What You Didn’t Know About Home Loans

A home loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, enables you to purchase a house without paying the full price out of pocket at the time of the purchase.

For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial transaction of their lifetime. For that reason, if you’re in the market for a new home, it’s best to learn all you can about home loans and how they work before you get too deep into the process.

Here are some things you may not know about home loans:

Rates fluctuate daily

Borrowers who are eager to secure a home loan with a low interest rate may get into the habit of checking mortgage rates as often as some people check the weather. Interest rates fluctuate every day, which means the rate you see today may be different than the one you see when you actually are approved for the loan.

The cheapest interest rate does not guarantee the cheapest loan

When choosing a lender, borrowers will often choose the one offering the lowest interest rate, but this can actually be to their detriment. There are other factors to consider, including closing costs and the lender’s policy on releasing equity for a line of credit or a loan. Also, in adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM), the loan featuring the lowest interest rate may not have the lowest rate a few years down the line and may actually cost more in the long run.

A fixed-interest rate mortgage can ultimately cost you more

When interest rates are low, many home-buyers choose a mortgage with an interest rate that is fixed throughout the life of the loan, believing it is the most cost-effective choice. This may or may not be correct. A fixed-rate mortgage might comes with higher exit fees, or fees paid to the lender when the loan is repaid. Also, if rates drop further throughout your loan’s term, you won’t be able to take advantage of the new rates unless you refinance. Finally, interest rates on fixed-term mortgages are generally higher than the initial rate on ARMs.

A lower credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest

Most people know that a higher credit score is generally awarded with a lower interest rate, but not many people know to what extent this is true. A high credit score can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of a home loan. A credit score difference of 100 points can increase a monthly mortgage payment by $150 or more, depending on the size of the loan and the interest rate.

If you’re thinking of applying for a home loan soon and your credit isn’t in the “very good” category (higher than 740), it may be worthwhile to spend a few months working to boost your score before you apply for a mortgage.

The housing market impacts rates

While the federal funds rate will have the greatest impact on the rise and fall of interest rates, the state of the housing market will affect it, too.  Lenders need to turn a profit from their loans, which means the higher the volume of loans they process, the less they need to earn from each one to remain profitable. Consequently, when the housing market is booming and lenders are granting loans on a frequent basis, they will be more inclined to offer lower interest rates to borrowers.

You can have your mortgage payments automated

Your home loan payments will likely be your largest monthly bill, and missing a payment or paying it late can have serious consequences. Fortunately, you can avoid these scenarios by signing up to have your monthly mortgage payments automatically deducted from your checking account. Most lenders provide this service; check with yours to see if this is an option they offer.

Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase you ever make. Be sure to find out all there is to know about mortgages and their interest rates before applying for a home loan.

Your Turn: Do you have another lesser-known fact about home loans to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
kloze.com
wyndhamcapital.com
binvested.com
bankrate.com

Beware Stimulus and Tax Scams

It’s stimulus season and tax season at once, and scammers couldn’t be happier. They know that taxpayers are eager to get their hands on their stimulus payments and tax refunds. As consumers are working to file their taxes before the May 17 deadline, all that paperwork and payments mean people may be letting their guard down. For a scammer, nothing could be better!

The IRS is warning of a surge in scams as the tax agency continues processing tax returns and distributing stimulus payments to eligible adults who have not yet received them. Here’s all you need to know about the latest round of stimulus and tax scams:

How the scams play out

In the most recent IRS-related scams, scammers will con victims into filing phony tax returns, steal tax refunds or stimulus payments or impersonate the IRS to get victims to sign documents or share personal information, such as Social Security numbers or checking account numbers. The scams are pulled off via email, text message or phone. Sometimes, victims will be directed to another (bogus) website where their device will be infected with malware. Other times, the victim receives a 1099-G tax form for unemployment benefits they never claimed or received, because someone has filed for unemployment under their name. Unfortunately, the losses incurred through most of these scams can be difficult or impossible to recover.

