Oct 26 2014

Should You Sign Up for Legal Insurance?

By |October 26th, 2014|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|2 Comments|

Every day for the last two weeks my work has been sending me email reminders to sign up for my 2015 benefits. By the end of the day tomorrow I have to make my final elections.

Most of my benefits are pretty standard: a high-deductible medical plan, dental insurance, and then a few benefits like a small amount of life insurance paid for by my company. However, there is one new option that I didn’t even know existed but I am definitely adding to my plan this year: Legal Insurance.

What is Legal Insurance?

I had no idea that my company offers legal insurance or even what it was, so obviously I looked into it and it is actually pretty great. With this insurance, I am able to use a licensed attorney for things like real estate contracts (if I want to buy/sell a house), creation or edits to a will or advance directive, adoption services, defense of traffic tickets, civil litigation defense, and much more.

My company is using this legal insurance so you can follow that link and see all the things that are covered. It’s pretty crazy how much coverage it provides.

How Much Does it Cost?

When I read all of the benefits I get from this insurance, I was thinking it would going to cost a bunch of money and have crazy co-pays, plus I’d have to pay a percentage of the legal fees.

I was wrong. Dead wrong.

All of this coverage is available to me (through my work) for only $16.50 per month. That’s $198 a year. There are no co-pays. I pay 0% of whatever the lawyer charges. All I pay is $198 and everything else is free to me.

This Sounds Too Good to be True

I’m a pretty skeptical person, and this just sounds too good to be true. I’m definitely going to use this insurance to create a will and a living will. I may need it for selling my house and buying a new one (if we move in 2015). I also might need it to fight a speeding ticket or something. Who knows?

Legal Zoom costs at least $69 for a will and at least $39 for a living will (advance directive). That’s $100 each for me and my wife, or $200 total ($2 less than the cost of the insurance) and with Legal Zoom I don’t even get to speak with a lawyer. If I went directly to a lawyer I’m sure it would be substantially north of $200 for those 4 documents.

The bottom line is I’m going to use this insurance at least twice and potentially many more times. Hopefully I have a great experience but will make sure to post an update whenever I use the insurance to let you all know about my experience.

Here’s hoping I get great legal coverage for less than $200 a year. If I do, it will probably be the best $200 I’ve ever spent.

Oct 25 2014

Why Bother With Maintaining Your Car?

By |October 25th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Why Bother With Maintaining Your Car?|

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Car maintenance is one of the most important aspects of car ownership in Canada. A well maintained car helps ensure your vehicle is safe on the road, and tune-ups, repairs, and other body work are even more important in a country that can be trapped in a ‘polar vortex’ for months on end.

Why do you need to worry about car maintenance? For starters, upkeep helps maintain the value of your car in case that you choose to sell it, and buy a new one. A car that is kept in working order is more likely to sell at a higher price than one that is less maintained by its owner.

Another reason to keep up with maintenance is to respect other drivers or pedestrians. A car that leaks oil or is about to lose a bumper can be dangerous to other people on the road. You never know when the weaker parts of your vehicle might break down without proper maintenance to tune things up.

There are also the legal reasons to keep up with car maintenance. Car insurance agents are more likely to reject an insurance claim from a driver who does not maintain their car. A rejected insurance claim leaves you on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars in damages should your car be involved in an accident.

There are very real moral and legal responsibilities that come with owning a car, but the actual cost of the maintenance is less than you may think. Dealerships and mechanics float many myths about car maintenance and insurance, which can make drivers feel they must invest more time and money than they can commit.

But most drivers are aware that there are many less than honest mechanics out there. Some mechanics prey on people who don’t know the ins and outs of their cars, and recommend many “repairs” that are in reality a way to scam extra money out of unsuspecting drivers. If you suspect a mechanic is trying to scam you, stop any work on your car and consult an online guide of car maintenance myths – and catch the scam artists before they cause you any harm.

Car maintenance is important and should be done regularly to protect the integrity of the car as well as other drivers on the road. But always be sure you get the most value out of any repair work that is done.

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photo by dave_7

Oct 18 2014

Quick Home Improvement Ideas Perfect for Empty Nesters

By |October 18th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Quick Home Improvement Ideas Perfect for Empty Nesters|

After raising a family in your home, it can feel pretty empty when the kids move away. One way for empty nesters to get past the deserted bedrooms and old décor is to renovate. A few simple projects can revitalize your home, and the suggestions below are meant to look great while still being cost-effective. And as these projects shouldn’t put too much of a strain on your checking account, you’ll still be in a good position to save for other priorities, like a vacation getaway or retirement.

