8 Ways To Spot A Home Improvement Scam

feet sticking down through sheetrock ceiling, electrical light box hangingIt’s home improvement season! Contractors of all kinds, from painters to builders, electricians, roofers and more, are hard at work sprucing up homes across the country.

If you’re hiring anyone to make improvements on your home, be alert! Home improvement scams are more common than you may think. And they can be difficult to spot. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), home improvement scams in 2017 cost Americans more than $600,000 in losses. A contractor can con a homeowner in a number of ways, from doing sloppy work that requires more repair down the line to leaving a job unfinished, or even making off with their pay and doing no work at all.

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for 8 ways to spot a home improvement scam:

  1. The contractor insists on being paid up front
    While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total fee up front. This is likely a scammer who is trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.
  2. The contractor refuses to supply references
    Never hire a contractor without speaking to someone who’s used their services in the past. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises homeowners to ask past customers detailed questions about a contractor’s work, including the projected and actual project timeline, as well as final cost. If a contractor is in the middle of another job, ask if you can check out their work yourself. If a contractor refuses to furnish names and contact information of previous clients, it may be best to seek a new option.
  3. There’s negative information about the contractor on the BBB site
    Before hiring any small business you’ve never used, it’s a good idea to check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. Once there, you can read reviews and ratings and see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  4. The contractor demands payment in cash
    The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash leaves no trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.
  5. The contractor will do the work for an insanely cheap price
    Don’t get conned by a contractor who severely underbids all competitors. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you’re offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If you only get evasive answers, look elsewhere.
  6. They show up at your door … uninvited
    The smiling contractor at your door claiming to have recently done work in your neighborhood just happened to notice your home can use some repairs, too. They suggest you hire them to do it for you–all for a great price, of course. Don’t fall for every house call. There’s a small chance you’re looking at a rookie contractor just starting to build a referral base, but it is far more likely that your uninvited visitor is a scammer who will do sloppy work, leave the job half-finished or disappear with your money. If the contractor does seem legit, look them up on the BBB site and ask for references before hiring.
  7. The contractor refuses to put anything in writing
    Never hire anyone to do work on your home without a written contract. The BBB advises homeowners to include as many details as possible in the contract, such as payment terms, a definitive date for the start and completion of the project, warranty information and a clear description of the job.
  8. They try to avoid permits
    A contractor who tries to convince you there’s no need to pull permits is one who wants to avoid the authorities at all costs. You’re likely dealing with an unlicensed worker or who will cut corners wherever possible. The lack of proper permits can also cause you problems down the line when you try to sell your home.

Don’t get ripped off by a scammer! Do your homework well before hiring any contractors this (or any) season. It’s one surefire way to ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a home improvement scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/home-improvement.html

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/the-ultimate-list-of-the-years-worst-scams/

https://www.thespruce.com/common-home-improvement-scams-4163354

Which Features Should I Look For In A New Car?

Proud family accepts keys ot their new carQ: I’m in the market for a new set of wheels, and the choices are making me dizzy. How do I decide which features to look for in a new car and which to skip?

A: Shopping for a new car can be complicated—but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of research and some time spent determining what’s important to you, you can make a choice you’ll be happy with for years to come. To help you out, we’ve created a list of key features you might want to consider in your new car, as well as a list of features you can skip.

Must-have safety features

  • 360-degree camera:
    This camera takes the risk factor out of backing up by giving drivers a bird’s-eye view of the car. This way, drivers can see the entire area surrounding their vehicle and check for children and objects in their way.
  • Evasive steering: Keep yourself safe even in the event of surprises on the road with this handy new feature. Evasive steering will provide you with additional steering support when you’re in danger of colliding with another vehicle and your own steering efforts are not sufficient.
  • Blind spot alert: This feature alerts the driver when there is an object or pedestrian in direct line of their blind spot.
  • Forward collision warning: If you’re prone to distraction while behind the wheel, you might want this feature. It provides a visual and/or audible alert when your vehicle is heading toward a forward collision.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Stay safe with this feature, which automatically applies the brakes when it senses a vehicle in your car’s way. Some systems include pedestrian detection as well.

