Category Archives: Consumer Advice

Increasing Your Wealth by Living Below Your Means

A View from the Beach

Having a healthy bank account. Emergency money. Money for retirement. It does not happen overnight. So, I’d like to share with you a couple of tips that I recently read about.

  1. Try to live below your means: Instead of buying a new car, look for a low-mileage used one that would typically be 2/3 of the price of a new one. If you no longer need that giant house, sell it and buy one that is more suited to your family’s needs.
  2. Never pay full price: Use coupons. If buying online, use coupon codes. Grocery stores usually post “a special of the week”. Buy those products in quantity. Negotiate big-ticket items.
  3. Cut out unnecessary expenses: Small charges add up to big money at the end of the year. Can you eliminate some or all of your bank fees by changing banks? How about credit card fees? Do you really need 80G internet speed when 40G will do?
  4. Sell some of your current possessions Take your unwanted clothing to a consignment store. Sell locally on Craig’s List. Sell nationally on eBay. Let friends and family know that you have items for sale.
  5. Leave your credit cards at home. Unless you are on a mission to buy something that is totally necessary, you won’t be tempted to buy an item that you don’t “need”. Use a debit card instead because it is like “cash” and will make you think twice before purchasing.
  6. Don’t buy lottery tickets. You may think that this is your chance to get rich quickly, but your chances of winning are slim to none. And it all adds up. Spending $10 a week is $520 that could have gone into your savings account.
  7. Think about going Green. Can you carpool to save money on gas and wear and tear on your car? Recycle your glass and cans and get cash for them. Turn down your heat when not at home. Turn off electric lights.

Oh, and if you are really intent on increasing your wealth, the experts advise that you get a side job to bring in additional income. It may be only 10 hours a week – but again, it all adds up.

Question: What do you do to save money?

How Do You Know If Your Insurance Company Is Great?

I recently read an article regarding the difference between a good insurance company and a great one.

While getting the right amount of coverage is really critical, it’s also important that you know that you are doing business with the right carrier.

Check to make sure the company is licensed in the state. While insurance companies have different entity names, do business with companies that are licensed to do business in the state. You can check the state’s insurance licensing website, which will have a list of all the companies. If they are licensed and in good standing, this allows you to get help from the state insurance department if you are having problems.

Check to make sure they are financially healthy. A company that is in poor financial shape may not have enough money to pay your claim…or they might try to negotiate lesser coverage when it comes time to cut a check. Here are several websites you can visit to check on their financial health. It is suggested that you check at two of them.

Check the number of complaints. Again, the state’s insurance department should provide you with the number of justified (keyword: justified) complaints from consumers. The report gives you a “complaint ratio”, meaning it compares the number of justified complaints to the total number of insurance complaints in the state. You can also find that ratio at www.NAIC.org, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners website. Look for a low complaint ratio.

Check their response time. If you find yourself holding on the phone for a long period of time. If you don’t receive timely call backs. Or if the explanations of coverage are confusing to you, it’s a good indication that you will have similar problems when it’s time to file a claim.

If you are looking to buy insurance or change insurance companies, please contact me because I know many great insurance agents for you to check out.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Second Home

Buying a second home can be an awesome experience for years to come, but financially, I’d like to share some of the things that you might want to think about first.

How much will it cost? It’s not just the sales price – there are other costs associated with it. Maintenance. Property taxes. Insurance (which is usually more expensive than for a first home). The experts claim that the expenses are about 20% higher than your primary residence.

Can you afford it? It’s important to do the numbers. While it may be a fun getaway, take a look at your finances. Do you have 6 months’ worth of mortgage payments socked away to cover your current mortgage and second home mortgage — in case of a job loss or health issue?

Are you buying it for the right reasons? How much time will you spend there? How much vacation time do you have each year? How many times will family members use it? Do the numbers and compare it to the cost of travel, hotel rooms and meals. However, if you are buying it as an investment in an area that is appreciating or you plan to retire there, that’s another story.

