$5 to access your own money? ATM fees jump to record high

October 4, 2017

Young woman taking money from ATMPaying to access your own money is one of the most frustrating things about using ATMs. And the cost keeps rising.

The average total cost for using an out-of-network ATM hit a record $4.69 per transaction, according to a new Bankrate.com survey.

That’s up 2.6% from a year ago and is 55% higher than 10 years ago.

And the fees are likely to continue to rise, Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride said.

“People are smarter about their money, and they are using less cash and making fewer ATM withdrawals,” McBride said.

As fewer people use them banks are having to charge more. But the fees are avoidable and the cost of ATM networks are being borne by non-customers, he said.

In addition to ATM fees, consumers are also facing a rise in overdraft fees.

The average overdraft fee rose to a new high of $33.38 this year after seeing a slight dip in 2016.

Consumers in Philadelphia are hit with the highest average overdraft fee of $35.30 among the top 25 metro areas.

What can consumers do about fees?

Fees are easily avoidable if you are proactive, McBride said. Plan ahead as to where and when you make your withdrawal.

And technology is making it easier than ever.

“Knowing where you can make free ATM withdrawals and monitoring your available balance to avoid overdrafts are as close as your smartphone,” McBride said.

He also advises signing up for email and text alerts that let you know when your balance gets below a certain level. That can help you from withdrawing more than you have in your account.

Personal finance web site Credit.com offers these five tips to avoid ATM fees:

  1. Use your phone to find an ATM in your bank’s network
  2. Get cash back without paying a fee when using your debit card at stores
  3. Prepare ahead and make a habit of carrying some cash
  4. Find a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees
  5. Know what’s in your wallet: Use debit or credit cards

 

Free ATM Locations >> 

 

Source: USA Today

5 Signs That it’s Time to Sell Your Car

October 3, 2017

young man with broken down car calling for helpMany people avoid the thoughts that want them to sell their cars, just because they tend to hold an emotional sentiment.

Your cars are very dear to you since you have created lots of memories in them.

Cars come under the category of our greatest assets, the one whose value decreases with time.

Sometimes you’re driving your ride with a smile on your face thinking it is perfect but those around you see it as a deathtrap. You need to be smart enough to know when it is the perfect time to sell it.

We have five signs here for you that tell it’s time to sell your car:

  1. Repair Costs More Than the Car Itself

You still remember the time when you got your brand new car, and there was nothing that required fixing? Well now you are spending money on it every month, and they are increasing.

This problem starts with minor things such as getting your car speakers fixed, but after about six months you’re getting your brakes and much more problematic issues fixed. So when the repaid starts costing more than the car itself, it’s time to say your goodbyes.

  1. It No Longer Meets Your Needs

Your life must be changing when you’re married to the love of your life expecting a new born, then driving them around in an old deathtrap would not be such a good idea. If you own a two seater car, and you need more space, then you may look for a new car, preferably an SUV or a minivan.

  1. Parts are Hard to Find

Your car is aging by year, and that just makes the parts hard to find and expensive if you order them from some place far away. Sometimes the parts can be hard to find if you’re driving something that wasn’t appreciated by the majority, and you’re the only one driving that vehicle, so the parts also get more expensive.

  1. You Don’t Trust it Anymore

If you start losing your confidence, then it’s time to get a new one. You may find yourself praying before you start it just so the battery would cooperate. You can’t take it out on a raining or snowy day because you know it will simply become a challenge to drive it. Apart from that you just don’t feel comfortable driving your loved ones or friends in it because you fear their safety.

  1. You Just Want a New Car

Listen to your heart; if you’re bored with your car, you may get a new one because at the end it all depends on you. Maybe you don’t connect with these other 4 points and have a feeling that it’s time for something new. This wouldn’t exactly be a substantial reason to sell your car, but it is a sign. You might be in this old car for so long that you’re just craving the smell of a brand new car.

 

Source: MoneyMiniBlog

20 Tips to Help You Get Rid of Junk

September 26, 2017

Senior couple carrying boxes to front door of houseHelping a parent downsize for a move can be complicated. Where you see a houseful of stuff to sort and toss, your parent is apt to see treasures, essentials, and a lifetime of memories.

“To let go of what we have around us is to confront a very different living situation,” says senior-relocation industry leader Nan Hayes of Hinsdale, Illinois, founder of MoveSeniors.com. “People tend to cling to their possessions to avoid dealing with other issues, like stress or fear.”

For adults over 60, only a spouse’s death and divorce rank as more stressful than moving to a nursing or retirement home, according to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, aka the Stress Scale.

