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HandFF Radio Holiday shoppingshipping asset protection

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WASHINGTON (11/30/12)--H&FF Radio this past Sunday outlined the holiday spending picture, free online holiday shipping, and guarding one's property from heirs in a hurry.

The show, which also can be heard later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "Holiday Spending." Bill Hampel, senior vice president of research and policy analysis and chief economist for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Washington D.C., shared seasonal shopping statistics.
  • "Protecting Assets from Greedy Heirs." Sandra Block, senior associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Washington D.C., suggested ways for consumers to hold on to their property until they're ready to give it up.
  • "Free Shipping Day." Luke Knowles, CEO of Kinoli Inc., Fort Collins, Colo., and co-founder of free shipping day, revealed how to ship holiday packages free on Dec. 17.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is sponsored by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For related information, read "Keep Holiday Debt in Check" and "Protect Your Mailbox, ID this Holiday Season" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Manage student loans to avoid trouble

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (11/27/12)--Consumer borrowing hit a record $2.74 trillion in September, rising $11.4 billion since August. While student loans and auto loans boosted borrowing, consumers cut back on credit card debt (The Columbus Dispatch Nov. 8).

One in five U.S. households has student loan debt, with the biggest burden falling on the young and poor, according to USAToday.com. The economic downturn adds to debt among recent college grads, who often don't find full-time jobs after graduation. The lack of a consistent paycheck goes hand in hand with the inability to pay back loans.

Follow this advice from Credit Abuse Resistance Education (Nov. 14), Alexandria, Va., to help manage student loans:

  • Know loan details. Know how much you owe on all student loans, as well as the interest rates, monthly payments, and when the loans need to be paid off.
  • Stay in touch with your lender. Let your lender know of any contact changes such as a new address, e-mail, phone number, or name change as soon as possible.
  • Know grace periods. After finishing school, you have a grace period before you must start making payments. Grace periods vary from loan to loan. Stay on top of this detail to avoid fees.
  • Be conscious of loans while in school. If possible, try to pay down student loan debt while you're still in school. You won't have such a big chunk to pay after graduation.
  • Consider consolidation. Consider consolidating student loans to help manage payments. This could save a lot of money in the long run, but be certain you can handle the combined payment before you consolidate.
Ask at your credit union for advice about student loans. The professionals there can offer guidance for your situation.

For related information, read "Private Student Loans Can Help Fill the Gap" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Home buying debt-free holidays on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (11/21/12)--H&FF Radio this past Sunday offered financial solutions for a challenging economy, extolled the American dream of home ownership for all, and shared advice for fun holidays sans debt.

The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "Get Your Finances in Shape." William Harris, CEO of Personal Capital Management Inc., New York, former CEO of PayPal and Intuit, offered financial solutions for turbulent times.
  • "Don't Rent--Buy!" Author Eddie Fadel, Oak Brook, Ill., a firm believer in the American dream, challenged misconceptions tied to the notion that, in this economy, renting a house is cheaper than home ownership.
  • "Debt-Proof the Holidays." Author and financial expert Mary Hunt, Orange County, Calif., told listeners how to have fabulous holidays without overspending or using credit.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For related information, read "Two Surveys Show that Americans Need Financial Overhaul" and "Turning Points: Find the Path to Home Ownership" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Protect your mailbox ID this holiday season

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NEW YORK (11/20/12)--Year-round, but especially during the holidays when things like national requests and special offers abound, think twice before you give out personal information. In the wrong hands it could lead to identity theft, and at the very least it will jam your mailbox with junk mail (Catalog Choice Nov. 8).