Convenient features

  • Automatic keyless entry: This feature was created for those moments when you’re staggering toward your car with armfuls of grocery bags: it automatically unlocks a car’s doors when it senses a nearby fob.
  • Head-up display: You don’t have to risk swerving every time you want to check out your car’s display. With a head-up display, you can see important information, like your fuel level and speed, right on your windshield. Displays are dim enough so they don’t block your visibility, but clear enough to easily read.
  • Power tailgate: If you plan on hitching a boat, ATV, or another large vehicle to the back of your new pickup truck or SUV, you might want to shop for this feature, because it lets you lower and raise your tailgate with the push of a button.
  • Multi-zone climate system: Family road trips are peaceful again with this feature, which allows for different climate controls throughout the car.
  • Speedy USB-charging outlets: No more unbearable waits for your gadgets to power up! You can now buy a car that charges your device super-quickly.
  • WiFi hotspot: Stop eating up your phone’s data—just plug into your car’s WiFi instead. Some in-car hotspot services charge a monthly fee after a complementary introductory period, but these tend to be cheaper for unlimited data than a similar data plan through a mobile phone carrier.
  • Heated steering wheel and driver’s seat: This one is for those frosty mornings when your car can’t get warm quite fast enough.
  • Wireless charging pad: Leave the wires at home! Just place your phone on one of these pads and it will start powering up. These super-techy gadgets use induction to charge your device and work with most new smartphones. If your phone is aging and won’t charge on an induction pad, you can buy a special case to bring it up to speed.

Fun-to-have features

  • Home assist device connectivity: Telling your phone to crank up your AC or to shut off your oven is old news. But, did you know you can now do the same for your car’s controls? Some new cars allow you to use remote voice control with home assist technologies, like Alexa, for your car. You can tell the assistant to set the temperature in your car, unlock doors and even get your favorite playlist going while your hands are busy making lunch.
  • Rear entertainment systems: No more backseat fighting! This feature gives the rear seat of your car a completely separate entertainment system.
  • Sound enhancement: If you’re an incurable gearhead who needs to actually hear your car revving up, you’ll love this feature. It simulates the performance experience of your vehicle, even in a car that is built to be quiet, so you can listen to your engine roar itself to life.
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: Leave your phone in the cup holder and avoid dangerous distraction with these features. Both will sync your smartphone’s interface with your car’s infotainment system so you can use the car’s screen for controlling your phone and keep your eyes on the road.

Features you can skip

  • Bigger wheels and thinner tires: The look might appeal, but the ride will be less comfortable. Plus, your wheels will be more prone to damage from potholes and other obstructions on the road.
  • Built-in navigation systems: Please don’t pay extra for a navigation system when you know you’re going to use Waze or Google Maps most of the time anyway. Also, most built-in navigation systems require constant and tedious updates.
  • Lane keeping assist: This feature automatically steers or brakes your car when your vehicle crosses lane markings without turning on a blinker. It sounds tempting, but in real life, it’s more annoyance than convenience. Often, you’ll need to suddenly cross a lane marker for good reason, like moving over for an emergency vehicle or for a cyclist on the shoulder of the road. Plus, according to Consumer Reports, there is no data that proves this feature has any safety benefits for the driver.

[Before you start shopping, call, click, or stop by Advantage One to hear all about our auto loans! We’d love to help you get behind your new set of wheels!]

Your Turn:
Did you buy a new car recently? Tell us about the features you chose and why they made it to your list.

SOURCES:

https://www.consumerreports.org/automotive-technology/must-have-features-to-get-in-next-new-car/

https://www.hotcars.com/must-have-car-features-for-2019/

https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/cars-with-the-most-high-tech-features-for-the-money

Ways Your Credit Union Can Help You Fund Your Summer Vacation

womans legs and beatiful, tropical beach, water and mountains in the backgroundIf you’re like most Americans, as soon as you see ads announcing Memorial Day sale events, you start thinking summer. Summer means flip-flops and sandy beaches, sunscreen and baseball, fireworks and ice cream—and expensive vacations.

Perhaps you’re really needing to get away this summer, so you have the perfect vacation all planned out in your mind.

