provider networks that mirror the type of coverage beneficiaries had through their employers while working.“But people may have dozens of Medicare plans to choose from, depending on where they live. This really opens the door to finding Medicare plans that are a better fit for you and your health care needs,” Walters says.Walters offers some guidelines for when it might be worth exploring other Medicare plans:1. You’re paying too much for your monthly premium. Perhaps you’ve been with the same plan for several years and each year the cost goes up a little bit more. Shop around; there may be a number of other plan options where you live that could provide the same or better coverage at a lower cost.2. You’re paying too much out of pocket after you receive medical treatment. The costs with Medicare go beyond the monthly premium and include co-payments, coinsurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. If you’ve been surprised by the costs you must pay for medical treatment after the fact, you may want to talk to a Medicare plan selection specialist about your options and to ensure you know what to expect.3. You can’t use your preferred doctors with your Medicare plan. Some Medicare plans can change the networks of doctors and hospitals you can see. If you’re finding it more and more difficult to see the doctors you would like to because of network changes, you could benefit from revisiting the Medicare plans in your area.4. Prescription drug costs and coverage issues are causing you financial problems. The costs of medications today can be financially crippling for people with chronic health issues and those requiring specialized treatment. Some plans change their drug formularies from year to year, which can affect the cost of the drug you take or your ability to get coverage for a specific prescription medication.5. You had a life change in the past year or expect big changes next year. If your income changed dramatically, you experienced a life-changing health issue, or you moved or plan to move, it could be vital for you to re-examine the scope of your Medicare coverage.6. You were notified your plan will no longer be available in 2015. Sometimes Medicare plans leave the market. This can happen because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) determine that some of the plans are too similar and are no longer necessary, or there may be quality concerns or other reasons.Medicare participants can find important information for annual enrollment through the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and the Evidence of Coverage (EOC) that they receive from their insurance providers. Watch the mail for these important notices.“Don’t ignore the information you get from your Medicare plan providers in September because they may be telling you about premium changes and other provisions that will change your health care services next year,” Walters says. “Take a close look at those materials, and consider reaching out to a Medicare plan selection specialist to help you review your options.”Experienced Medicare specialists such as the Allsup Medicare Advisor are available to help consumers make a comparative analysis of Medicare plans from numerous providers and insurance companies to find coverage that best matches their personal needs.For an evaluation of your Medicare plan needs, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or visit Medicare.Allsup.com.

(BPT) – Are you among the 54 million Americans currently receiving health insurance through Medicare? The Medicare... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - Did you know there are more than 8,000 ways a married couple can file for Social Security benefits?With all those thousands of options, knowing how to pick the right strategy for your household could result in $100,000 or more in additional retirement income, according to a recent survey from independent investment advisor Financial Engines.Most Americans overestimate their ability to make good decisions on when to claim Social Security, according to the survey. They also underestimate the complexity of making those decisions. Plus, 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent of unmarried people rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their retirement income, according to the Social Security Administration. So deciding when to claim Social Security benefits can be one of the most important planning decisions you can make.While it’s complicated, it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are Financial Engines’ top five tips to help you make the most of claiming Social Security benefits and maximizing your income in retirement:1. It pays to delay (claiming). While you can start collecting your earned Social Security benefits as early as age 62, you’ll generally get higher payments if you wait. For every year you wait, until as late as age 70, your payments will increase by 6 to 8 percent – guaranteed by the government, under current conditions. If you delay claiming from age 62 to 70, that can result in about 75 percent more money in your pocket each month.2. Decide as a couple. If you are married, add “claiming Social Security” to the list of things you and your spouse should do together. By approaching the decision as a household and making the most of spousal benefits, you can maximize expected lifetime benefits for the two of you. And while it’s not pleasant to think about, you can also help plan a more financially secure future for the one who outlives the other.3. Worry more about living long than dying young - especially if you’re female. No one knows when they are going to die, and that’s one reason why retirement planning is so challenging. A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, to age 84, according to the Social Security Administration. A woman who reaches age 65 today can expect to live until age 86 (on average). Even so, one spouse will likely outlive the other by an average of 11 years, so planning for the survivor is extra important.4. Consider tapping your retirement accounts to help defer claiming. The bottom line is that delaying Social Security looks like one of the best deals going. Tapping your other retirement accounts to make delaying possible could make smart financial sense. Remember that Social Security will adjust for inflation every year to help you keep up with rising costs.5. If divorced, you may be eligible for more than you think. While your marriage may not have lasted, you may receive benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history if you were married at least 10 years and you are unmarried at the time you file for Social Security. But if you have remarried, you usually can’t receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.If you’re starting to think about retirement, considering your Social Security benefit claiming options now could help you experience the best of your Golden Years. Want to learn more? Test your knowledge about claiming Social Security with a fun online quiz and try Financial Engines’ Social Security planner, which is available at no cost, at financialengines.com. 