What you need to know

As always, information is your best protection against these scams. Here’s what you need to know about the IRS, the stimulus payments and tax returns:

The IRS will never initiate contact by phone or email. If there is an issue with your taxes or stimulus payment, the agency will first communicate via mail.
There is no “processing fee” you need to pay before you can receive your stimulus payment or tax refund.
The IRS is not sending out text messages about the stimulus payments. If you receive a text message claiming you have a pending stimulus payment, it’s from a scammer.

There is no need to take any action to receive your stimulus payment. Likewise, aside from filing your tax return, there is nothing additional you need to do to receive your tax refund.

If you’ve been targeted

If you receive a suspicious phone call, text message or email that has allegedly been sent by the IRS, do not engage with the scammer. Block the number on your phone and mark the email as spam.

If you are a victim

If you are the victim of identity theft related to taxes or stimulus payments, there are steps you can take to mitigate the loss.

If you received a 1099-G for unemployment benefits you’ve never filed for or received, it’s best not to ignore it. Contact your state’s unemployment office to report the fraud. It should be able to send you a corrected 1099-G showing you did not get any benefits.

First, report the scam to the correct authorities. If a fraudulent tax return was filed in your name, the IRS will mail you a Letter 4883C or 6330C to verify your identity. You may also need to call the toll-free number provided on the letter and visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center . After reporting the fraud, you’ll likely need to file a paper tax return. Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) and attach it to the back of your paper return.

If you’ve mistakenly shared your information with a scammer and they’ve stolen your stimulus check, you will likewise need to let the IRS know. Visit Identitytheft.gov where you will receive a personal recovery plan that will hopefully minimize the damage done by the scammer and help you reclaim your lost funds.

It’s tax season and stimulus season, so it’s also scam season! Keep your guard up and follow the tips outlined here to prevent yourself from falling victim to one of the many circulating scams. Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a stimulus or tax scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
wfmz.com
freep.com
cnbc.com
irs.gov

Thriving in a Multi-generational Workplace

Whether you’re the “old guy” at #work or working with a bunch of older employees, you can all learn to get along and do great things. Read our tips for how to handle a mixed #workplace!

Gone are the days when you got a job out of high school or college and then worked there for 40 years, got a party and gold watch before living off your pension and IRA.

Whether it’s for financial reasons or to fulfill a desire to remain productive and useful, workers are remaining employed way past traditional retirement age. According to Business Insider.com U.S. census statistics report that, as of February 2019, about 20% of Americans over age 65 — a total of 10.6 million people — were either working or looking for work.

This resulted in today’s multi-generational workplace, which brings with it conflicts from work ethic to technological know-how.

Here’s how older workers can face the workday feeling like an integral part of their team:

Break down generational stereotypes. Understanding other age groups’ work styles leads to respectful attitudes. Working on a project with a younger co-worker can integrate varied viewpoints, and often produces innovative ideas.

Learn from each other. While older workers can pass along their years of knowledge and experience as well as business contacts, younger workers can share their experience with the latest tech and social media channels.

Fill in communication gaps. Let your manager know if you are not comfortable with the method of communication in the office. Unless it is mandatory that workers use the company email or messaging system, let your manager know your preferred communication methods.

Respect each other. In creating a harmonious work environment, it all comes down to mutual respect. The key to establishing respect among generations is knowing that your co-workers’ motivation, work style and experience is different than yours. It also helps to be flexible and accommodate their needs and preferences.

It takes effort on everyone’s part to create balance in a multi-generational workplace. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Your turn: What’s your experience working in a multi-generational workplace? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
businessinsider.com
kellyservices.us
investopedia.com
mindtools.com

Saving on Landscaping

For the green-thumbed homeowner, there are few things as pleasurable as running fingers through soft, moist earth, catching sight of the first flowering buds of spring and inhaling the scent of freshly cut grass.

Tending to a lawn and garden can get expensive. Between seeds, fertilizer and gardening supplies, costs can be high enough to take the pleasure out of lawn care.

Here are 10 creative ways to save on landscaping, so you can have your well-tended lawn and your budget, too.

1. Plant perennials

Go green with your garden by choosing plants that flower year after year. You’ll have to pay more out of pocket when you first plant these blooms, but the cost-free plants you’ll have each year will more than make it worth the price.