But how are you going to get around the steep price tag on your dream getaway? Do you pull out the plastic, make it happen and worry about paying your credit card bills only after you return home? Do you beg a loan off family and friends, putting your most important relationships at risk? Do you live off pasta in the weeks leading up to your vacation and use the money saved on groceries to cover the cost of your trip?

You don’t have to take extreme or irresponsible measures to fund the perfect summer vacation. As a member of Advantage One, you have access to a variety of convenient products that can help you cover the costs of your trip with minimal effort on your part.

Read on for ways Advantage One can send you packing for your dream summer getaway.

1. Vacation Savings Account

It’s easier to save up for a specific goal when you separate the funds you’re earmarking for that goal from all your other savings. When you open up a secondary savings account at Advantage One with the express purpose of using it to accumulate funds for your summer vacation, you’ll always know exactly how much money you’ve saved up for your getaway. Plus, your money will grow, so you’ll reach your goal sooner.

You may have already started saving up for summer expenses in your regular savings account. Move that money into your summer savings account now so your vacation funds are in one easy location.

To be certain you’re socking away enough money to cover your getaway, create a vacation budget now. Realistically, how much money will you need to cover the costs of your trip? Next, determine when you’d like to go and count the number of weeks or months left until your vacation date. Work out the exact amount you’ll need to save each week or month by dividing your total vacation budget by the number of weeks or months left to go before your trip. You can trim your budget, sell some stuff you don’t use anymore or take on a side hustle to come up with the necessary savings. Finally, link your checking account and your designated vacation savings account – and set up a direct deposit – so that your summer savings can grow almost effortlessly.

2.) Personal Loan

If you think you can’t possibly save up enough money to fund your vacation in time, consider taking out a Sunsational Summer loan instead.

When you take out a Sunsational Summer loan at Advantage One, you’ll get the funds you need to send you off on your dream getaway. And best of all, with our affordable rates, you won’t go broke paying it back! Speak to us today to find out more about this fantastic option.

3.) Skip-a-Payment

If you’re desperate for a vacation in more ways than one, consider taking a break from some of your financial responsibilities this summer. Advantage One allows qualifying members to skip one loan or credit card payment during this expensive time of year. By choosing Skip-a-Pay, you’ll get the break you need without hurting your credit or defaulting on the loan. However, your loan or balance payment plan will extend for another month, and the interest on the skipped payment will be integrated into the principal of your loan or bill.

Skipping a payment is not recommended for members who are struggling to get on top of their finances. But, if you’re in a financially comfortable place and just need some extra breathing room this time of year, skipping one monthly payment can be a great way to help you cover the costs of your summer getaway.

Get your vacation plans off the ground by stopping by Advantage One today. We have a broad range of products that can turn your dream vacation into a reality!

Your Turn:
Which Advantage One product helps you fund your summer vacation? Share your top pick with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-up-fund-summer-vacation

https://www.theworkathomewoman.com/fund-your-summer-vacation/

https://www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/06/03/3-tips-to-save-for-your-summer-vacation.aspx

https://www.everydollar.com/blog/plan-your-vacation

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/skip_payment_mortgage.asp

Twitter:

Step 5 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Create A Budget

young woman writing financial information in a notebook and examining her credit cardThis month, you’re going to organize your finances. Hold onto every receipt, bill, paystub and invoice you produce throughout the month. Sometime during the last week of May, sit down with all of your paperwork and start crunching the numbers.

When you’re through, you should have all of these questions answered:

  • How much is my net monthly income?
  • How much are my monthly fixed expenses?
  • How much are my monthly non-fixed expenses?

Now that you have the numbers in front of you, work on creating a budget. Designate the necessary funds for your fixed expenses. Then, with the remaining money, determine how much you will spend in each non-fixed expense category; like groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc.

Put your minimum debt payments in the fixed-expenses category, with another category for extra debt payments in your column of non-fixed expenses.

Your Turn:
What was the most challenging part of creating your monthly budget?

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Scammed On Craigslist

woman visibly upset and closing eyes while on the phoneThe arrival of spring and the deep house cleaning it inspires means more people are putting their old furniture, devices, sports equipment and clothing up for sale. That’s why the amount of items like these on sites like Craigslist swells considerably during this season. If you have the time and patience to sift through the offerings, there are wonderful treasures to be found. Conversely, if your own spring cleaning unveils hordes of sellable stuff you don’t use anymore, you can make good money selling them online.

