If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down. Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips.
Save Your Way to Lower Home Insurance
(Family Features) If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down.
Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips from the experts at CertainTeed, a leading manufacturer of exterior and interior building products:
Shop for the best rates. It’s easy to be complacent when you’ve used the same insurance company for years, but if getting the best rate is your objective, it’s a good idea to shop around. To do effective comparison shopping, have a copy of your current policy ready and contact a handful of competitors. Provide them the exact same coverage details so you can compare like rates, but also be ready to listen to information about additional coverage options that may suit your needs.
Combine homeowner insurance with other policies. Most insurance carriers offer multiple policy discounts, which they apply when you insure more than one item. For example, if your homeowner insurance carrier also insures your cars, you’re likely to save money on the rates for protecting both your home and automobiles.
Update your home’s first line of defense. Many homeowners focus on aesthetics when it’s time to make upgrades, but there are some important functional improvements that can make a difference when it comes to your insurance premiums. For example, as extreme weather becomes more commonplace, the first line of defense is often the type of roofing material chosen. Many insurance companies even offer discounts for using impact-resistant shingles. Check with your insurance provider before making a final selection, but in general, look for products that include “impact-resistant” in their name and specs, and “Class IV Impact Resistance,” the highest rating available for roofing materials.
For example, NorthGate Class IV impact-resistant shingles from CertainTeed are engineered to have a higher probability of resisting hail. These shingles are made using rubber-like polymers that offer flexibility and impact resistance, as well as crack and shrink resistance, even in cold weather. So when severe weather strikes, your home can be protected and stay looking good.
Install a home security system. An intruder alarm can provide more than peace of mind. Insurance companies often reward homeowners who take steps to minimize the chances of burglary or vandalism. After all, a well-protected home is less likely to result in a claim for losses. Some companies offer varying degrees of discounts on insurance rates depending on the type of system you install, so be sure to thoroughly research the options. For example, a system that simply emits a loud noise when triggered may generate one level of discount, while a system that dispatches emergency personnel when activated can lead to an even better rate.
Insurance rates are one place to save money on your home costs. Learn more about impact-resistant shingles and how they can save your home and wallet at certainteed.com.SOURCE:
No matter where you are in life, whether you’re just starting your career or nearing retirement, it’s important to understand the voluntary benefits available to you that can complement traditional health insurance. With the right information about the options available you can make choices that best fit your lifestyle and budget. Consider these common voluntary options.
Understanding Insurance Benefits
(Family Features) No matter where you are in life, whether you’re just starting your career or nearing retirement, it’s important to understand the voluntary benefits available to you that can complement traditional health insurance.
While health insurance can help cover medical costs in the event of injury or illness, sometimes there are additional expenses your health care plan doesn’t cover. Voluntary benefits, such as life insurance, disability insurance and dental insurance, offered by your employer or as portable options through a company like Colonial Life can help bridge the gap should an unexpected event occur.
“Even if an employee has to pay a nominal sum for a voluntary benefit like disability insurance or dental coverage, it can be well worth it,” said Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc., creator of the HR Bartender blog and contributor to Colonial Life’s WorkLife blog. “Think of voluntary benefits as those specialized, personalized extras that make your overall benefits package exactly what you’d like it to be.”
Benefits can be complex, but with the right information about the options available you can make choices that best fit your lifestyle and budget. Consider these common voluntary options:
Critical Illness Insurance
Learn more about how you can live healthier, enjoy more success at work and take full advantage of your benefits at worklife.coloniallife.com.
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From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible. A credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way. These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
A Financial Planning Tool for Every Stage of Life
(Family Features) From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible.
While memories of your first dance as newlyweds don’t often include the cost of the band, money is frequently front and center when planning for some of life’s larger events. From early adulthood through retirement, a credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way.
“No matter your stage in life, it’s important to plan ahead and have the right tools to meet your financial needs,” said Jason Gaughan, credit cards executive at Bank of America. “A credit card offers flexibility, convenience and an increasing amount of rewards that can make your budget go even further.”
These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
“Though credit can be a somewhat foreign topic for beginners, online resources such as Bank of America’s Better Money Habits offers tips to help young adults learn about things like how your credit score is calculated, the difference between a credit report and credit score and explains why it’s important to understand before signing up for a credit card,” said Lysandra Perez, a relationship manager for Bank of America who is responsible for educating clients on establishing strong financial habits including managing and building credit.”