2. Make your own compost

Mulch and other soil products may keep your garden healthy, but they’re not as kind on your wallet. Save money by going the DIY route with compost. All you need is a designated outdoor bin to collect your old fruit and veggie peels, plant clippings and dead leaves. After a few weeks, you should have a pile of nutrient-rich soil ready to give your garden the boost it needs to grow and glow.

3. Grow and trade

For a colorful variety of flowers, plant perennials that grow and multiply quickly, like hostas or daylilies. Within a few years, you should have more of these flowers and plants than you need. Then, you can trade them with friends and neighbors for new and interesting plants.

4. Propagate your plants

Grow your garden by helping your plants propagate. You can do this by separating an already growing plant into two and replanting; rooting a leaf or rooting a small stem with leaves. You can propagate new plants in soil or in water. Find out more about propagating here.

5. Choose plants that are natural to your region

For lower-maintenance plants, choose species that grow naturally in your area of the country. You’ll save on extra watering, soil correction and special plant food.

6. Shop the end-of-season sales

The plants in the nursery and home improvement store won’t look too attractive in the fall, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Plants that look wilted now can grow beautifully in the spring, as long as the roots are alive and well. Best of all, you can score these healthy plants at bargain prices.

While you’re shopping during the fall sales, you can pick up discounted potted plants, planters, gardening tools, lawn chairs and more.

7. Leave your grass clippings

Looking for an easy and cost-free way to improve your lawn? You already have one! Just leave your grass clippings on the lawn after mowing instead of cleaning them up. The clippings will break down quickly, adding organic matter and nutrients to your grass.

8. Don’t cut your lawn too short

Shorter grass attracts more weeds and will need more herbicides. Higher grass will shade out those pesky weeds while also developing a deeper root system, thus requiring less watering. Keep your grass at 2- 2 ½ inches for best results.

9. Pay attention to pH

It’s important to measure and control the pH level of your lawn. If the ground is too acidic or alkaline, your plants and grass won’t absorb nutrients, no matter how much fertilizer you feed them. Ideally, pH levels on lawns should be between 6.5 and 7. If your lawn’s pH level is too high or too low, you can add lime or sulfur to correct it.

10. Save extra flower seeds

Bought too many seeds to plant this year? No worries; you can save them for another year! Most flower seeds will keep well if stored in a cool and dry place. You can even buy seeds in bulk with plans to save the extra for a more cost-effective purchase.

Gardening is fun and rewarding — and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Use our tips to cut back on landscaping costs without compromising on the health of your lawn.

Your Turn: How do you save on landscaping costs? Share your best tips and tricks in the comments.

Learn More:
bhg.com
houzz.com
www.policygenius.com

Beware the Amazon Watch Raffle Scam

Everyone admires Amazon’s scope and efficiency. Scammers are no exception. Recently, they’ve been piggybacking on Amazon’s reach and excellent name to pull off a scam that’s already taken in thousands of innocent victims. The scam – also known as the “fitness watch text” or the “Apple Watch raffle scam” – involves a congratulatory text message pop-up on consumers’ phones and the fraudulent promise of a big win.

Here’s all you need to know about the Amazon watch raffle scam:

How the scam plays out

In the Amazon watch raffle scam, the target receives a text message that appears to be from Amazon and tells them they’ve won an Apple Watch, or a similar prize, such as Airpods or a Garmin Fitness watch.

The text may look like this: “Amazon: Congratulations [your name], you came in 2nd in this week’s Amazon Apple Watch raffle! Click this link to arrange delivery: t3fzv.info/7047VldUlg.”

The text appears to be sent by Amazon, and the victim, thinking they’ve just landed a big one, will happily click on the embedded link. Unfortunately, this move will lead the victim to another page where they will be asked to provide their personal information to claim the prize. Alternatively, clicking on the link may download malware onto the victim’s device. In either scenario, there is no prize waiting at the end of the rainbow.

Red flags

For the informed consumer, it isn’t difficult to identify the signs of a scam.

First, it’s important to note that Amazon will never ask a consumer for their personal information, such as their Social Security number or account information, or for remote access to the consumer’s device.

Second, familiarize yourself with the red flags that can help you know when you’ve been targeted by an Amazon watch raffle scam or a similar ruse:

  • The text message includes an unusual link.
  • The text message promises an instant and/or large reward.
  • The text message urges you to act now. If the prize is authentic, there’d be no rush.
  • The text appears to be sent from Amazon, but you know you have never signed up to receive text messages from this company. In general, companies cannot send you unsolicited text messages.
  • The text appears to be sent from a suspicious-looking number, such as a number that ends in “5555.”

Avoid the scam

Follow these precautions to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of the Amazon watch raffle scam.

  • Never click on a link sent in a message from an unverified number. This is likely an attempt to access your personal information, or to install malware on your device.
  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re still not sure, you can try calling the number to verify if it is legitimate.
  • Never respond to suspicious-looking text messages. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), it’s best not to even reply “STOP” or “NO” to messages that are likely fraudulent, as every interaction can encourage the scammer to target you further. Instead, block the number.
  • If you receive a text message that appears to be sent from Amazon, update the login credentials on your Amazon account. If you’ve already clicked on the link, you may want to do a security sweep on your device for viruses and malware.

If you’re still unsure whether a text message has actually been sent by Amazon, you can check out Amazon’s scam information page here to help you verify the authenticity of the message.

Stop the scam

Do your part to stop those scammers by reporting all scam attempts to the FTC and the BBB. You can also warn your friends and family about the circulating scam.

Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by an Amazon watch raffle scam? Share your experience in the comments.

Learn More:
scam-detector.com
richmond-news.com
nerdsonsite.com

Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring is a great time of year to clear your house of accumulated junk and make it sparkle. Why not do the same for your finances? Junk can accumulate there, too. In fact, some of your money matters may need a good wipe down this season. It is especially true this year, when many Americans are still recovering from the financial fallout of COVID-19, or maybe wondering how to use the latest round of stimulus checks. Whatever your current situation, a thorough spring-cleaning for your finances is a responsible move this time of year.

Here are some ways to spring clean your finances:

Sweep out your budget

It’s time to shake out the dust in your budget! Review your monthly spending and find ways to cut back. Have you been overdoing the takeout food this year? Buying up more shoes than you can possibly wear? Pare down your budget until it’s looking neat and trim.

Freshen up your W-4

Tax season is prime time for revisiting the withholdings on your W-4. If you received an especially large refund this year, you may want to adjust the amount you withhold. The IRS’s tax withholding estimator  can be a useful tool to help you determine the perfect number.

Deep clean your accounts 

If you’ve switched from one bank or credit union to another, you may have dormant accounts that are still open and may be charging you fees. Or, perhaps they’re holding onto money you’ve forgotten you have! And don’t forget about the 401(k) you may have from an old job. Now may be the time to transfer those funds to your current 401(k).

This spring, do a Marie Kondo on your finances and get rid of any accounts you don’t need any longer. A minimalist approach to your finances will make it easier to manage your accounts. It will also give your savings a greater chance at growth, and help you avoid fees for unused accounts.

Toss out your debt

Get ready to kick that debt for good!

If you’ve been stuck on the debt cycle for too long, make this spring the season you create a plan to break free.

First, trim your budget or consider a side hustle for earning some pocket money, designating these extra funds for your debts. Next, choose a popular debt-busting approach, such as the avalanche method, in which you pay off debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest, or the snowball method, where you start with the smallest debt and then move up your list as each is paid off. Once you’ve chosen your approach, maximize payments to the first debt on your list, making sure not to neglect the minimum monthly payments on your other debts. Before you know it, that debt will be gone!

Dust off your saving habits

Have you been remembering to pay yourself first? Get into the habit of maximizing your savings this spring with a tangible financial goal. You can also make savings an itemized line in your budget. This way, you’ll have funds set aside for this purpose, instead of savings only happening if there’s money left over at the end of the month. Finally, automate your savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Never forget to pay yourself first again!

Make your investments sparkle

Whether you’re an experienced investor or you’re just getting your feet wet, it’s time for a spring cleaning of your investments! Check if your allocation strategy is still serving you well, whether you need to adjust your diversification and if your retirement accounts are on track for your estimated retirement timeline.

Make your stimulus count

Don’t let your stimulus payment and tax refund blow through your checking account. Instead create a spending plan for the funds that includes paying down debt, allocating some of the money for long-term and short-term savings and possibly investing another portion of the payment. Don’t feel guilty about using the rest of your stimulus check to splurge on a purchase or experience you’ve been wanting for a while now. The money is being distributed with the hopes that it will help stimulate the economy, and the best way to do that is to spend — just don’t go overboard.

Spring is the perfect time to give your finances a thorough cleaning. Follow our tips to make your money matters shine!

Your Turn: How are you spring cleaning your finances this season? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
nerdwallet.com
thebalance.com
doughroller.net

Get Good With Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Title: Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Author: Tiffany Aliche

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Rodale Books

Publishing date: March 30, 2021

Who is this book for? 

Anyone looking to take charge of their personal finances, get their spending under control and learn how to live with financial wholeness.

What’s inside this book?

  • The 10-step formula for attaining financial security and peace of mind that was created and perfected by Aliche, AKA “The Budgetnista.”
  • Checklists, worksheets, a toolkit of resources and advanced advice from money-management experts.
  • Real-life examples to bring financial lessons home.
  • Actionable steps for taking charge of your credit score, maximizing bill-paying automation, savings and investing and calculating your life, disability and property insurance needs.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: How to achieve and maintain financial wholeness through a series of financial improvements.

  • How to create the game-changing “noodle budget.”
  • How to see your credit score as a grade point average.
  • How to practice mindful budgeting and spending habits.
  • A simple calculation to help you retire early.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How can I determine if my money problem is that I don’t earn enough or I that I spend too much, and how do I fix either issue?
  • How can I learn to make a habit out of saving for a rainy day?
  • How can I protect my beneficiaries’ future?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “Aliche can take the most complex of money concepts and distill them into something relatable and understandable. No matter where you stand in your money journey, Get Good with Money has a lesson or two for you!” — Erin Lowry
  • “Get Good with Money helps you put all the pieces of your financial life together without making you feel overwhelmed or ashamed about your circumstances. Whether you need to budget better, slash debt, and save more money or learn to invest, boost your net worth, and build wealth, Tiffany Aliche offers great advice to let you know you can do this, sis!” — Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
  • “I’m so inspired by Tiffany Aliche’s own story of digging out of deep debt and building back her credit and her cash flow. Get Good with Money will soon have you believing in your own ability to set yourself up for a life that’s rich in every way.” — Farnoosh Torabi

Your Turn: What did you think of Get Good With Money? Share your opinion in the comments.

Learn More:
amazon.com
goodreads.com
getgoodwithmoney

Saving on Entertainment Costs

Everyone needs a way to kick back and relax, but entertainment can get expensive. Between pricey tickets to movies and sporting events, specialty hobby equipment that costs a bundle, and entertainment services that may seem to charge more than they’re worth, it’s hard to have your fun, and your budget, too.

Fortunately, there are ways to save on entertainment costs. Here are a few creative tips to get you started.

Turn a hobby into income

Do you have a secret passion you can monetize? Maybe you’re sensational at sewing, or you have a unique talent for bottle-cap art, and people would pay for your creations. You can save on entertainment costs by selling your products on sites like Etsy. You’ll earn the cash you need to fund your hobby — and maybe some extra pocket change, too.

Buy season passes

If you have a favorite amusement park, zoo, trampoline park or another entertainment center, it may be worthwhile to invest in a season pass. These often cost as much as, or even less than, two one-day entrance tickets.

Give up cable

In 2021, there are so many fantastic alternatives to cable service, and at great prices. A video streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu can be a great replacement for cable. Some services, like Sling TV and HBO Max, will even allow you to stream a specific channel online.

Stream your music

Downloading from iTunes is rapidly going the way of the CD and cassette tape. Today, it’s all about streaming music services, which allow the user to listen to virtually any song, for a modest monthly subscription fee. Some popular options include Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play Music, most of which cost an average of $10 a month.

Ask for a discount

Before paying for a hotel stay, amusement park ticket, or even a rental car, find out if you qualify for a discount. Lots of entertainment venues will offer discounts for older adults, students or members of AAA, AARP or the like.

Split entertainment memberships with family or friends

Share the cost of a music, movie or video game subscription with a friend or a roommate. Some services even allow you to add a user living at the same residence at no cost, so you can pay one price for a full service of something like Netflix for half the cost.

Take a virtual tour

Thanks to COVID-19, you can now get an up-close look at the most fascinating places in the world. From famous museums like the Guggenheim in New York City and Musée d’Orsay  in Paris, to safaris you can take from the comfort of your home at places like the  Houston Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, there’s no shortage of entertainment you can get for free.

Stay local

Keep your eyes and ears open for local festivals, sporting events and performances at no charge, or for just a nominal fee. You can get your entertainment fix at a fraction of the usual cost while supporting your community. (For now, these might be outdoor-only.)

Watch for happy hour

Lots of museums and recreation centers offer discounted entrance tickets during their slowest time of the week, or of the day. Plan your visit around “happy hour” for the most savings.

Volunteer at special events

Offer to volunteer at theater and music productions in exchange for free tickets. This can mean helping to usher people toward their seats, or assisting with setting up and breaking down the set before and after the show.

Purchase group deals online

Before taking a trip anywhere, check if you can get discounted tickets on sites like Groupon, LivingSocial  or TravelZoo. Why pay full price if you don’t have to?

Keeping yourself entertained doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Use our tips to find creative ways to cut back on entertainment costs without sacrificing any of the relaxation or the fun you need. It’s doable!

Your Turn: How do you save on entertainment costs? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
wikihow.com
foolproofme.org
nerdwallet.com

Tips for Empty Nesters Downsizing

Quiet. Calm. Clean.

And empty.

These are just a few of the adjectives that may come to mind when you return home after your youngest child leaves the nest. It’s the beginning of a new stage in life and your home may feel completely different.

No longer are you constantly kicking aside stray sneakers and picking up a trail of school papers. No longer are you sharing your living space with soccer gear and your freezer with boxes of frozen pizza and ice pops. You may even get the TV remote to yourself!

Now that the house has emptied out, it’s a great time to sift through the “stuff” that has piled up over the years. Maybe you’ve even decided to move to a new and smaller home. Whether you’re decluttering because your home has grown emptier or you need to get rid of half your belongings before you relocate, downsizing can be a daunting task.

Here are some tips to help you downsize as an empty nester.

Allow yourself to grieve, but stay positive

It isn’t easy to let go of precious mementos, give away the adorable baby outfits your oldest wore as an infant or say goodbye to the home that watched your family grow. Make these goodbyes a little easier by acknowledging your grief but putting a positive spin on your new stage. Yes, you are saying goodbye to playdates and PTA meetings, but you are entering a phase in life that will open up new vistas and opportunities you’ve never had before.

Clear out your closets

If your closets have not been purged since AOL CDs cluttered mailboxes, you might be looking at a mountain of outdated clothing to sort through and organize. Here’s how to make this job easy.

Set up four boxes near your closet. Mark one “giveaways,” one “keepers,” one “sell” and the last “dump.” As you sort through grunge tops from the ‘90s and neon jeans from the ‘80s, consider each item: Can you donate this, keep it, sell it or is it destined for the dump? Place each item in its designated box until you’ve gone through the entire pile.

When you’ve finished sorting through all your clothing, return the items in the “keepers” box to the closet, toss the junk, bring the giveaways to a clothing donation drop-off spot and sell what’s left on Poshmark.

Sell your spare furniture

Whether you’re relocating or staying put for now, your furniture needs will change when the kids have left home. Create space and earn some extra pocket money by hosting a garage sale for your unused furniture pieces. You can also sell spare drawer chests, desks and more on OfferUp or Craigslist.

Sift through your files

In the world before everything was digitized, important papers in a household could pile up like snow in a blizzard. The good news is you likely don’t need most of the papers you’ve been saving all these years. It’s time to clear out the pile!

Each of your files will likely fall into one of three categories.

The important paperwork includes personally identifying info and sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards for each child. Of course, you’ll need to save the original copies of these documents in a safe place.