Unfortunately, though, when there’s money to be made, the scammers are never far behind. Craigslist is riddled with scammers looking to make a quick buck off people’s naivety. Stay one step ahead of scammers and keep your money safe by following these eight tips when using Craigslist.

1.) Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers
Lots of Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site. Before using Craigslist, make sure you know the following:

The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org. Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before finalizing a purchase.
Craigslist does not back any transaction on its site. If you receive an email or text trying to sell you purchase protection, you’re looking at a scam.
There is no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. If a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails,” you’re dealing with a scammer.

2.) Deal locally.
The “barely used” couch that’s up for sale a couple of states over might be better-priced than the one being sold just a 10-minute drive away, but it’s always safer to deal with locals on Craigslist. According to the site’s advice on avoiding scams on their platform, you’ll avoid 99% of the scams on Craigslist by following this rule.

Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. Plus, there’s less of a chance of there being a language barrier blurring the details of the deal.

3.) Examine the product(s) before finalizing a sale.
Never rely solely on pictures to get the full scope on what you’re buying. Ask to look at the item in person. If you’re purchasing an electronic device or something else that needs to work in order to be valuable, ask to try it out as well.

4.) Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check or money order as payment.
Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem to clear on sight, so you’ll agree to the sale and use the money that’s supposedly in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By that time, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for covering the funds you used while presuming it cleared.

On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

5.) Use cash—safely.
The most secure way to pay or collect funds for a Craigslist transaction is with cold cash. If the idea of handing over a large sum of money to a stranger scares you, you can make the exchange of money and goods in a safe place like your local police station or even at Advantage One.

When accepting cash for a sale, bring along a counterfeit detector pen (which can be found at most office supply stores and online) to be certain you’re not getting scammed with bogus bills. These retail for as little as $5, but they can save you from big losses.

6.) Never share your personal information with a buyer or seller.
As always, when online, keep your personal information to yourself. There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, your date of birth or even your mother’s maiden name. If a contact is asking too many questions, back out of the deal.

7.) Be wary of fake escrow service sites.
Escrow services, in which a company holds onto a large sum of money for two parties in the middle of a transaction, can be super-convenient when buying and selling things online. However, they can also be a clever trap for unsuspecting victims. Scammers often create bogus escrow service sites to lure victims into dropping their money right into the scammers’ hands. The site will be a copycat of a reputable escrow service site, with some slight deviations you wouldn’t notice unless you looked for them.

When using an escrow service site, it’s best to find the site yourself instead of following a pop-up ad or a link. Check the site carefully for spelling mistakes and poor syntax. Also, make sure the URL is secure and matches the site of the service you intend to use.

8.) Create a disposable number.
When conducting business on Craigslist, you may need to share a working phone number. You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Google Voice instead of giving out your real number. Your Google Voice number will be untraceable and will expire within 30 days of non-use.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a Craigslist scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.fraudguides.com/internet/craigslist/

https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

https://www.thestreet.com/amp/personal-finance/craigslist-scams-14707309

https://www.efraudprevention.net/home/templates/?a=96

Home Improvement Hacks

Young bi-racial couple assembles assemble it yourself furniture in their modern home.You’ve finally finished scrubbing and purging your home from top to bottom in honor of spring. And now, with every surface, closet, and room sparkling clean, you’re starting to see all the areas that could use a facelift. Maybe you’re hankering after a complete kitchen makeover. You might be dreaming of a fresh coat of paint for your bedrooms. Or maybe your window treatments are in desperate need of an overhaul.

The only thing standing between you and your dream home is finding piles of cash for funding it, right?

Maybe not. Lucky for you, you don’t need to spend a fortune this spring to give your house a new look. Read on for our list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget.

1. Cabinet makeover
Instead of dropping a ton of money on replacing your kitchen cabinets, you can give a tired kitchen a fresh new look by replacing just the cabinet fronts. You’ll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it’s your old, shabby cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new doors.

Want to go even lower-cost? Consider painting the front of your cabinet to upgrade the look without spending much money or time. You can also replace those dated cabinet pulls with something nicer and trendier for a more modern look.