(BPT) – The end of 2014 is shaping up to be relatively quiet compared to the challenges of recent years –... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Money / Finance
(BPT) - Health insurance and income taxes, once an unlikely pair, are now close companions as a result of the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate that took effect Jan. 1, 2014. If you have health insurance through the federal or a state-sponsored marketplace, it means a couple of important yet simple changes on your next income tax return.  First, you'll receive a new tax form from your marketplace around Jan. 31, 2015. Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, will include the information you need to report on your federal tax return in order to prove you have health insurance. Form 1095-A will also include information you need for the premium tax credit, a tax benefit to help pay for marketplace insurance. The credit amount is based on household size and income. In general, the lower your income, the higher your credit amount.  In order to qualify for the premium credit:  * You must be ineligible for government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. * You cannot have employer-sponsored insurance, or the lowest-priced, self-covered plan meeting minimum essential requirements offered by your employer costs more than 9.5 percent of your annual household income.  * Your annual household income is 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For the 2014 credit, that's $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual. (Hawaii and Alaska residents are subject to different amounts.)  * You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. * Your filing status generally cannot be married filing separately. The credit can be received in advance in order to reduce the cost of your monthly premiums, or you can wait to claim it on your tax return to reduce your amount owed or increase your refund.  If your income or family size is different than what you estimated when you applied for marketplace insurance, your taxes may be impacted. If your actual income was less than estimated, you may qualify for a higher credit amount and therefore receive a larger refund. On the other hand, if your actual income was more than the estimated amount, you may need to pay some of the credit back at tax time. DIY tax solutions make reporting marketplace insurance and the premium credit a simple matter.  "You can still easily prepare and file your own taxes," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. "Just enter Form 1095-A information when the program asks and answer some simple questions. The program will complete the calculations and tax forms to help you get every dollar you deserve." If you plan to enroll in marketplace insurance during the next enrollment period, Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, Dolmage recommends calculating your taxes beforehand. "You’ll need to enter some tax information on your marketplace application. TaxACT makes that easy. Complete the easy interview and the program will generate a HealthWatch report with all the tax information you need to apply for insurance and the premium credit."  Dolmage also reminds uninsured individuals planning to claim an exemption to visit healthcare.gov/exemptions to check if your situation requires an exemption certificate number (ECN). If so, mail the paper application and supporting documentation to your marketplace now because it can take weeks to process. After your application is accepted, you'll receive an ECN to report on your tax return in order to avoid the individual shared responsibility payment. Learn more about the premium tax credit at www.irs.gov and healthcareact.com. To get the HealthWatch report and file your federal taxes free with TaxACT Free Edition, go to www.taxact.com.   

(BPT) – Health insurance and income taxes, once an unlikely pair, are now close companions as... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - Pampering yourself with skin and beauty treatments is important, but going to the salon or buying expensive products are not always the most convenient – or wallet-friendly – options.In fact, 82 percent of women prefer to save than splurge, spending less than 50 dollars each month on their beauty and skincare regimen, according to a recent study from Poshly Insights on behalf of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda.As an alternative, women can look to the following simple, do-it-yourself solutions to care for their skin. It might surprise you how many beauty treatments you can create from ingredients you already have in your home. 1. Facial scrub – For smooth, radiant skin, combine three parts baking soda with one part warm water. Using your fingers, rub the mixture gently on your face in a circular motion to exfoliate skin and remove dead skin cells. Be careful to avoid your eye area. Rinse off with warm water and you’ll notice your skin feeling smooth and refreshed. 2. Bath soak – Help soothe skin irritations, bug bites or mild sunburn with a relaxing, long soak in the bathtub. Swirl one-half cup of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda into warm water to help soften and soothe the skin and clean away any oils and perspiration that accumulated during the day. 3. Manicure and pedicure – Before painting your nails, give your hands and feet a little TLC with exfoliating treatments. For manicures, use a brush to scrub the nails and cuticles in a gentle, circular motion with baking soda. Rinse clean with warm water and apply your favorite shade of nail polish. For pedicures, soak feet in a basin with a mixture of two tablespoons of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda and warm water. After your soak apply a scrub of three parts baking soda and one part water. Rinse clean with warm water and follow with an application of a rich moisturizer and a warm towel foot wrap – your feet will feel smooth and clean. Finish the treatment by applying your favorite shade of polish to your toenails. 4. Hair care – Use baking soda to help remove residue that styling products leave behind for cleaner and more manageable hair. To achieve this, sprinkle a quarter-size amount of ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Wash as usual and rinse thoroughly. Just be careful to avoid the eye area when rinsing.Avoid costly visits to the salon and expensive beauty products with gentle and simple at-home treatments. For even more fun, invite your friends over for a spa-themed get together and try out the tips above. To find more savings and solutions for you and your home, visit www.armandhammer.com/solutions.aspx.