What are the long-term plans? Are you going to have exclusive use of the home, or do you plan to rent it out for part of the year? Be sure to review the rental rules in the area because not all areas allow rentals based on the homeowner’s association covenants. Income tax rules are different for second homes and rental income, so check with an accountant before you buy.

Can you find hired help? If the second home is quite a distance from your home and it needs repairs, are there contractors or handymen available to help you out in a pinch? In some more remote areas, help is either hard to find — or more expensive.

Ask about weather-related conditions. If located near a river, lake or shoreline, do you need to buy flood insurance? Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Tornados. Check the history of weather-related occurrences over the past 10 years because it will also increase the cost of your insurance. Not to mention the downtime to make repairs.

Finally, don’t rush into making a decision. Make sure that you aren’t buying your second home purely based on impulse or emotions. Take your time to find the property you really want. Do the math so you know you can afford it.

And let me know if you need a mortgage to buy that second home.

Nine Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Household Items

In a recent issue of Real Simple Magazine, they published a list of ordinary items that you probably have in your home right now—and shared how they can serve double-duty. Here is a list of the items and alternative ways to use them.

Ice-cube tray – Organize desk supplies like paperclips and rubber bands. Use them to store buttons and beads. Use them as an organizer for jewelry.

Uncooked spaghetti – When you don’t have a match long enough to light a candle sitting in a deep candle holder, use a piece of uncooked spaghetti. They easily catch on fire and stay lit for a long time.

Colander – Keep flies away from food by inverting the colander over the plate during your outside cookout.

Baby oil – Easily remove latex paint from your skin by squirting baby oil on a cotton ball or rag and wipe away.

Dental floss – Use unwaxed, unflavored dental floss to easily cut a cheese cake or layer cake. You won’t have the crumbs and mess of using a knife.

Antacid tablets – Drop a tablet in a little water to remove stains from the bottom of vases. Just let sit for several minutes and wipe clean.

Cotton swabs – Touch up paint chips on walls, cabinets or furniture by using a cotton swab instead of breaking out the paint brush.

Pillow case – Make lettuce last longer by placing it in a pillow case. Then put the lettuce and pillow case in a plastic bag in the fridge. The cotton will absorb the moisture and it will last longer than in just plastic.

Laundry basket – Line a laundry basket with a trash bag and fill with ice if you need an extra cooler for your party.

So, how do you use some of your ordinary household items in a unique and different way?

Easy Ways to Keep Your Home “Ready to Show” when Listing Your Home for Sale.

So, you’ve listed your home for sale — or maybe you’re thinking about it.

I’m sure one of the questions that you may be asking yourself is…

“How do I keep my home clean and ready to show to buyers—while we are still living here?” 

Here are a couple of tips from the pros…

  • Ask all family members to participate.
  • Create a checklist of what needs to be put away in their rooms every morning.
  • Lightly clean your home every day.
    • Vacuum or sweep
    • Clear all counter tops in kitchen and bathrooms
    • Wash dishes daily
    • Empty trash cans
    • Put baking soda in your garbage disposal
    • Hide laundry in washing machine or dryer
  • Purchase boxes and store seasonal clothing to make the closets look roomier.
  • Purchase plastic bins and store additional stuff under the beds.
  • Lock away your personal and financial papers (or move them to another location).
  • Sweep outside patios and entryways.
  • Water plants/shrubs.
  • Cut the lawn more frequently.

When a potential buyer wants to view a home, they usually want to do so right away — and not 2 days from now!

Having it “show-ready and show-quickly,” with a list of things to do every day during the listing period, will help relieve the franticness of having to clean at the last minute.

What other things would you like to share about how to keep your home show-ready?

Nine Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Household Items

In a recent issue of Real Simple Magazine, they published a list of ordinary items that you probably have in your home right now—and shared how they can serve double-duty. Here is a list of the items and alternative ways to use them.

