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Considering a CD - May 28, 2013 by WWFCU

CDShopping at your credit union for a CD (certificate of deposit) isn’t quite as easy as going to the local music store for a CD (compact disc). But it’s a lot easier to choose than some other types of investments.

By definition, a CD or certificate of deposit is a time deposit. That means you deposit money into an account with your credit union or bank and agree to keep it there for a specific number of days. In exchange, you are guaranteed a predetermined interest rate and yield on your money. The most common CD accounts are opened for six, 12, 24, 36, 48 or 60 months.

There are two basic types of CDs, regular CDs and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) CDs. IRAs typically pay the same interest rate as regular CDs. However, IRAs offer additional federal insurance allowing investors to hold an IRA account up to $250,000. Additionally, the interest earned on IRA CDs isn’t taxed until you retire or reach the age of 59.5 years. This taxation relief is perfect for individuals who have determined that their CDs will be used for retirement only, rather than short-term, quick-return investments. However, it’s important to note that for an IRA to remain tax-free certain guidelines must be followed.

While CD interest rates are ever changing, those changes are a reflection of the economic health of the country. When general loan rates are high, CD rates will increase and vice versa. The length of time you commit to when you select a CD also affects your rate. Usually, the longer the term is, the higher the interest rate will be.

There are other factors which figure into the equation, and those factors aren’t always so predictable. For instance, competition between financial institutions can make a difference. Among the factors that can affect CD rates are consumer pricing and spending, where you live, and even how your financial institution is doing internally. “Comparison shopping” is the key.

Credit unions typically offer better rates than banks because credit unions are non-profit organizations focused on serving their members rather than paying stockholders. Also credit unions usually have lower overhead costs and pay a bit higher on CDs than at banks. It pays to take the time to monitor the market in your area for a couple of weeks and see who has the best rate for you.

Should you pick a short-term or long-term CD? To answer that you’ll need to determine how long you can let go of your money. Do you have any big purchases around the corner like a new car or a new home? Most CDs have penalties for early withdrawal which will cost you money. If you may need the money in six months or a year, pick a CD that will come up for renewal when you think you’ll need your money. If that’s not a problem, a longer-term CD may offer a better rate.

Knowing when to buy requires daily tracking of CD rates over two or three weeks. If they stay steady, go for the best deal offered and look to long term. Steady rates indicate a steady economy and show no sign of rapidly increasing rates. If they are rising slowly and suddenly take a half percentage point upwards—hold off a bit longer. This could indicate that interest rates haven’t peaked yet. In this situation wait until rates start to climb a bit slower or taper off completely. Gauge the market on your own observations; don’t make your decisions just on what specials are being advertised. If a bank recognizes that CD rates are going to increase, it is in their best interest to push long-term CDs while the rates are lower. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your timing isn’t perfect; even the professionals don’t hit it right every time.

When you’re ready to buy, the authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Managing Your Money suggest you ask the following questions:

  • What are the rate and yield, and how is the interest compounded? “Rate” refers to the amount of interest added to your original amount. “Yield” is the amount paid to your account after the interest is included. “Compounded” refers to the interest that’s added to interest; the more often an account is compounded the better.
  • Is the rate fixed or variable? How long is the rate effective?
  • What is the minimum deposit necessary to open the account?
  • Can you add to the account later on—and if so, at what rate? Do the added rates mature at the same time as your original deposit?
  • How much will you receive in interest—in actual dollars and cents—when the account matures?
  • What is the penalty if you withdraw any of the funds before the account matures?
  • To avoid rolling a mature certificate of deposit over at the new interest rate, when and how do you handle the withdrawing of your money?
  • What other benefits do you receive as a CD customer? Will they waive any fees or charges on checking accounts, ATM transactions, or annual fees on credit cards?
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Going Away? Tips to Not Go Broke - May 22, 2013 by WWFCU

VacationWith summer vacation just around the corner just keep in mind – you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time.

Here are tips for keeping costs down on vacation:

  • Fly during the week. Airline rates are generally more expensive over the weekend, so plan your trip from Wednesday to Wednesday (for instance) to locate cheaper fares.
  • Stay close to home. Distant destinations may call to you, but often you can find worthy locations to visit closer to home—national parks, lively cities, and other good places to explore.
  • Pack your own snacks for the road. Airline food and gas station snacks can be expensive and often unhealthy. Get into the habit of packing some sandwiches and snacks. Bring along a few bottles of water, and resist the impulse to buy an overpriced soda.
  • Do your research. Before making any reservations, compare prices widely. Check out fees that may not be obvious, like airline fees for checking bags. Look on the Internet for deals and coupons, and don’t be afraid to try negotiating for a better rate.
  • Bring your own cocktails. If you plan to have a drink or two, find a nearby grocery or party store and buy your own ingredients instead of paying for drinks at the hotel bar or local tavern.
  • Plan some down time. An itinerary keeps you organized, but don’t pack your trip so full of stops that you end up too rushed and exhausted to enjoy the experience. Give yourself and your family an afternoon off now and then to lie around the pool or go to a movie.
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Think Cash First - May 18, 2013 by WWFCU