(BPT) – Pampering yourself with skin and beauty treatments is important, but going to the salon or buying expensive... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - It’s that time again - time to buy a new car. Maybe you’re excited because you’ve been dreaming of getting new wheels for a long time now. Or maybe you’re nervous; buying a car is a big financial commitment and you want to make sure you do your homework. If you fall into this second group, don’t worry; these five simple questions can help you find a vehicle that fits your lifestyle.* Is it a lemon? When you purchase your vehicle, the last thing you want to do is shop for another car in a couple of years. Picking a reliable vehicle is key. So how do you do it? Make a list of the vehicles you’re interested in and head to the Web to research previous vehicle recalls. If you are buying a used car, websites like CarFax.com and others can also show you the history of that particular car, giving you insight into just how reliable it will be.* Where’s the value? Whether safety is your top concern or you want the most vehicle for your money, it’s all about value. USAA, which provides car buying guidance (or help) and recommendations to its members, recently released its fourth-annual Best Value list identifying the top vehicles for 2014. The list includes vehicles that finished at the top of USAA’s preferred propriety rating system, which evaluates safety, reliability, cost and other factors. There is also a list of the top 10 vehicles for teens, which you can review if you’ll soon be sharing a garage with a new driver.* How will you pay for it? Behind safety, financing is probably the most important thing to consider when buying a new car. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched your financing options. And remember, you have other options besides what the dealership offers you.* Are there any physical concerns you need to remember? Not every vehicle is perfect for every person. Think about yourself and who will most often ride with you. If you or your passengers are very tall, a smaller sedan may not make sense. Likewise, people who have mobility challenges may not be comfortable getting into a large pickup truck.* Will it grow with your family? Sure it fits your needs now, but what about next year? The year after that? Whether it is children, pets or joining the office carpool, consider the fact that the space you need presently might not be the space you need even a year from now.Shopping for a new car can be an exciting experience, but it can be nerve-wracking as well. As you begin your search, remember these questions and you’ll be closer to finding the vehicle of your dreams. To learn more about USAA’s Best Value list, visit usaa.com/bestvalue.

(BPT) – It’s that time again – time to buy a new car. Maybe you’re excited because... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - From sports teams and extracurricular clubs to first jobs and first cars, high school students learn new lessons every day, many away from the classroom. But when it comes to balancing their obligations, many students learn some tough lessons for the first time as they dip their feet into adult life, particularly with their finances.“Only 7 percent of high school students are financially literate and fewer than 30 percent of adults report being offered financial education at school or college,” said Brian Page, finance teacher and personal finance adviser to H&R Block Budget Challenge. “Personal finance can be an overwhelming subject to learn, so many students have developed money misconceptions.”According to Page, many students share these six common misconceptions when it comes to money:1. A person can save what is left over at the end of the month. Those who save by making automatic savings deposits right from their paycheck save four times more than those who only deposit directly into one account, according to CFED.org.2. College is unaffordable. Most teens are well aware of the surge in college costs. However, many teens don’t realize that, by comparison shopping, seeking financial aid and looking at alternative pathways to earning a degree, college costs can be more manageable.3. All debt is bad. “Borrowing now to improve your future self can be a good idea,” Page said. “Student loans not exceeding your first year’s anticipated income makes sense for most everyday Americans.” To find information on anticipated salary, check out PayScale.com.4. Overdraft protection is free to use. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found the typical overdraft situation is comparable to a small-dollar loan with a 17,000 percent interest rate.5. I don’t need to budget right now. Teens annually spend nearly $100 billion, reports the University of Illinois. Yet only 17 percent of teens maintain a budget, states an H&R Block survey. Budgeting is important now as small expenses can add up and get you into trouble – for example, the average American spends more than $2,500 a year dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Properly monitoring your spending habits can help avoid overspending.6. Never use credit cards. It depends. “If you’re unable to control credit card spending, steer clear,” Page said. “However, they can be ideal credit building tools for young consumers who use them responsibly.” Consider starting with a secured credit card, avoid borrowing more than 30 percent of the credit limit each billing cycle and always pay the balance in full and on time.Having these misconceptions doesn’t mean teens are doomed to have a damaging financial future. Proper education through programs like the H&R Block Budget Challenge help teens prepare for the real world so they can correct any misinformation received in the past.