2. Cover your countertops with contact paper
Granite countertops can be gorgeous, but they’re also incredibly pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with pretty, patterned contact paper. You’ll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply your knockoff covers neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. You might even fool your friends and family into thinking it’s the real thing. But don’t worry: We won’t tell anyone it’s fake!

3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods
Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color and personality to any room. You can make your own inexpensive curtains by picking up some fabric from a sewing supply store. The only issue? You’ll need rods to hang up those curtains—and if you need specific measurements and colors, that can get pricey.

Make it happen with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint your pipes to match the décor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done!

4. Create a mirrored backsplash
All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles. These retail for about $15 per 20-tile pack and you can find them online or at a home improvement store. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. Decorate with inexpensive decals to up the glam or just leave it bare. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won’t have to deal with grout and caulking. It’s a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle!

5. Slipcover your sofa
If your sofa is hopelessly stained and you’d love to update it, but can’t spare the cash, try covering it in a slipcover. You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They’re not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! Make sure you read reviews before purchasing, because quality really makes a difference here.

6. Let the light in
Light fixtures can really make or break an area in your home, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get it right. Walk through your home and take note of the light fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then, take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures. For less than $100, you can give your house an entire new look!

7. DIY paint
If the walls in your home desperately need fresh coats of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. No, you don’t have to be a genuine DIYer to get this right; it’s fairly simple. You’ll find loads of painting tutorials on YouTube, and you’ll only have to spring for the actual paint plus a few supplies. Best of all, when you’re in charge, you can get as creative as possible. Using painter’s tape and your imagination, you can paint funky designs on your walls, like diamond contrasts, vertical and horizontal stripes, or, if you’re feeling really artsy, go for a full-blown mural!

These hacks will make your home beautiful this spring for just a bit of money. If you need more major home improvements that require serious cash, though, we can help. Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask us about opening a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan. We can make that happen, too!

Your Turn:
Are you making home improvements on a budget? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thrillist.com/amphtml/home/home-improvement-hacks-under-50-diy-home-projects

https://diyjoy.com/diy-remodeling-hacks/

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/15-smart-hacks-that-will-save-you-money-while-remodeling-your-home/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/apartment-rental-simple-easy-budget-hacks/amp/

The Ethical Investor’s Handbook

Ethical Investor's Handbook coverMost of us mistakenly divide the world into two kinds of people: those who care about amassing as much wealth as possible and those who care about everything else. The money-hungry capitalist who will step on anyone and anything on the path to the top is a familiar caricature, and is unfortunately not always far from reality. While there are some companies that choose to employ environmentally friendly practices, we assume it is only the very large ones that can afford to so without impacting their bottom lines.

Most of us think we have a difficult choice to make: Do we want to invest in companies and businesses whose values might not align perfectly with our own, or do we choose to cling to what we believe is important while losing out on priceless opportunities to help our money grow?

Singapore-based financial analyst Morten Strange is here to show the world that these two values can be perfectly blended. Successful ethical investing is not the oxymoron you might think it to be. In fact, it is more achievable now than ever.

In The Ethical Investor’s Handbook, Morten demonstrates how economics and finances directly affect the state of the environment. He answers loaded questions that lots of people grapple with, including strategies that you, as an individual investor, can implement to give your money its greatest chance at growth without wrecking the Earth. You’ll also learn about ways to navigate your capital allocation without compromising on your own principles and values.

In his book, Strange explores hot environmental topics, like alternative energy sources, ethical foods, conservation and natural capital. The Ethical Investor’s Handbook shows readers how to build and sustain a green portfolio that earns generous returns and outlines common pitfalls and obstacles on the journey toward successful ethical investing. The truly committed investor who is equally committed to their values will find The Ethical Investor’s Handbook to be a priceless guideline for growing wealth without short-changing their moral compass.

If you’d like to help your money reach its maximum earning potential without destroying the Earth or trampling on your personal values, The Ethical Investor’s Handbook will guide you on the path to ethical financial success.