Freshen up the walls – A little paint goes a long way, especially if you have decades’ worth of scuffs, scratches and nail holes on the walls from your kids. Pick up a few paint swatches, and reclaim these rooms with your own style and personality. Repainting or wallpapering is a relatively fast and affordable way to make a major impact on the look of your home.

Replace appliances and electronics – When was the last time you replaced your washing machine? Are you still watching a television that’s deeper than it is wide? Upgrading a few of these items will help modernize your home and may also reduce your energy bill since state-of-the-art washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers and televisions are often more energy-efficient than older models.

Reface kitchen cabinets and update fixtures – If you’re interested in updating the kitchen but can’t afford a complete remodel right now, consider kitchen cabinet refacing. Rather than replacing the entire cabinet, refacing involves replacing or refinishing the doors and hardware of your existing cabinets – updating the look of your kitchen for a fraction of the price. Add a new countertop or backsplash and update the fixtures, and your kitchen can look brand-new.

Update lighting options – Every well-designed home relies on good lighting to make it shine. If you’re tired of outdated light fixtures and table lamps, replace them with options that better suit your taste. The rest of your home improvements will look even better under lighting that’s carefully chosen to enhance a particular room.

Start a home improvement project today

Use these suggestions as a starting point, and begin to think of other ways to reclaim your home now that the kids have moved away. Perhaps you’re considering building a deck, adding a sun room or turning their bedrooms into an office or relaxation room. Just because you’re saving for these long-term home improvement goals, doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little money to update the look and feel of your home now. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to save for larger renovations, and work within your remaining budget to make the cost-effective improvements above.

Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.
Oct 13 2014

Read Contracts and Ask Questions

By |October 13th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Read Contracts and Ask Questions|

Have you ever been in the middle of taking out a loan for a mortgage, car loan, credit card, or anything else and felt like you were drowning in paperwork and legal jargon?

Have you ever sat across from a loan officer telling you about insurance or warranties or other things that sound very complicated and you feel pressured to make an uninformed decision?

If you’ve never had that feeling then you’re either lucky or you’re very good at reading contracts. Unfortunately there are not a lot of people who understand contracts or have access to a personal lawyer to review things like this. It’s up to you as a consumer to understand what you’re getting into. And how do you do that?

Ask Questions

If you are getting a loan and you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Ask to talk to someone else if you can’t understand it, and don’t move on until you know exactly what you’re getting into.

In the UK, there are a lot of people who were sold PPI, or Payment Protection Insurance, who didn’t really need it. Some people were misled to believe it was mandatory, and others may have had the policies added to their loan without their knowledge. These people were cheated out of money and now have to go through a painful process to reclaim PPI premiums they shouldn’t have been paying in the first place.

Talk to a Lawyer or Walk Away

If you’ve reviewed a contract and asked multiple questions, but you still don’t understand what they want you to sign then the best thing to do is to walk away and talk to a lawyer.

Most of us are not legal experts and it’s important to understand that. It’s good to do research on a particular subject, but most of the advice you’ll find online comes from people who also aren’t lawyers.

If you are truly concerned about getting ripped off then you should either talk to a lawyer or just walk away from the transaction entirely. A lawyer can give you appropriate advice and help avoid signing a bad contract, but it will cost you for his or her expertise. If you really don’t trust the contract, the salesperson, or both, then your best course of action might be to walk away.

Don’t sign something you don’t understand. Ask questions, talk to a lawyer, and if necessary just walk away.

Oct 10 2014

Is Now the Time to Buy a House?

By |October 10th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Is Now the Time to Buy a House?|

The Federal Reserve put out a report yesterday (October 8th) that led people to believe that interest rates are going to stay low for the immediate future. That’s bad for anyone looking to get a big return on money in a savings account, but it’s great news for anyone looking to buy a house.

As a result of this report, interest rates have fallen and this may be a great time to start looking for a mortgage.

When shopping for a house it’s important to make sure the price of the house is as low as possible, that you are buying in a city with low property taxes, and maybe most importantly, that you are buying at a time when interest rates are very favorable.

How Much Can You Save with Low Interest Rates?

Let’s look at an example. If you borrow $200,000 on a 30-year mortgage at today’s rates of around 4%, you are looking at a monthly payment of roughly $954.83. If interest rates go higher and that same 30-year mortgage is at 5%, the payments are going to rise to $1,073.64.

That’s a difference of $118.81 per month, which is obviously a substantial amount of money that would be nice to have in your pocket. But think about that much money every month for 30 years.

The exact same house with a $200,000 mortgage is going to cost an extra $42,771.60 over the life of the 30 year loan at a 5% interest rate as opposed to 4%.

$118 a month. $1,425 a year. $42,772 over 30 years. Think about all the things you could buy or money you could invest just by getting your home at a low interest rates.