(BPT) – From sports teams and extracurricular clubs to first jobs and first cars, high school students learn... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized
(BPT) - Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview.Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available."All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device," says TaxACT Spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You're well qualified to do your taxes because you're the expert of your finances."With the affordable and even free DIY tax programs, it's like having an expert personally guiding you. You're asked straightforward, simple questions about your income and financial situation. Meanwhile, the programs determine which tax deductions and tax credits you qualify for while completing the necessary math and tax forms.The top solutions offer several means of tax and technical help if you need it, including robust help within the application or on the website, and one-on-one help via email, chat and phone.If you're the curious type who wants to better understand taxes (after all, they will impact your personal finances for the rest of your life), DIY tax programs have plenty of easy-to-understand explanations and tips if you want them. Some even offer planning and guidance for next year's tax return.The interfaces of these DIY tax programs use the sophistication and technology of other secure Web and mobile applications, carefully designed to be extremely easy to use, intuitive and fast.Follow these simple tips to successfully file your taxes for the first time and every year after that.First, don't procrastinate. Waiting until the last minute causes undue stress, and rushing increases potential for typos and overlooked information. While you can do your taxes in one fell swoop, it's unnecessary. Tax programs save as you go, so you can stop and finish at your leisure. You may reap benefits from starting early - as soon as October (when TaxACT releases its solutions) - because tax programs point out potential savings requiring action before Dec. 31 or April 15.  Second, gather all your tax forms and documents before starting your return, including:* Form W-2 from your employer (you should receive by Jan. 31)* Form 1099s if you're self-employed or a contractor* Form 1098-E from your lender if you've paid student loan interest (even if you don't receive this form, you can still deduct interest paid).* Form 1098-T for tuition paid and scholarships or grants received* Statements for retirement savings accounts* Receipts for charitable donationsAfter filing, keep these papers or make electronic copies to save with a copy of your return.Finally, carefully compare top DIY tax products before choosing one. Read expert and user reviews. Look at the situations and tax forms each includes, as some require you to upgrade for certain forms. If you have to file a state return, compare prices. Using a mobile filing app? Choose one that also provides access to your data on a browser for convenience and peace of mind in case you lose your smartphone or tablet.Dolmage offers another tip for tax refunds: "To avoid delays, e-file your return and have your refund direct deposited into your bank account."For more tax tips and filing information, visit www.irs.gov. Get a tax checklist and file your federal return free on your computer, tablet or phone at www.taxact.com.

(BPT) – Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Money / Finance
(BPT) - It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday shopping. But how careful are you when you’re entering personal information online to purchase gifts for your loved ones?“Today’s technological landscape allows us to share more of our personal information online, whether we’re updating our social media profiles or shopping,” says Gary Hoberman, executive vice president at MetLife. “Because our sensitive data can be found in many different places across the Internet, it’s important for families to learn how to protect themselves.”According to recent reports, experts predict that consumers will spend $89 billion online this gift-giving season (Forrester). With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to practice safe shopping habits to prevent risks like identity theft or financial fraud.* Identity theft awarenessThe ease of making quick bank transactions over public Wi-Fi or purchasing last-minute gifts online may make your life easier, but it could also lead to the exposure of your financial information or even identity theft.To keep your data safe, it’s a good idea to routinely change your passwords and stay away from using your birthdate, your name or even your pet’s name, as this information can be easily discovered on the Internet.* Cyber security tips this holiday season1. Keep it a secret: When shopping online, provide the minimum amount of information necessary to complete your order and be wary of questions that seem unrelated to your purchase. Maintaining privacy is the best way to ensure fraud protection.2. Don’t click to win: If an email or social media post seems suspicious, delete it or mark it as spam. Some have malware embedded within them set to attack your computer files. Exit out of new windows and turn on your browser’s pop-up blocker.3. Avoid public Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured networks that criminals use to distribute malware. If you are shopping online for gifts, it’s best to make sure you do so from a secure network rather than transmitting your sensitive data over public Wi-Fi.4. Read privacy policies: As tedious as it seems to read the fine print on a website, it’s a smart idea to make sure that your information won’t be sold to third-party marketers. Be aware of who has access to any information that is shared with a company to avoid credit card fraud or identity theft.5. Be proactive: Educate yourself on safe Internet practices so you can be in-the-know and avoid threats like identity theft before they become reality.6. Get protected: Sign up for a free 30-day trial of MetLife Defender, a comprehensive personal data protection service that will monitor and protect you and your family’s important information online.Learn more at metlifedefender.com.