Here, 20 expert-tested ideas to avoid the “junk wars” and make downsizing less stressful — for all of you.

Downsizing tips: How to sort

  1. Avoid tackling the whole house in one go.

Though it’s more efficient for you to plow full steam ahead, your parent is apt to be stressed emotionally, if not also physically. When organizing a parent’s move, it’s better to think in terms of months, not days.

Tackle one room or area at a time. About two hours at a stretch is ideal for many older adults, says Margit Novack, president of MovingSolutions in Philadelphia and founding president of the National Association of Senior Move Managers.

  1. Frame decisions as yes-no questions.

Open-ended choices put a reluctant mover on the spot, raising stress. Avoid asking, “Which pots and pans do you want to keep?” Winnow them down yourself first, then present a more manageable yes-no option: “I’ve got your best frying pan, a large pot, and a small sauce pot. Does that sound good?”

“Couching questions for yes-no answers provides the opportunity for the parent to feel successful so you can move on to the next thing,” Novack says.

Items that exist in abundance work especially well to presort: clothing, kitchenware, tools, and anything else you know the person has way more of than he or she will have space for.

  1. Use the new space as a guide.

Measure exactly how much closet or cabinet space the new place has and fill an equivalent amount of space as you sort. Mark off the comparable space so your parent has a visual guide.

Beware of excessive multiples. In assisted living, your parent only needs one frying pan, one or two sets of sheets, one coffeemaker, one or two coats, and so on.

  1. Banish the “maybe” pile.

Relocation experts call it the OHIO rule: Only handle it once. The less decisive you are about what to do with an item, the more attached you (or your parent) risk becoming to it, Hayes says. Moving things in and out of “maybe” piles is also takes time.

Tempting as it is to set aside tough sorts for later, unless there’s room to “hold” them at a relative’s house, it’s not generally worth paying storage-rental fees (unless it’s a very large estate and time is tight). That’s because once they’re boxed, your parent isn’t likely to look at the items ever again. (Out of sight, out of mind.)

Exception: Save time by boxing piles of paperwork, which doesn’t take much room. Papers are time-consuming to go through and present an unpleasant task for many disorganized people, casting a pall on your packing.

  1. Encourage your parent to focus on most-used items (and let the rest go).

Be patient and follow your parent’s lead — what seems old and useless to you may be a source of great comfort and joy and therefore worth moving. “Don’t go by the newest and best; go by what they use,” Novack says. “You may think Mom should pack her pretty cut-glass tumblers for assisted living, but the reality is that those ugly stained plastic ones are what she uses every day.”

When facing especially hard choices, ask for the story behind a dubious object — where it came from, when it was last used, whether a young family might put it to good use. This takes time, but the payoff is that once your parent starts talking, he or she may have a clearer perspective and feel more able to let go, Novack says.

Downsizing tips: How to cope with treasures

  1. Pack representative bits of favored items (not the whole kit and kaboodle).

Photos, memorabilia, and collections typically take up far more space than the average assisted-living quarters can accommodate. Many services digitize images and papers for you for reasonable prices — sell the idea to your parent that every family member will get a copy, too.

Pick key prints to display on the walls; large tabletop displays take up too much precious space.

  1. Cull a collection by asking, “Which is your favorite piece?”

Assure that one or two “best” items can have a highlighted location in the new home. “People sometimes feel OK about giving up the rest if they have a sense of control over the process,” Novack says.

  1. Take photos of the rest of a collection and present them in a special book.

No, it’s not exactly the same as owning, but it’s a space-saving way for a collector to continue enjoying.

  1. If it’s meant to be a gift or legacy, encourage giving it now.

Urge your parent not to wait for the next holiday, birthday, or other milestone to bestow; remind him that there’s no space for storage. Ask, “Why not enjoy the feeling of giving right now?” (And if you’re the recipient — just take it, and encourage your relatives to do the same. You can lose it later, if you don’t want it, but the immediate need is to empty your parent’s house.)

Downsizing tips: How to sell

  1. Think twice before selling items on your own.

Craigslist, eBay, and other self-selling options are time-consuming when you’re trying to process a houseful of goods. Be realistic: “The value of an item isn’t what you paid for it or how well made or special it is — it’s what someone is willing to pay for it,” warns Novack.

  1. If there are several items of high value, consider an appraisal.

Go through the entire house; the appraiser will only come out once and is more interested in relatively large lots. Auction houses, whose goal is to sell items at the best price, are better options than antique dealers, whose goal is to get items for the lowest price, Novack says. Consignment shops will also sell items, but they tend to cherry-pick (they take fewer items) and often charge to pick items up.