According to BetterMoneyHabits.com, an important rule for building strong credit is to spend no more than 30 percent of your available credit line. The online resource also recommends that students look for credit cards that offer low interest rates and no annual fee to help minimize finance charges if they aren’t able to pay their bills in full each month.
“Establishing strong financial habits early on can help set you up for future credit opportunities later in life,” Perez said.
Using a credit card that offers rewards tied to interests is a strategy some young adults utilize. According to a Bank of America survey, 91 percent of Millennials ages 23-29 plan to use a rewards card to help pay for upcoming travel.
“It’s common for people in their mid-to-late 20s to prioritize maximizing credit card rewards,” Gaughan said. “They understand using a card for smaller, everyday purchases like coffee and groceries can be an easy way to earn points to pay for fun events like a trip abroad or home for a college reunion.”
Saving and tracking rewards is key during this period, too. Digital tools like My Rewards provide new visibility into the rewards you earn and how to maximize their value. Also look to explore banking rewards options like Preferred Rewards, which can offer special perks and benefits like credit card rewards bonuses, discounts on home and auto loans, interest rate boosters and no-fee ATM transactions.
Marriage and Parenthood
These years typically require more financial savviness to make every dollar count as large expenses requiring loans, such as houses and cars, are more prevalent during this stage.
Along with larger purchases, these years also often come with grocery store trips, filling up the gas tank for carpool duty and buying new clothes as your kids grow. Look for a cash back card that lets you earn rewards on your everyday purchases and offers redemption for cash back to cover expenses or invest in a savings account.
“There are many ways to continue saving and investing once in retirement,” said David Poole, head of Merrill Edge Advisory, Client Services and Digital Capabilities at Bank of America. “Credit cards that allow you to invest rewards back into your retirement fund is an easy way to continue contributing to your 401(k).”
Credit cards can also help retirees fulfill long-standing travel goals. Some like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card offer lucrative travel benefits such as earning two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. Look for points that are flexible and can be used toward future travel purchases or as cash back.
“With so many credit card options available, it’s important to understand what your current needs are,” Gaughan said. “Do your research, develop a strategy and work with your financial institution to determine the best card for your lifestyle.”
Find more information and credit card options at bankofamerica.com/creditcards.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Bank of America
Most relationship experts agree that making time for date night is important, whether it’s the early days of a blossoming romance or decades into a comfortable marriage. Spending that valuable time together doesn’t have to be expensive as long as you take the time to make it special. Plan your next date with these ideas for low-cost experiences with the one you love.
5 Ways to Step Up Date Night Without Breaking the Bank
(Family Features) Most relationship experts agree that making time for date night is important, whether it’s the early days of a blossoming romance or decades into a comfortable marriage. Spending that valuable time together doesn’t have to be expensive as long as you take the time to make it special.
Plan your next date with these ideas for low-cost experiences with the one you love:
Share time outdoors. Except in the most extreme conditions, there’s always something to do outside and most of those activities are either free or relatively inexpensive. Whether it’s taking a stroll hand-in-hand or planning a picnic at a scenic location, the exercise and fresh air can be good for your body and mind, for both you and your beloved.
Dine on a dime. Although the days of a nickel burger are long gone, there are ways to curb your spending when you eat out. For example, many restaurants offer menus with smaller portions as well as promotional nights with discounts geared toward certain audiences. Some restaurants even offer daily discounts, as high as 10 percent off your total bill for AARP members. If you are not a member, it’s simple to sign up online. Membership is just $16 a year, so it can practically pay for itself with the use of just one of the dining offers.
Simply stay in. When you’re conflicted between going out on a date or settling for a night on the couch, it’s possible to have both. Order takeout from a favorite spot and bring it to the comfort of your home for the best of both worlds. It allows you to avoid kitchen cleanup and simply commit to enjoying one another’s company without interruption.
Master the movie schedule. Prime time at the theater can be pricey, but if your calendar is flexible, you can catch a show earlier in the day for a steep discount. Some theaters also offer special discounts for ordering tickets online. An added bonus: taking in an early movie with a snack may help save money on dinner later.