(BPT) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and for a lot of us, that means holiday... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Money / Finance
(BPT) - In the United States, federal and state consumer collection laws forbid debt collectors from using unfair, deceptive, and abusive means to collect debt. Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t stop scammers from using threats of arrest and jail time to coerce victims into paying bogus bills they don’t owe.It’s just one of the many tactics criminals use to defraud victims in fake loan and collection scams. In many cases, victims or their loved ones are already experiencing financial hardships. In a recent case in Texas, con artists posing as collection agents for a payday lender attempted to convince a mother and daughter to pay a debt they claimed the woman’s son owed. Although they threatened her with legal action, the woman refused to pay and instead contacted authorities who are now searching for the scammers.“Loan and collection scams are particularly distasteful, because they target people when they are most vulnerable and in need of a helping hand,” says Patrick O’Shaughnessy, chairman of the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), and the CEO of Advance America, a leading short-term credit provider. “Scammers use the reputation of a legitimate, respected business, along with dire threats, to get what they want from victims. Unfortunately, when someone’s been scammed using our good name, there’s little more we can do other than work with law enforcement and empathize.”O’Shaughnessy and Advance America offer consumers some advice for spotting scams and protecting themselves from falling prey to a loan or collections con:Learn the signs of a scamFederal law strictly regulates how real bill collectors and loan agents can do business. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) specifically prohibits debt collectors from being abusive, unfair or deceptive in trying to collect a debt. Visit the FTC’s website to familiarize yourself with the law.The law specifically says debt collectors cannot threaten you with arrest or jail time if you don’t pay their bill. “If someone claims you will face criminal prosecution unless you immediately wire them money, it’s almost certainly a scam,” O’Shaughnessy says.Lenders – including short-term or “payday” lenders – are also highly regulated by federal and state laws. Legitimate lenders abide by the regulations, but unlicensed lenders may operate outside the law. Scammers may claim that you have been pre-approved for a loan, and then require you to purchase a prepaid debit card or wire money as a “processing fee” or “good faith deposit.” Others may really be identity thieves out to get your personal or financial information. Consumers should look for the CFSA seal, which shows the lenders that abide by industry best practices. These practices include:* Full disclosure of all transaction terms and fees* Regulatory compliance* Truthful advertising* Collection practices that comply with the FDCPAProtecting yourself from scammersIn addition to understanding how lenders and bill collectors can operate, consumers should also take steps to protect themselves, including:* Never give personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account information online or over the phone without verifying that you are working with a legitimate lender or bill collector. To verify, call the establishment back using a known number, such as the number listed on your statement or on the back of your credit/debit card.* Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information. If an email demands immediate action or makes upsetting or exciting false statements, it’s likely a scam.* Verify company licenses when applying for a loan online. Legitimate lenders will display state licenses on their websites to verify that they are full-service, licensed lenders complying with state and federal laws.* Never wire money or provide prepaid debit card information to a lender claiming you have been pre-approved for a loan and must make an initial payment as a “show of good faith.” Legitimate lenders do not offer approvals prior to application and do not require good faith deposits.* Keep anti-virus, anti-malware, and spam email protection software up to date on all your computing devices.* Maintain a record of all outstanding debt, and include lender contact information.* Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure there are no unauthorized transactions. Likewise, check your credit report (using Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) every four months on a rotating basis; credit reports are often one of the first places where signs of identity theft or fraud will appear.* If someone approaches you claiming you owe them a debt, demand they provide written proof of the debt as the law requires – especially if it’s for a charge you don’t recognize.* If you suspect you’re being scammed, report it to local law enforcement and to the lender that the scammer claims to represent. Advance America customers can call 888-310-4238.“Scammers can be very convincing, especially when they use threats and intimidation and appear to have access to personal information,” O’Shaughnessy says. “Awareness and caution are the best defenses consumers can use to protect themselves from bogus bill collectors and loan scams.”

(BPT) – In the United States, federal and state consumer collection laws forbid debt collectors from using unfair,... 

On Fri, Dec 12th, 2014 | In: Uncategorized