Downsizing tips: How to donate

  1. Understand how charities work.

The main donation outlets include Goodwill, the Salvation Army, AmVets, and Purple Heart. Depending on your area, popular alternatives may include other charities or a local hospital or PTA thrift shop. Senior living communities and moving companies often furnish lists of area charities that accept donations, says Nan Hayes of MoveSeniors.com.

These charities work by selling castoffs; they don’t want (and often won’t take) dregs that are better left to the trash. Some take only furniture; some won’t take clothing. Larger charities tend to accept a wider variety of items. Get a receipt for a tax deduction.

Clarify whether they offer free pickup (a huge time-saver). Some charities will remove items from the ground floor only.

  1. Target recipients for specialty items.

It’s time-consuming to find willing recipients for everything, but it may be worth the effort for items that your parent would be relieved to see in a good home. Examples: Schools may welcome musical instruments, old costumes, or tools. Auto repair shops and community maintenance departments may take tools and yard tools.

  1. Try the “free books” tactic.

In some communities, setting items on the curb with a sign that says “Free! Help yourself!” will make items miraculously disappear. This works great for books, Novack says, and sometimes other items. (Libraries don’t normally take books; some charities or schools may, but finding a willing recipient and transporting the books — or any other items donated piecemeal ““ takes time.)

In some areas, freecyling is an option. You post an item available for pickup to a membership list, and anyone who wants it can come pick it up from you (or from your curb). More than 5,000 groups make up the Freecycle Network. Like selling items on Craigslist, however, the communications involved can be time-consuming and tedious if your goal is fast disposal of a large number of objects.

Downsizing tips: What to discard

  1. If it’s chipped, broken, or stained, toss it.

Charities don’t want nonworking Christmas lights, snagged clothes, lidless plastic Tupperware, or any items that they can’t sell. Period.

  1. Weigh your loyalty to recycling against your available time.

Avoiding waste is noble, but finding a home for every object can be incredibly time-consuming. “If you recycle the other 364 days of the year, tossing a few things in the interests of time is fine. You have to be pragmatic,” Novack says.

  1. Don’t be shy about tossing replaceable items without consultation.

Not worth moving, donating, or even conferring about: old spices, junk mail, old magazines (yes, even all those yellow-spined National Geographic issues), outdated medications, unused toiletries, plastic food containers, candles, stuffed toys (most charities won’t accept them), and the contents of the junk drawer (just hang onto change and spare keys). Get rid of it when the homeowner isn’t looking.

  1. For a price, you don’t have to haul it away yourself.

The local garbage company may have limits on how many large black trash bags it will take, and not all local dumps take unsorted trash, either.

Waste Management’s Bagster is a smaller-scale alternative to a Dumpster, and it doesn’t harm your driveway. Buy one of its large bags at a home-improvement retailer (about $30, depending on pickup location), fill with up to 3,300 pounds of trash, and call to schedule a pickup.

Services like 1-800-Got-Junk and 1-800-Junk-USA (which recently merged with the industry’s other biggie, College Hunks Hauling Junk) remove appliances and furniture as well as smaller items.

Smaller local junk dealers may haul things away for free if they see, on appraisal, items that they’ll be able to sell.

Downsizing tips: Get help

  1. Consider bringing in the pros.

A fast-growing specialty, senior move managers specialize in helping older adults and are skilled at both the emotional and practical dimensions of late-life transitions. (The ten-year-old National Association of Professional Move Managers has more than 600 move-management company members.) These experts can defuse a parent-child emotional clash while handling everything from sorting and packing through hiring movers and unpacking in the new place. They usually charge an hourly fee that varies by locale.

  1. Investigate one-stop solutions if time is tight.

Deciding whether to sell, donate, give away, or throw away is stressful and takes a lot of time. Another way to outsource the tasks is to hold an estate sale. Caring Transitions is a chain of senior-relocation franchises that handle estate sales.

 

Source: Caring.com

The Best Time to Start Saving for Your Child’s College Education

September 19, 2017

Thinking AheadImagine dropping your kid off at college for the first time. It’s bound to be an emotional day for everyone—just ask any parent who has already done it.

Now imagine that same day, and add worrying about whether you can afford all the costs that come with higher education.

According to the College Board, in the 2015-16 school year, the average cost for tuition and fees at a public four-year college for an in-state student was $9,410. Room and board requires another $10,138. That makes your grand total $19,548 for just one year of college. For an out-of-state student, the cost goes up to $34,031. And that’s not even including books, electronic devices and all the extras young adults are bound to want.