Here's how to sidestep problems:

  • Don't sign up. When you apply for store rewards cards or sweepstakes, you're adding yourself to more junk mail lists.
  • Verify coupon offers. When you get a coupon on a social network, go to the website and make sure it's current. If it requires giving too much personal information, is it really worth the savings?
  • Give anonymously to charity. Go to sites like networkforgood.org, which pass your money to the appropriate charity but keep your personal information confidential.
  • Review privacy policies. Before you do business with companies, review whether and how they'll share your information.
  • Fake your middle name. The first time you do business with a company, use a different middle initial. When you get junk mail using that initial, you'll know who's sharing your personal information.
  • Delete the details. Don't reveal your birth date, e-mail address, employer, or other personal details on social media, where potential fraudsters troll.
  • Opt out. If you get tons of post-holiday junk mail, take yourself off marketers' lists at dmachoice.org. You also can use Catalog Choice, its MailStop Mobile app, or MailStop Browser extension to remove your information from more than 8,000 marketing companies.
 For related information, read "Recognize Online Review Fraud" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio covers investing paying for school weddings

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WASHINGTON (11/19/12)--H&FF Radio this past Sunday shared information about obtaining financial aid for higher education, taking part in weddings affordably and investing now that the election's over.

The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "The Post-Election Investment Outlook." Michael Farr, president, Farr, Miller & Washington, Washington, D.C., discussed the election's effects on investment markets.
  • "Paying for College." Ken O'Connor, a financial aid expert and director of student advocacy at cuStudentLoans.org, Philadelphia, gave advice about financing higher education.
  • "Curbing the Cost of Being in Weddings." Michelle Dosher, managing editor of consumer periodicals, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., shared tips for holding down costs as a member of a wedding party.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For related information, read "Couples and Money: Reconciling a Spender-Saver Marriage" and "Decide What to Pay for Growth Stocks" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

After the storm expedite insurance claims

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NEW YORK (11/13/12)--Property owners should roll up their sleeves, gather necessary documentation, and be prepared to duke it out with insurance companies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which could cost insurers $15 billion to $20 billion in claims.

Sandy's path of destruction stretched a thousand miles wide. Claims of more than $13 billion would make it the third most expensive hurricane on record, behind Katrina and Andrew (Bloomberg Businessweek Nov. 5).

Advocates from the Consumer Federation of America, Washington, urge homeowners to be vigilant when filing damage claims. These suggestions can speed up the claims process:

* Don't wait. Insurance companies handle claims on a first come, first served basis. Get your claim number and write it down; you'll need it each time you speak with a representative.

* Get details about the adjuster. Ask if the adjuster is an employee of the insurance company or an independent adjuster hired by the insurer. If the independent adjuster is not authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of your insurer, get the name of the company adjuster who makes those decisions. You may need it later.

* Keep good records. Start a notebook to document contacts as well as dates and times of conversations. Take good notes about each exchange. If an adjuster misses an appointment, write that down. If someone is rude, write that down, too.

* List your possessions. If you didn't put a personal property inventory in a safe deposit box or other disaster-resistant safe at home, re-create a list of belongings. If you have no documentation, other family members may have photos from holiday or other celebrations you hosted.

* Keep receipts. Emergency repair and temporary housing costs may be reimbursable under the "additional living expense" portion of your homeowners policy. However, don't repair anything or dispose of ruined property until the adjuster has examined everything (ConsumerReports.org Oct. 30).

* Ask "why" if your claim is denied or if you believe it's too low. Demand that the insurer show you policy language that served as the basis for its decision--you'll need this information if you go to court. Once you know the reasons for denial, the insurer cannot produce new reasons for denial or for making a low offer at a later time; you've locked them in. To get a resolution, start by complaining to more senior staff. If you're not satisfied, complain to your state insurance department. Still not satisfied? Consider hiring a layer, who will need all the documentation you've kept from day one.

It won't always be obvious if Sandy's damage is flood- or wind-related, so fast-tracking your claim may be tricky and delays are inevitable (MarketWatch Oct. 31). Expect some insurers to try to limit their payouts, which is why it's important to be vigilant and keep good records.

Visit fema.gov/disaster/4086 for disaster assistance resources.

For related information, read "Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Used Car" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Elections impact smartphone shopping on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (11/9/12)--H&FF Radio this past Sunday discussed the elections' impact on investing, how to cope with the end of the payroll tax holiday, and holiday shopping trends.