On the other end of the spectrum are saved files that serve no purpose now, such as electricity bills from 1995 and pay stubs from your first post-college job. These can go straight into the shredder.

Finally, you’ll have documents that fall somewhere in between these two categories, such as medical records, tax returns and your children’s report cards. You can choose to keep some of these, or, if you’re short on space, scan each document and upload it to cloud storage.

Rethink your bedrooms

With all the kids out of the house, you can rethink the way you use your bedrooms. Have you always dreamed of a designated sewing room? How about using the space to indulge in your model train hobby? You can finally have that hobby room you’ve always wanted when the kids were growing up!

If you need to save some sleeping room for the kids when they come home to visit, you can keep a daybed in any converted bedroom for that purpose.

It’s a new stage in life, and it’s time to sift through the piles of junk that have accumulated over the years. Follow our tips for downsizing made easy!

Your Turn: What are your best downsizing tips? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
emptynestblessed.com
smartstopselfstorage.com
fidelity.com
homelight.com

Don’t Get Caught in an Auto Warranty Scam

Another phone call, another scam.

It can sometimes feel like scammers have some kind of competition going to see who can hit you with the most robocalls in a day. In fact, according to Truecaller, scams and robocalls account for 67% of all phone calls in the U.S. Each American will receive an average of 28 of these calls a month. More than just an annoyance, scam calls cost 56 million Americans a financial loss in 2020.

One of the most common scams pulled off over the phone is the auto warranty scam. Here’s all you need to know about this scam and how to protect yourself from falling victim:

How the scam plays out

In this ruse, scammers posing as representatives of a car dealer or manufacturer will call to tell you that your auto warranty is about to expire. The scammer will then segue into a pitch for renewing your warranty. During the call, you may be prompted to press a number to stay on the line, and then are asked to provide personal information to continue the process of renewing  your warranty. If you follow instructions, you will be playing right into a scam.

How to spot a scam

It is possible for legitimate auto warranty companies to call you about purchasing or renewing a warranty. Look out for these red flags to help you pick out the authentic calls from the scams:

  • Hello, it’s Mr. Robot calling. When it’s a robocall on the line, you’re almost certainly talking to a scammer. A legitimate company will hire a live salesperson to promote their services.
  • Feel the pressure? Scammers notoriously lead victims to act without thinking by claiming their offer is available for a limited time. If a caller pressures you to act now, you’re likely talking to a scammer.
  • Just a small fee … Is the caller demanding a small processing fee, or a down payment on the plan before supplying you with real details and information on it? If yes, you’re being scammed.
  • You’ve got mail! Scammers aren’t content with playing games over the phone; they’ll often send bogus documents in the mail, too. These can be disguised to look like genuine alerts from the DMV or auto manufacturer, prompting you to act now because your auto warranty is expiring. Of course, when you call the number on the letter, you won’t be connected to the DMV or auto manufacturer, but to a full-blown scamming operation.

Protect yourself

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from auto warranty scams and similar ruses:

  • Never share your personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card information or checking account details, with an unverified caller.
  • It’s also a good idea to screen all incoming calls by checking the Caller ID before answering the phone. Legitimate telemarketers are required to display their phone number and the name/or phone number of the company they represent. If this information is missing, it’s likely a scam.
  • It’s important to note that scammers often spoof authentic phone numbers to make it appear as if they are calling from a legitimate company. If you suspect spoofing, you can always ignore a call, and then call the number of the company that allegedly reached out to you, to ask about the contents of the call. If the call was indeed spoofed, the company will not be aware that the call was made.
  • If those robocalls are not letting up, consider blocking the number on your phone. You may have to do this several times, as scammers often use more than one phone number to carry out a scam.

Alert the authorities

If you are targeted by a suspected scammer, you can alert the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the FCC complaint center . These calls likely violate telemarketing and robocall regulations, and by alerting the FCC, you can help them identify the scammers.

If the call you received involved fraud, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.

Robocalls are incredibly annoying, but getting scammed is more than just an irritating experience. Follow our tips to protect yourself from auto warranty scams and similar ruses.

Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by an auto warranty scam? Share your experience in the comments.

Learn More:
fcc.gov
thebalance.com
cylanda.com