Plus, consider that college costs have marched steadily higher over the past few decades. Back in 1985-86, tuition and fees at a public four-year college for an in-state student was just $2,918. In 1995-96, it was $4,399. And in 2005-06, it popped up to $6,708. So, barring any major disruption to this upward trend, you can expect your little one’s education to cost substantially more than the already high current averages.

Your imagined college drop-off day just got a lot more stressful, didn’t it?

You might be tempted to deal with this problem by putting it off, as so many of us constantly do with so many other things in life. After all, you have until Junior’s junior year of high school to worry about all this college stuff, right?

Wrong.

The longer you put off planning for college, the bigger a challenge it becomes. The smarter move is to start thinking about it all as soon as possible. The more time you give yourself to save for education, the better off you and your child will be.

Consider this: Let’s say you get a total of $5,000 in cash gifts at your baby shower. If you put all of that money into a college fund that earns an average return of 8% annually over the next 18 years, you’ll wind up with $19,980 without adding even one more penny yourself. That’s enough to cover a year of state school and then some. Don’t think an 8% return is a reasonable assumption? Even at 6% a year, your total comes to $14,272. Not chump change.

If you can add to your savings over time, all the better. Even if you can only afford to contribute a small amount each month, your efforts will add up over time. Starting with that $5,000, if you put in another $100 a month and earn 8% a year, you’ll reach $66,845 by the time your kid turns 18.

Obviously, the math says that the best time for you to start saving is right now. If you wait until your child is a sophomore in high school to start saving for college, it would be far more difficult for you to accumulate that much in such a short amount of time.

Not sure where you can start saving? A good financial adviser can help you analyze your cash flow and formulate a plan to achieve your goals. That includes identifying specific areas in your budget where you can reduce expenses. You can also develop a cost-effective debt repayment strategy, which can free up plenty of cash for additional saving.

That said, one word of warning: Do not forgo saving for your own retirement in order to save for your child’s education. It might sound like a heartless piece of advice, but, in this case, you have to put your own needs before those of your child’s. Remember, your kid does have the option to borrow in order to pay for college. It might not be the most desirable option, but it is an option. You won’t find any similar deals for financing your retirement.

Besides, think of it this way: By saving enough to support yourself through retirement, you ensure that your children aren’t forced to financially care for you after you run out of money.

Bottom line: You need to have an education funding review as soon as possible to help you through this financial challenge. By working with a good financial adviser on this goal, you can customize a smart plan to fit your own unique situation and ensure that you reach your goal—providing your child with the education he or she needs to succeed in the future.

Then, when the day comes for you to send your baby off into that next stage of life, you won’t have to worry about money at all. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on all the other things you’ll need to do that day, like say goodbye.

Argent Investments & Retirement >>

 

Source: Kiplinger

An Easy Plan for a $500 Car Repair Bill

September 11, 2017

Happy customer discusses repairs with auto mechanic in repair shop.The average car repair bill costs between $500 and $600—an amount that would have many Americans reaching for their credit card.

A recent survey from AAA found that 33% of American drivers would need to go into debt to pay for a car repair. That translates to 64 million drivers without enough savings to cover a routine expense.

How can you avoid being one of them? AAA counsels putting $50 a month aside in savings for a car-care fund.

“To avoid a surprise down the road, drivers should budget for monthly payments, insurance premiums, fuel costs and the inevitable expenses of routine maintenance and repair,” says John Nielsen, AAA managing director of automotive maintenance and repair.

To avoid such a crisis, AAA makes the following suggestions:

  • When buying a new or used car, look at not only the price and the monthly payment, but also how much that car is likely to cost to own over coming years. Rankings such as Kelley Blue Book’s five year cost to own rankings can give you some reasonable estimates.
  • Stick carefully to the maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer. Today’s cars are better made and can last longer than in the past. But to get the most out of them, keep up the maintenance.
  • Find a repair shop you trust. If you are not using a dealership, a good starting point is the AAA list of 7,000 shops that meet their standards for repair work and customer satisfaction.
  • When you do have to go in for a repair, get a written estimate for the work. Try negotiating the estimate and ask if the shop gives any applicable discounts—such as for membership in AAA or AARP.

No matter how new or well-made your car, some repairs are inevitable. So avoid that anxious feeling when hearing the repair cost by knowing you have money set aside to cover it.

Route 66 Extended Warranty through Argent >> 

 

Source: Argent Financial Resource Center