The show, which also can be heard later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "Election Results Impacts." Robert Stammers, director of investor education, CFA Institute, New York, told listeners that consumer confidence and the housing market are up and discusses developing or fine-tuning investment portfolios.
  • "Payroll Tax Holiday Ends." Susan Tiffany, certified credit union financial counselor and director of consumer periodicals, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., suggested carpooling, refinancing car and home loans, and other tactics to make up for the loss of this modest windfall.
  • "Holidays Go Mobile." Rojeh Azanesian, vice president of marketing and analytics, pricegrabber.com, Los Angeles, shared holiday-shopping survey results showing that more people plan to shop via smartphone.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to listeners by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For more information, read "Create a Spending Plan for a Special Holiday" and "Price-to-Earnings Ratios Reflect Market Sentiment" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Retiring Six reasons to roll over your 401k

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WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--If you're retiring and haven't made plans for your 401(k), consider rolling it over to a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) (U.S. News Money, Oct. 25).

You could take the money as a cash-out from your 401(k)--research shows that about half of all employees do, although in most cases, this is not the best choice. You'd have to pay normal income taxes, and, if you're younger than age 59 ½, a 10% penalty.

Here are six reasons to roll over your 401(k) to a traditional IRA when you retire:

1. Pay lower administrative costs. Funds in many 401(k) plans have high fees that will cut into your investment returns over the years. Some 401(k) plans even charge an additional maintenance cost once you're no longer an employee. By rolling your money over to an IRA, you can avoid these high costs.

2. Stay on top of changes. Once you're not working, if you don't check your 401(k) plan often, you might not know when the company changes investment choices, trustees, and/or fees. For example, your money could be invested in a fund that's no longer available and be automatically moved into a default account.

3. Retain control. Your old employer's 401(k) plan might have limitations that can result in your money not growing to its full potential. However, if you roll over to a discount brokerage, for example, you could find many more investment choices than in your 401(k) plan.

4. Enjoy better investment options. Many employer-sponsored 401(k) plans have limited investment choices that aren't always the best. You might have hundreds of mutual funds to choose from, for example, but most could have high fees and high expense ratios. It's possible that a large portion of your investments is in company stock. If your employer goes out of business, you could lose your retirement savings. A traditional IRA allows you to invest in a vast array of securities—stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds—depending on whether you roll over to a discount brokerage or a mutual fund account.

5. Manage fewer accounts. If you've changed jobs a few times over your career, you might have more retirement accounts than you want to handle. Rebalancing alone can become a part-time job! Consolidate and simplify to a single IRA to make it easier to track and manage your investments.

6. Take a penalty-free withdrawal in some circumstances. If your money is in a traditional IRA and you are age 59 ½ or younger, you still can avoid the 10% penalty for withdrawing for certain expenses, such as disability, higher education, first home, medical insurance and more.

When you do the rollover, transfer the funds directly to your IRA to avoid taxes and potentially a 10% penalty. If it's too late and you took the cash out, the IRS will see this as a distribution and keep a 20% withholding tax. You have 60 days from when you received the distribution to roll it over to an IRA and avoid taxes and potential penalties.

Your retirement account could be your largest investment if you've worked for one employer for a long time. A financial adviser you trust can help you understand your investments and the risks associated with them.

For more information, read "Did You Leave a Retirement Plan at a Former Job?" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

The CU difference on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (11/5/12)--This past Sunday on H&FF Radio, listeners heard why credit unions top banks in affordability, service, and more; how to switch to a credit union; and how to save on holiday travel. This was a rebroadcast of an earlier H&FF Radio program.

The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

  • "Credit Unions: More Than Lower Fees." Harriet May, past Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Board chair and retired CEO of GECU in El Paso, Texas, covered the differences between banks and not-for-profit, people-first credit unions.
  • "Breaking Up Is Not So Hard to Do." Susan Tiffany, certified credit union financial counselor and director of consumer periodicals, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., talked about how to switch to a credit union in a few easy steps.
  • "Hot Travel and Vacation Ideas." Bob Diener, travel veteran and founder of getaroom.com, Dallas, shared tips for saving on holiday travel.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.

Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.

CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For more information, read "Majority of Consumers: Thumbs Up to Co-op Businesses" and "Make Tracks: Traveling by Train for Your Next Trip" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.