Enjoy special engagements. Whether it’s a local sporting event or a musical performance by a group visiting your town, sharing a pastime that you’re passionate about is a good way to share a piece of your life and interests to help establish a deeper connection with a loved one. Conversely, if it’s a new experience for you both, it may establish a newfound bond that you can explore together over time. Don’t let ticket prices dissuade you. Take advantage of offers that may be available to you, special showings or even a ticket discount with your AARP membership.
Explore more tips and ideas to make the most of your relationships and everyday life, too, at AARPAdvantages.com.
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Managing all of life’s demands on limited funds can feel like a never-ending chore. Every family’s budget is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to saving money. However, establishing priorities and looking for ways to make small cuts can add up.
How to Help Your Family Budget
(Family Features) Managing all of life’s demands on limited funds can feel like a never-ending chore. Every family’s budget is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to saving money. However, establishing priorities and looking for ways to make small cuts can add up.
Many people turn to creating a personalized budget or a spending schedule to help keep track of their expenses. Planning payments on a monthly basis can sometimes be helpful when it comes to setting an appropriate family budget, anticipating short-term expenses and planning ahead for long-term payments.
However, creating a personalized budget is not always enough. Some companies also offer discount and incentive programs for particular customers, so it’s best to do some research when planning your next month’s budget and take advantage of available programs.
For example, Amazon offers a discounted Prime membership for $5.99 per month for customers receiving government assistance. This offer is already available to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cardholders and now Medicaid recipients also qualify. Members have access to a wide selection of more than 100 million items, video and music streaming services, low prices on select items and fast, convenient delivery options, which can ultimately help save both time and money.
In addition to fast, free shipping on millions of items, these benefits come at no additional cost to Prime members:
To help make your budget more manageable, take a close look at your bills, ongoing purchases and opportunities to save where possible.
Find more information to help balance your budget at amazon.com/qualify.
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Saving money – it’s one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year. However, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits. Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth.
5 Steps to Saving Money Easily
(Family Features) Saving money – it’s one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year. However, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits.
Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth:
Track Your Spending Habits
Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
Identify Problem Areas
Set a (Logical) Budget
Negotiate and Change Financial Providers
Saving money can be a challenge for people in all walks of life, but creating a plan can help you change the outlook of your financial life for the better. Visit statusmoney.com to learn how much you can save.
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With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds – maybe even thousands – of dollars if you itemize deductions.
Don’t Overpay Your Taxes
Commonly overlooked credits and deductions
(Family Features) With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. While many taxpayers claim common deductions, such as home mortgage interest and self-employment expenses, there are additional tax deductions that can lessen your final tax bill or increase your refund. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds - maybe even thousands - of dollars if you itemize deductions.
To start, get to know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. In some circumstances, tax credits allow a refundable credit, meaning you may not only reduce the amount you owe to $0, but you can also get money back. Deductions, on the other hand, simply reduce your taxable income. Both can have a potentially significant impact on your taxes and are often worth the extra effort to include on your return.
Some commonly overlooked credits include:
1. Child and Dependent Care Credit
2. Earned Income Tax Credit
3. Saver's Credit or the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit
Some tax deductions that allow you to reduce your taxable income include:
1. Moving Expenses
2. Tax-Preparation Fees
3. New Moms
4. Career Corner
5. Wedding Bells
6. Medical Fitness
7. Road Warriors
If you're getting a refund, you typically want it as soon as possible, but that isn't always an option, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans who claim either the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. You could access up to $3,200 with a no-fee Refund Advance loan at zero percent annual percentage rate (APR), offered by MetaBank, at participating Jackson Hewitt locations. Terms apply, visit JacksonHewitt.com for details.
Did You Know?
1. The IRS, as well as many states, allows taxpayers to catch up on missed credits or deductions, offering a three-year window for filing an amended tax return. You can secure unclaimed credits and deductions by filing amended tax returns to avoid losing any unclaimed funds from as far back as 2014.
2. With locations across the United States, including kiosks in 3,000 Walmart stores, the tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt make it easy to stop in when it's most convenient for you.
3. If you are a single parent, you can file as Head of Household instead of Single. This filing status can provide better deduction options and a lower tax rate schedule.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (Woman looking at computer, Man sitting on the floor with papers)SOURCE:
Whether you’re considering ways to give to deserving causes or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one for a special occasion, remember that not every gift is a tangible item. In fact, some of the best gifts are those you can’t touch at all, but those that make the world a better place. Consider these giving options to make a lasting impact.
Make a Lasting Difference
(Family Features) Whether you’re considering ways to give to deserving causes or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one for a special occasion, remember that not every gift is a tangible item. In fact, some of the best gifts are those you can’t touch at all, but those that make the world a better place.
Socially motivated gifts, of your own accord or on behalf of someone else, are much more than a one-time present. They have the potential to make a significant impact on lives or to further the work of a cause-based organization.
Consider these giving options to make a lasting impact:
Retirement plans: Because retirement plans are taxed differently than most assets, they may actually become a tax liability. Naming a nonprofit organization as a beneficiary of your retirement account can be an attractive option for leaving a legacy and reducing income, and possibly estate taxes, for loved ones. A tax-exempt organization may be eligible to receive the full amount, bypassing income taxes. This means, for example, that a $100,000 IRA can be worth the full $100,000.
Life insurance plans: A gift of life insurance is an affordable way to make a significant gift while also enjoying tax savings during your lifetime. Benefits include the ability to give a significant gift at a fraction of the value; tax savings that can be immediately realized; a reduction in the final taxes of your estate and the ability to pass gifts outside of your estate.
Gifts of real estate: You may decide that the greatest gift you can make is to leave your home or other property to a charitable organization. This kind of gift is ideal for someone who intends to continue living in his or her home or property through their lifetime, but still make a charitable gift. You can leave this generous gift by signing an agreement with an organization about maintaining the property so you can use it throughout your lifetime. You may even receive a tax deduction for your gift.
Gifts of stock: Stocks, bonds and mutual funds that have appreciated in value are among the best ways to gift a nonprofit organization. You may receive a charitable income tax deduction for the full market value of the stock (up to a maximum of 30 percent of your adjusted gross income) and avoid paying the capital gains tax on any increase in the value of the stock.
Gifts of cash: This type of gift is simple and eligible for an immediate charitable tax credit. Although many organizations allow you to specify how you would like the funds to be used, an unrestricted monetary donation allows the organization to allocate your contribution into the project or area that needs funds most.
If you designate a gift on someone’s behalf, be sure to share a card or a note with the honoree letting them know about the contribution. Particularly if it’s a cause close to the heart, it’s sure to be just as gratefully received, if not more so, as any trinket you might buy.
Find more ideas for gifts that make a lasting difference at eLivingToday.com.
4 Ways to Make an Impact on Children
When looking for opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others, selecting a cause to support can be an overwhelming task with so many options to choose from. However, considering opportunities that can change the lives of kids is one way to make a lasting impact for generations to come.
Helping children early on can change the trajectory of their lives, set them up for success and empower them to achieve their dreams. This is especially important for kids living in poverty who are not guaranteed access to things like medical care and quality educations. According to global humanitarian organization Children International, nearly half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day and 1 in 5 kids in the United States lives in poverty.
Consider these ideas to make an impact on children in need now and well into the future:
Become a mentor or coach. A positive role model can make a life-changing difference for a child from disadvantaged circumstances. As a mentor or a coach, you can help children explore and nurture their unique talents and guide them toward a successful future.
Volunteer at a local school. Families increasingly rely on two incomes to support their households, which means parents are less available to lend their time to their children’s classrooms or schools. At the same time, public school funding is shrinking. As a volunteer, you can help fill these gaps and contribute to bettering the learning opportunities for children in your community.
Sponsor a child. You may be surprised to learn how far a monetary donation can go. For example, Children International supporters can join a monthly giving program and sponsor a child in poverty for $32 per month. Your donation establishes a connection with an individual child who receives access to life-changing benefits like medical care, educational support and life-skills training. The institution is a CharityWatch top-rated organization that serves 250,000 children in 10 countries. If a reoccurring donation is not right for you, the organization also accepts one-time donations. Learn more at children.org.
Donate new or used items. Service organizations such as shelters generally operate on tight budgets and rely on contributions from the community. Gently used items in good condition such as children’s clothing of all sizes and warm bedding are generally welcome.
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