Interest Rates are Truly at Historic Lows

With interest rates at such favorable rates you may want to find a mortgage that suits your needs right away. Nobody can tell the future so we don’t know if rates will stay the same or go up or down.

What we do know is that rates can’t really get much lower than they are now. A bank is in business to make money and at some point the rates just can’t get any lower without losing profitability.

Keep in mind that mortgage rates in the 1990’s were commonly around 7-9%, and rates in the 2000’s were rarely below 5%. If recent history is any indication, rates simply won’t go much lower than they are today.

While things like Federal Reserve reports give strong indications about where interest rates are going to go, there is no way to tell the future. It is possible that interest rates will stay this low for years, and even possible that they may go lower.

If you are prepared financially to buy your next house and have been waiting for one more reason to pull the trigger, today’s interest rates might just be that thing.

Oct 9 2014

Discover How Modern Barcode Scanners Can Upgrade Your Small Business

By |October 9th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Discover How Modern Barcode Scanners Can Upgrade Your Small Business|

These days, small business owners are faced with numerous challenges. One of them is represented by the meticulous selection of tools and equipment designed to facilitate daily assignments, save time and money and ensure a more enjoyable shopping experience for all clients. Barcode scanners are extremely important products that definitely fit in this category. Without a modern, portable, fully functional barcode scanner, most store owners would be unable to manage their inventory, organize their merchandise and ultimately run a thriving business.

Barcode Scanners

Barcode scanners have been around for quite some time now. As a matter of fact, store owners have had the chance to test their benefits for more than 5 decades in a row. The basic mechanism of these essential gadgets was tested and implemented by Edward Silver and Norman J. Woodward in 1949. More than 50 years later, the basic principle behind their functionality is basically the same: barcode printers are expected to make daily work-related responsibilities become more automatic and time-effective. Nonetheless, barcode scanners have suffered various alterations in terms of design over the course of time.

What Do Barcode Scanners Do?

Barcode scanners basically capture, read and store the data identified on the machine-readable side of barcode labels. They have been implemented very rapidly on an international scale to enable store owners to simplify store management-related tasks and save a lot of time and energy.

What Are the Advantages of Modern Barcode Scanning?

Increased Speed. What would happen if you suddenly decided to run your business without relying on barcode scanner to keep track of your inventory? In short, you would have to enter barcode information manually. This process is tiresome and time-consuming, to say the least. According to eHow, a barcode scanner can process one 12-digit code in the same amount of time that you would require to read and enter two of the 12 numbers.  Naturally, this means that modern barcode scanners enable users to focus on other equally important duties, like anticipating and addressing the needs and demands of their customers, for instance.

Data Integrity and Increased Accuracy. Human beings make mistakes. Your eyes get tired. Your mind is looking for prompt solutions to an endless string of business-related problems. At times, it can be very difficult to read and enter barcode information manually, especially when you are multitasking. Errors made by a keyboard operator can impact the store’s profit margins and complicate your work. Did you really think that skilled human operators can do no wrong? In this case, you may want to reconsider. According to Street Directory, 10 keying errors are associated with every one thousand characters entered by keyboard operators. OCR’s (Optical Character Readers) may lead to one error for every ten thousand reads. On the other hand, more modern laser technology could be responsible for only one error recorded for every 70 million data entries. These numbers indicate that a great barcode scanner can ensure a superior level of accuracy, protecting data integrity and safeguarding store owners from costly mistakes that could affect their profit margins.

Inventory Control. Every single company needs to keep track of its inventory. How do you know how many packages exit and enter your warehouse on a daily basis? A barcode scanner gives you the most accurate answer to this question, enabling you to maintain a strict control over your merchandise. Furthermore, if and when you’re delivering goods to your clients, you can connect their regular inventory control info with online portals to allow clients to check out package status. A barcode scanner enables store owners to gain full control over their commodities, minimize or eliminate financial losses associated with theft and/or misplaced items, and boost the quality of their customer service.

Cost. According to Chron Small Business, as barcode scanners have become widely available, their manufacturers have decided to reduce their price tags and play the affordability card. Even small companies with very limited financial possibilities can find, buy and use an affordable type of barcode scanner, download online barcode fonts, label their packages and start keeping track of their inventory. Most large-scale companies agree on the fact that barcode technology is much more accessible and straightforward than other inventory control strategies that are often way too complex and labor-intensive.

Versatility and Portability. When you go in favor of a modern barcode scanner like the one brought to you by Shopify, you discover two advantages associated with a sleek, portable and lightweight gadget: versatility and ease of use. This handy piece of equipment can scan both printed and digital barcodes and can connect wirelessly to your POS solution, allowing you to manage your inventory in a stress-free, simplified manner, anytime, anywhere.

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