Your Turn:
Do you believe maximizing your money’s earning power and supporting environmental practices are contrary values? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.marshallcavendish.com/marshallcavendish/genref/The-Ethical-Investors-Handbook_B1205_Singapore.aspx

Cash Money Life Blog Review

Cash money Life logoThe internet is saturated with blogs and sites about anything and everything under the sun. Among the dozens of blogs devoted to personal finance, Cash Money Life (cashmoneylife.com) stands out as a reliable and factual source of information and advice. As featured in top-tier media sites like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and MainStreet.com, Cash Money Life offers readers an easy and efficient way to get the inside scoop on anything money-related without the distraction of complex interfaces and confusing designs.

Authored by Ryan Guina, the blog targets a broad audience and brands itself as a personal finance, small business and career journal. The site is updated daily with articles covering a wide spectrum of financial topics, from current events1 to product reviews, tutorials, investment tips and more. You can use the site to search for an auto insurance plan that suits your needs or to explore the stocks that are worth investing in this season. Articles are always written in simple, easy-to-understand language that offers concrete information without talking down to the reader.

Here are some trending articles on Cash Money Life:

  • How to Invest in Small Business
  • Best Auto Insurance Companies
  • Liberty Tax Review—Simplified Tax Filing
  • FreeTaxUSA Review—Step-By-Step Help Filing Your TaxesE-file Review—How the Software Can Streamline Your Taxes

When visiting the site, you can browse through the fresh posts or look up archived evergreen content covering a comprehensive list of financial topics.

Also check out the “Free Money” page, which is a wildly popular spot that is dedicated to sharing information about freebies. The freebies include gimmick-free, complimentary trials, referral bonuses, first-time-customer gift cards and more. Check it out to see what’s free this week!

If you’re looking for a place where you can find clear, practical, and reliable financial information, visit Cash Money Life today.

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite online source for financial information? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/top-10-highly-useful-websites-learn-about-personal-finance-for-free.html

https://cashmoneylife.com/blog/

https://cashmoneylife.com/blog/about

Mortgage Rates Are Dropping; Should I Refinance?

a young couple refinances their house at the credit unionQ: I’ve heard that mortgage rates have dropped dramatically since the start of 2019. Should I refinance my mortgage loan to take advantage of these lower rates?

A: Refinancing a mortgage is essentially paying off the remaining balance on an existing home loan and then taking out a new mortgage loan, often at a lower interest rate. It may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many factors to consider before moving forward with a refinance.

Is it a good time to refinance?
Mortgage rates have been falling steadily over the last few months. During the last week of March this year, rates took their biggest one-week nosedive in more than a decade, and mortgage applications rose 39%, as thousands of homeowners sought out their lenders for a refinance.

However, the downward trend has already reversed as of the beginning of April, when rates hit 4.29%. That’s up from 4.17% just one week prior. If you’re thinking of refinancing in the near future, it’s best to do move quickly so you can lock in the lowest possible rate. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a month if you refinance a loan that currently has a relatively high interest rate.

Is a refinance right for you?
While this is definitely an excellent time to take out a new mortgage, that doesn’t mean a refinance is the right fit for everyone.

Here are two reasons a refinance might be a good fit for you:

  • Your credit is strong and you’d like to lower your monthly payments
    The first, and most obvious, reason homeowners refinance their mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. The drive behind this reason might be a change in finances, personal life or simply the desire to save money. As mentioned, the current mortgage rates make this an excellent time to refinance into a lower interest rate.

    Don’t try a refinance unless your credit is in good shape, though. Taking out another mortgage with a less-than-desirable credit score can mean getting hit with a high interest rate, even if national rates are dropping.

    Aside from reducing your monthly payments, a lower interest rate can also help you build more equity in your home sooner.

  • You’d like to shorten the life of your loan.
    People sometimes choose to refinance their mortgage because they want to finish paying off their loan sooner. If you have a mortgage that has a really high interest rate but you can easily meet these payments, consider refinancing into a shorter-term option. You may be able to pay off your loan in half the time without changing your monthly payment much at all

When refinancing your mortgage is a bad idea
In the following three circumstances, refinancing your mortgage may not make sense.