Ice-cube tray – Organize desk supplies like paperclips and rubber bands. Use them to store buttons and beads. Use them as an organizer for jewelry.

Uncooked spaghetti – When you don’t have a match long enough to light a candle sitting in a deep candle holder, use a piece of uncooked spaghetti. They easily catch on fire and stay lit for a long time.

Colander – Keep flies away from food by inverting the colander over the plate during your outside cookout.

Baby oil – Easily remove latex paint from your skin by squirting baby oil on a cotton ball or rag and wipe away.

Dental floss – Use unwaxed, unflavored dental floss to easily cut a cheese cake or layer cake. You won’t have the crumbs and mess of using a knife.

Antacid tablets – Drop a tablet in a little water to remove stains from the bottom of vases. Just let sit for several minutes and wipe clean.

Cotton swabs – Touch up paint chips on walls, cabinets or furniture by using a cotton swab instead of breaking out the paint brush.

Pillow case – Make lettuce last longer by placing it in a pillow case. Then put the lettuce and pillow case in a plastic bag in the fridge. The cotton will absorb the moisture and it will last longer than in just plastic.

Laundry basket – Line a laundry basket with a trash bag and fill with ice if you need an extra cooler for your party.

So, how do you use some of your ordinary household items in a unique and different way?

What to Do About the Recent Equifax Security Breach

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REGARDING THE RECENTLY REPORTED EQUIFAX SECURITY BREACH

As many of you are likely aware, it’s been recently reported that Equifax suffered a security breach from mid-May through July that has compromised the personal identifying information of as many as 143 million or more consumers in the United States, UK and even Canada. Because names, addresses, social security numbers, birthdates and even driver license numbers were accessed by the perpetrators, many consumers are in obvious panic mode wondering what to do and how to immediately protect their identities from being used in fraudulent situations.

The FTC has issued instruction this morning directed to consumers that informs of what to do. These instructions can be easily shared through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s highly recommended that YOU follow the steps indicated in the article and also pass this information on to help educate as many consumers as possible about the breach and the steps they can take to have best chance at protecting their identities. They will appreciate your sharing the guidance with them.

Summary of Quick Steps Everyone Can & Should take NOW:

  • Visit Equifax’s website, equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Set a calendar reminder of the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • Order your free annual credit report from the bureaus (not just Equifax, but all of them if you are able). Review the reported data for accuracy and assure no credit is reporting that you did not personally authorize. If you find any questionable tradelines or inquiries that do not belong to you, dispute them by explaining you did not authorize the opening of such credit and fear your identity has been used as a result of the Equifax security breach.
  • If you indeed do find new tradelines or inquiries you did not authorize, file a formal complaint with the FTC at gov.
  • You may wish to place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit files at the bureau level to implement an added layer of protection.
  • A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing It is intended to stop fraudsters from opening any new credit using your identifying info.
  • Be sure to monitor your bank and credit card statements to assure no unauthorized charges are reporting. Alert your financial institutions to watch for patterns of charges that do not coincide with the account use you’ve displayed prior to the breach period and that you wish to be alerted of any questionable charges or new patterns.
  • Review the new IRS Taxpayers Guide to Identity Theft which explains the new identity theft procedures being implemented by IRS for 2017 tax filing season. You will want to file your income taxes as soon as possible in the next tax season. Note: The IRS identity theft procedures are changed from prior year instructions so you will want to make sure you are informed and educated about them.
  • Visit the FTC’s Site gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.

For consumers with additional questions, Equifax has established a dedicated call center. The call center is available at 866-447-7559, every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Contact me today for more information.
23186439082197a2b3aa7124c0bb107656fe22caf6ffcfd020d08ffb2f6ca61d.pngtestalt_text
alt_text Steven Baxter
Sales Manager
NMLS 191033
Direct 302-260-7089
Mobile 302-542-8250
Fax 866-685-6528
jeff.baxter
32895 S Coastal Highway, Suite 201A
Bethany Beach, DE 19930
www.jeff-baxter.com

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