ThinkCashIt seems like it’s become a national craze – using your credit card for everything—even routine or daily purchases. While it’s a bad habit that will be hard to break, it’s better to start sooner rather than later.

To break that habit, here’s a simple idea to help get a handle on the situation: Pay for everything with cash for one month. If you can’t manage to go cold turkey, then target certain things that you will only pay cash for during the month (groceries, for instance).

Once you get started, you’ll likely gain momentum and encouragement from what you’ve accomplished. If you’re in financial hot water, this may be the jump-start you need to devise a get-out-of-debt plan.

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Know Your Obligations when Cosigning a Loan - April 30, 2013 by WWFCU

ClosingOnLoanOften, parents cosign for their sons or daughters who have adequate income but a lack of credit or employment history. By cosigning, parents help their offspring get the loan and establish credit in their own names.

But many borrowers, be they the cosigner or the primary borrower (also known as the maker), don’t recognize the magnitude of the responsibilities borne by cosigning a loan.

What responsibilities do you have when you cosign a loan?

Cosigners lend their names and good credit histories to the maker. Should the maker die, lose a job, or otherwise fail to make payments, all responsibility for meeting the terms of the loan transfers to the cosigner.

An often-overlooked aspect of cosigning a loan is the fact that the loan appears on both the maker’s and cosigner’s credit reports.

If the maker doesn’t pay, the lender will notify you to make the payments. In most cases, however, your credit report already will contain the delinquency by the time you receive the notification.

How might a cosigned loan affect your ability to get new credit?
Even if it is not delinquent, a cosigned loan is part of your credit history. Since financial institutions consider a cosigned loan your responsibility, they’ll include it when calculating your debt-to-income ratio.

This ratio helps lenders judge whether you have too many bills to pay relative to your income. The cut-off point varies widely among financial institutions and the type of loan. If it’s too high, though, the result is the same: your loan application will be denied—even when the primary borrower never misses a payment on the cosigned loan.

Should you cosign a loan?

Before making a decision whether to cosign a loan, consider the following advice offered by Experian:

  • As a cosigner, you should know the purpose of the loan, the type of loan, the terms, and why your friend or relative needs a cosigner.
  • Understand your legal and financial obligations. Federal law requires financial institutions to tell you in writing that you are responsible for paying the debt if the primary borrower can’t or won’t make loan payments.
  • Read and understand the credit contract. Be aware that a lender may be able to collect from you even when there is collateral. In the case of a car loan, for example, the lender might demand payment from you instead of repossessing the car. And even if the car is repossessed, its value may not be sufficient to pay off the loan.
  • If the primary borrower defaults on the loan, then you as the cosigner may have to pay late fees or collections costs in additions to the loan amount.
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Saving Money on Homeowner’s Insurance - April 22, 2013 by WWFCU
HomeInsuranceHere are some ways to save money on your homeowner’s insurance.

Shop around.

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It’s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and consult consumer magazines.Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet. Don’t shop for price alone. You want a company that answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company. Select an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company if you have an accident or other emergency.
Raise your deductible.
A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim. The higher your deductible is, the more money you save on your premium. Consider a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise it to $1,000, you may save as much as 25%.

If you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for damage from major disasters. If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible, if you live in a state vulnerable to hail storms, you may have a separate deductible for hail, and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible.

Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer.
Most companies that sell homeowner’s insurance also sell auto and umbrella liability insurance. (An umbrella liability policy will give you extra liability coverage.) Some insurance companies will reduce your premium by 5% to 15% if you buy two or more insurance policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying coverages from different companies.

Make your home more disaster-resistant.
Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what you can do to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters and shatter-proof glass, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing, and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.

Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs.
The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowner’s policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowner’s insurance to buy. If you do, you’ll pay a higher premium than you should.

Ask about discounts for home security devices.

You can usually get discounts of at least 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies may cut your premiums by as much as 15% or 20% if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy one, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost and how much you’d save on premiums.

Seek out other discounts.

Many companies offer discounts, but they don’t all offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. Ask your agent or company representative about discounts available to you. For example, if you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10% at some companies. If you’ve completely modernized your plumbing or electrical system recently, some companies may also provide a price break.

See if you can get group coverage.
Does your employer administer a group insurance program? Check to see if a homeowner’s policy is available and is a better deal than you can find elsewhere. In addition, professional, alumni and business groups may offer an insurance package at a reduced price.

Stay with the same insurer.
If you’ve been insured with the same company for several years, you may receive a discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce premiums by 5% if you stay with them for three-to-five years and by 10% if you’re a policyholder for six years or more. To ensure you’re getting a good deal, periodically compare this price with the prices of policies from other insurers.

Review policy limits and the value of your possessions annually.
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowner’s policies) and pocket the difference.

Look for private insurance if you are in a government plan.
If you live in a high-risk area—one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime—and you’ve been buying your homeowner’s insurance through a government plan, find out from insurance agents, company representatives or your state department of insurance which insurance companies might be interested in your business. You may find there are steps you can take that will allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

When you’re buying a home, consider the cost of homeowner’s insurance.

The price you pay for homeowner’s insurance depends in part on the cost of rebuilding your home and the likelihood that it will be damaged by natural disasters or burn down. You may pay less if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional rather than a volunteer fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating, and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old. If you live in the East, consider a brick home because it’s more wind-resistant. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, look for a wooden frame house because it is more likely to withstand this type of disaster. Choosing wisely could cut your premiums by 5% to 15%.

Remember that flood insurance and earthquake damage are not covered by a standard homeowner’s policy. If you buy a house in a flood-prone area, you’ll have to pay for a flood insurance policy that costs an average of $400 a year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site. A separate earthquake policy is available from most insurance companies. The cost of the coverage will depend on the likelihood of earthquakes in your area and the construction features.

If you have questions about insurance for any of your possessions, be sure to ask your agent or company representative. For example, if you run a business out of your home, be sure you have adequate coverage. Most homeowner’s policies cover business equipment in the home, but only up to $2,500 and they offer no business liability insurance.

This article was submitted by the Insurance Information Institute, an organization that provides facts and assistance free of charge to the media, individuals and organizations. Submission of this article does not imply an endorsement or recommendation of Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union.

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Credit Report Errors — Fix Them before They Fix You - April 8, 2013 by WWFCU

CreditReportSo you’ve located an error on your credit report that’s costing you a few precious points on your credit score. It could be that the credit reporting agency confused you with a Jane Doe of the same name or a creditor failed to record a settled account.

Regardless of how it got there, there’s a mistake that needs fixing, or else you may suffer the consequences of higher interest loans or rejected credit and employment opportunities.

It will take some effort on your part to amend the problem. But, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the onus to repair your payment history ultimately rests with the credit bureau and the organization that reported the aforementioned offensive credit information.

Start by contacting all three credit bureaus in writing and explain what information you believe is inaccurate. A sample letter can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website. Include your full name and address, and clearly identify each item in your report under dispute. Include any supporting information or documentation. Ask that the errors be deleted or corrected, and be sure to include a copy of your report with those disputed items circled for reference.

Send the letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, to document the credit reporting agencies have received the claim. Credit bureaus must reinvestigate items in question within a reasonable period of time, typically defined as no more than 30 days. Credit bureaus will forward all relevant data to the information provider who will also re-investigate. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate or can no longer be verified, the consumer reporting agency must delete the information and notify the consumer.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change of information. Also, per your request, the credit bureau must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. If the reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, insist that the dispute be included in your file and in future reports.

For more information on how to dispute credit report errors visit the FTC’s website.

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Credit Cards - March 30, 2013 by WWFCU

CreditCardsHere are some ways to responsibly choose and use a credit card.

Read the fine print. If you receive an offer for a pre-approved credit card or if someone says they’ll help you get a credit card, find out the details first. You need to know what interest rate you will be paying and for how long. Some credit cards offer low rates as “teasers” that are raised after a certain period of time or only apply to balances transferred from other cards. You also need to know about any annual fees, late charges or other fees, and whether there are grace periods for payment before interest is applied. If the terms of the offer aren’t provided or aren’t clear, look for a credit card from someone else.

Shop around. Interest rates and other terms vary widely. There are also different types of cards, such as secured cards that require a deposit to cover any charges that are made, cards that can also be used as telephone calling cards, cards that allow you to either charge something and pay later or deduct the charge from your checking account immediately, and cards that can only be used to charge merchandise from a catalog. Make sure you know what kind of card you’re being offered and what type of card meets your needs best.

Don’t pay fees up front to get a credit card. Legitimate credit card issuers don’t ask for money up front, unless you’re applying for a secured card. If you are applying for a secured card, make sure you understand how your deposit will be used. Don’t pay someone to help you get a credit card; if you have good enough credit, you can get one yourself, and if you have bad credit, no legitimate lender is likely to give you one.

Use your credit wisely. Many Americans are in debt because they have taken on more credit than they can handle or have not used credit responsibly. Don’t apply for more cards than you absolutely need, and don’t charge more than you can afford. To maintain a good credit rating, pay bills promptly. Avoid interest charges by choosing a card that offers a grace period and paying the entire balance due each month. If you can’t pay the full balance, choose a card with the lowest interest rate.

Get help if you feel you’re in over your head. Ask your credit union for assistance. For additional help, visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s website.

This article was submitted by the National Fraud Information Center, a program of the National Consumers League that assists consumers with recognizing and filing complaints about telemarketing and Internet fraud. Submission of this article does not imply an endorsement or recommendation of Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union.

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Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Lenders? - March 22, 2013 by WWFCU

bigstock-Father-and-girl-signing-loan-c-24613052Let’s play a game. I’ll give you a word and you tell me what comes to mind. Ready?

“Predator.”

Did you think of a prehistoric animal with claws and stabbing teeth? Or, a stealthy cheetah prowling for gazelle in the grassy plains of the Serengeti? Perhaps a portly Siamese cat stalking a house sparrow?

How about a slick-talking and personable sales person who promises easy credit? These crafty bipedal predators engage in an act called predatory lending — the practice of deceiving unsuspecting consumers with marginal credit into taking high interest loans, usually against the equity in their homes.

The Pitch

If you listen to the radio or read your junk mail, you’re probably very familiar with this pitch: “Slash your monthly payments by combining all of your high interest credit cards into a home equity loan. You’ll write just one check each month, and you’ll be able to deduct the interest from your taxes.” Many homeowners successfully use the equity in their homes to pay down debt in part because they’re able to secure prime loans, conventional loans at reasonable interest rates. Borrowers who obtain loans with good interest rates typically have a Fair Isaac & Company (FICO) credit score, a three-digit number that represents credit worthiness, in the range of 700 to 850. (Recall the credit score scale ranges from 300 to 850.)

Individuals who have marginal credit, a FICO score below 450, often qualify for what are known as subprime loans. Fair subprime lending has enabled low to moderate-income borrowers with blemished credit histories to secure credit. But, because of this population’s propensity to default on loans, subprime lenders charge higher interest rates for their loans. According to the consumer advocate group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), predatory lending practices—financing excessive fees, charging higher interest rates than a borrower’s credit history justifies, and prepayment penalties—occur most often in the subprime lending market.

Who is at risk for becoming a victim of predatory lenders? Low income, elderly and minority consumers who are anxious to have access to credit are at risk. Borrowers—particularly those who can’t speak English—who don’t understand the loan application process, are also at risk.

Predatory lending practices — a cursory look
As the subprime lending market has grown so has the incidence of unscrupulous lending practices. The following are examples of predatory practices that have stripped consumers of their wealth in the way of high-interest rates and exorbitant up-front fees, and if they can’t keep up their monthly payments, foreclosure.

Financing excessive fees into loans — Predatory lenders often charge up to eight percent in loan origination fees, compared to one to three percent assessed by other financial institutions.

Your right: If your lender wants to charge you more than three percent, find out why, and then consider applying for a loan at your credit union. In addition to offering fair loans at reasonable interest rates, these democratically controlled financial cooperatives counsel members on the differences and advantages of lending products and help them understand loan disclosures, rates, fees, and terms.

Charging higher interest rates than a consumer’s credit warrants
— Consumers who don’t know their credit scores, or don’t understand that good credit scores can mean an interest rate difference of two to three percentage points (thousands of dollars over the life of the loan) are vulnerable to this predatory lending practice.

Your right: Protect yourself by checking your credit history and score. You can access a multitude of credit score providers online. Most providers offer a range of services from a one-time check of your score to a one-year subscription, which will enable you to monitor all changes to your credit information. If you use more than one provider, you’ll likely discover you have different credit scores. This is because providers may apply competing mathematical formulas to the data held by the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) to determine your score.

Consolidating debt in a high interest loan without regard to the borrower’s ability to make the monthly payments — The motivation for some lenders, especially when there is a significant amount of equity built up in the home, is foreclosure on the house which then can be resold for profit.

Your right: Before you consider borrowing money against your home, consider seeking help from a legitimate non-profit credit counseling service such as GreenPath Debt Solutions. To locate an office near you, go to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s (NFCC) Web site and click on the Member Agency Locator link. You can also call (800) 388-2227 for 24-hour automated office listings.

Attaching prepayment penalties to a loan — According to ACORN, more than two-thirds of subprime loans come with prepayment penalties, which come due when the borrower pays off a loan early through refinancing or sale of the house. One particularly disturbing example of a prepayment penalty is when it’s combined with an adjustable rate loan. In this instance, a borrower pays a lower rate in the first couple of years of the loan, after which, the rate rises dramatically. Unable to make the monthly payments, the borrower is forced to refinance, and in doing so, must pay a prepayment penalty, often several thousand dollars.

Your right: Predatory lenders often fail to call the borrower’s attention to the prepayment penalty clause in the loan application. Before you sign the papers, ask a lawyer or a trusted friend to review the documents.

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Saving Money on Car Insurance - March 4, 2013 by WWFCU

rubber stamp with inscription INSURANCEHere are a few ways to save money on car insurance:

Shop around.

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.

You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It’s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and consult consumer magazines.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

But don’t shop by price alone. You want a company that answers your questions and handles claims fairly and efficiently. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company.

Select an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company if you have an accident or other emergency.

Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs.

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Your premium is based in part on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, and anti-theft devices. Some states require insurers to give discounts for cars equipped with air bags or anti-lock brakes.

Cars that are favorite targets for thieves cost more to insure. Information that can help you decide what car to buy is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Ask for higher deductibles.

Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15% to 30%. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40% or more.

Reduce coverage on older cars.

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. It may not be cost effective to continue insuring cars worth less than 10 times the amount you would pay for coverage. Any claim payment you receive would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible. Claims occur on average only once every 11 or 12 years. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley Blue Book. Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven’t changed.

Buy your homeowner’s and auto coverage from the same insurer.

Many insurers will give you a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them. Also you may get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce premiums for long-time customers. Shop around; you may save money buying from different insurance companies despite the multi-policy discount.

Take advantage of low-mileage discounts.

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who carpool to work.

Ask about group insurance.

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or other associations. Ask your employer and groups or clubs though which you belong.

Seek out safe driver discounts.

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also qualify for a cut if you have recently taken a defensive driving course.

Inquire about other discounts.

You may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or in some cases 55 and retired or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is at a college, generally at least 100 miles away.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts* for:

  • $500 deductible
  • $1,000 deductible
  • More than 1 car
  • No accidents in 3 years
  • No moving violations in 3 years
  • Drivers over 50-55 years of age
  • Driver training course
  • Defensive driving course
  • Anti-theft device
  • Low annual mileage
  • Air bag
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Daytime running lights
  • Student drivers with good grades
  • Auto and homeowners coverage with the same company
  • College students away from home
  • Long-time customer
  • Other discounts

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

Don’t forget that the key to savings is not the discounts but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement - February 25, 2013 by WWFCU

Retirement1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals

If you are already saving, whether for retirement or another goal, keep going! You know that saving is a rewarding habit. If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow Make saving for retirement a priority. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving.

2. Know your retirement needs

Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you will need about 70 percent of your preretirement income—lower earners, 90 percent or more—to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Take charge of your financial future. The key to a secure retirement is to plan ahead.

3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan

If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate. Find out about your plan. For example, how much would you need to contribute to get the full employer contribution and how long would you need to stay in the plan to get that money.

4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan

If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit. Learn what benefits you may have from a previous employer. Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouse’s plan.

5. Consider basic investment principles

How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you’ll have saved at retirement. Know how your savings or pension plan is invested. Learn about your plan’s investment options and ask questions. Put your savings in different types of investments. By diversifying this way, you are more likely to reduce risk and improve return. Your investment mix may change over time depending on a number of factors such as your age, goals, and financial circumstances. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

6. Don’t touch your retirement savings

If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

7. Ask your employer to start a plan

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, suggest that it start one. Many retirement saving plan options are available. Your employer may be able to set up a simplified plan that can help both you and your employer.

8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account

You can put up to $5,000 a year into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less. IRAs also provide tax advantages.

When you open an IRA, you have two options—a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select. Also, the after-tax value of your withdrawal will depend on inflation and the type of IRA you choose. IRAs can provide an easy way to save. You can set it up so that an amount is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account and deposited in the IRA.

9. Find out about your Social Security benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using the retirement estimator on the Social Security Administration’s website. For more information, visit their website or call 1-800-772-1213.

10. Ask questions

While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Talk to your employer, your bank, your union, or a financial adviser. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers. Get practical advice and act now.

Source: United States Department of Labor

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