  • You’re in debt.
    If you’re looking for the extra stash of cash each month to pull you out of debt, you probably shouldn’t be refinancing. Most people who refinance for this reason end up spending all the money they save, and then some. Without making any real changes to your spending habits, giving yourself extra money is only enabling more debt. While the intention is rooted in sound logic, unless you make an equally sound change in your spending habits, you’ll be right back to your present situation in very little time.
  • A refinance will greatly lengthen the loan’s terms.
    If you’ve only got 10 years left on your mortgage and you want to refinance to stretch out those payments over 30 years, you won’t come out ahead. Any money you save on lower payments will be lost in the cost of the refinance and the extra 20 years of interest you’ll be paying on your mortgage.
  • You don’t plan on living in your home much longer.
    If you plan on moving within the next few years, the money you save might not even come close to the costs of a refinance.

How much will it cost?
Homeowners are often eager to get started on a refinance until they see what it will cost them.

Remember all those fees and closing costs you paid when you first bought your house? Prepare to pay most of them again. Broker fees will vary, but a typical refinance will cost anywhere between 3-6% of the loan’s principal.

Before proceeding with your refinance, make sure you’ll actually be saving money. You can do this by procuring a good faith estimate from several lenders. This will get you your projected interest rate and the anticipated loan price. Next, divide this price by the amount you’ll save each month with your anticipated new rate. This will give you the number of months that will have to pass before you break even on the new loan. If you don’t plan on staying in your home for that long, or you can’t afford to wait until then to recoup your losses, refinancing may not make sense for you.

Rates are still low, and if your finances are in good shape, a refinance can be a great way to put an extra few hundred dollars into your pocket each month. [If you’re ready to talk to a home loan expert about refinancing, call, click or stop by Advantage One today to ask about getting started on your refinance. We’re always happy to help you save money!]

Your Turn:
Have you refinanced? What drove your decision? Was it the right decision for you? Let us know in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.myfinance.com/5-reasons-to-refinance/?utm_source=Millennial+Money&utm_campaign=millennialmoneycru&utm_medium=mfCRU

https://www.consumersadvocate.org/mortgage-refinance/a/best-mortgage-refinance?matchtype=e&keyword=should%20i%20refinance&adpos=1t2&gclid=CjwKCAjww6XXBRByEiwAM-ZUILOeJrx3aTigcckJXeQcxYZ5KC-gPj1HDcbQYQlprrg3zX08LqGaohoCL14QAvD_BwE

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/when-and-when-not-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/7-bad-reasons-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/

https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/with-mortgage-rate-drop-many-buyers-consider-refinancing/1897961701

Beware Tech Support Scams

Closeup of man's hands using a smartphone with desk and keyboard in the backgroundThe FTC is warning of a surge in tech support scams, many of which can be difficult to spot.

In a recent widespread scam, a company calling itself Elite IT Partners, Inc., purchased keywords so it showed in searches for password recovery assistance. Victims contacted the “company,” which asked them to fill out an online form with their contact information. Scammers then called the victims, asking for remote access to their computers. Once inside, they used phony evidence to convince victims that their computers were in need of repairs requiring pricey software. The scammers accepted payment for this software, but did not provide it.

Tech support scams don’t always follow the above script. Here are two other common scenarios:

1. Phone calls
In this variation, scammers spoof the numbers of well-known companies claiming they’ve found a problem with the victim’s computer. They’ll ask for remote access to it, run a “diagnostic test,” and plant bogus problems. They’ll then ask the victim to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get the issue fixed.

Red flag: Legitimate tech-support companies will never initiate contact by phone.

2. Pop-up warnings
Sometimes, a tech-support scammer will target victims with an alarming pop-up warning. The pop-up might look like a legitimate error from the victim’s system or antivirus software. The message will warn about a computer security issue and instruct the victim to call a listed number. Once the victim calls, they’ll be asked to grant the scammer remote access to their computer. The scam will then proceed much like what’s described above.

Red flag: Legitimate security warnings from tech companies will never ask you to call a phone number.

If you’ve been scammed
Are you a victim of a tech-support scam? It may not be too late to reclaim your money.

If you paid via credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or [credit union] about contesting the charge.

You’ll also want to update your computer’s security software and run a scan. Delete anything your computer identifies as a security issue. Be sure to change your usernames and passwords as well.

Finally, don’t forget to report your scam to the FTC.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a tech-support scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/03/keep-tech-support-strangers-out-your-computer

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4013405/windows-protect-from-tech-support-scams

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams