News from the Reference Desk Category: Consumer

Leasing vs. Buying a New Car

Will you be needing a new car in the near future? Have you wondered what the advantages are to leasing a new car? Consumer Reports just published an article comparing and contrasting both approaches as well as a specific example that compares the financing details between buying and leasing a 2017 Honda Accord. There are pros and cons for both approaches but Consumer Reports provides all the necessary information in order to make an informed decision. The Library has a subscription to the online Consumer Reports which is linked on the Web Resources page–you will need your library card number and pin to access remotely. Please contact the Research Services Desk (847 590 4050/reference@mppl.org) on the second floor of the Library if you have any questions.

Turn Your Passion into a New Career?

It’s one of the things we all hear so much over the course of our lives–“find what you love to do and make it your career.” And while many have managed to find ways to accomplish this, for most of us it’s easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or that you shouldn’t even contemplate the possibility. The folks over at Practical Money Skills (produced by Visa, and one of the partners in this year’s Financial Literacy Summit held in April to kick off Money Smart Week) have put together a few strategies and guidelines to consider HERE if you’re someone who is looking to make a change in their life and career.

Financial Advisors and the Dept. of Labor’s New Fiduciary Rule

As of June 9, 2017, a new Fiduciary Rule put forth by the Department of Labor will go into effect, potentially changing the level of accountability for many financial advisors currently not officially considered a “fiduciary.” The new rule expands the “investment advice fiduciary” definition under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Essentially, the Department of Labor’s definition of a fiduciary demands that advisors act in the best interests of their clients, and to put their clients’ interests above their own. It leaves no room for advisors to conceal any potential conflict of interest, and states that all fees and commissions must be clearly disclosed in dollar form to clients. The definition has been expanded to include any professional making a recommendation or solicitation — and not simply giving ongoing advice. Previously, only advisors who were charging a fee for service (either hourly or as a percentage of account holdings) on retirement plans were considered fiduciaries.

Read HERE for a more detailed explanation.

Two New Databases for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

MPPL has recently added two new and exciting databases from Gale focused on resources ideal for entrepreneurs and small business owners: Business Insights: Global and Small Business Resource Center. Available as part of our Web Resources and accessible to anyone inside the library (and remotely at home for MPPL cardholders), these two powerful resources offer information and help around everything from writing a business plan, market research and industry reports to company information, funding sources and management strategies. If you’re someone working to start your own business or simply looking for ways to enhance your current one, take a moment to explore these rich and user-friendly tools!

Consumer Reports 2016 Holiday Gift Guide Is Here!

Access ConsumerReports.org free through our website with your Library card and PIN because they have just released their 2016 gift guide. Find the best gadgets for the chef in your life. Find out why you should buy an organic turkey this festive season. Discover how to be a winner on Black Friday. There are many articles, some with intriguing titles such as “Nothing Says You Care Like a Home Blood Pressure Monitor” and “Why Tires Go Flat in Winter.” Lots of interesting stuff!

Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Enrollment begins Sept 1

The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Office of Energy Assistanced has announced that the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities beginning September 1, 2016.

For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local adminstering agencies and additional information about the program, click here, or call the energy assistance toll-free hotline at 1-877-411-WARM.

 

How Long to Save Your Important Documents

storing-documents

Trying to organize your important paperwork and questioning what you need to hold onto and what you can just shred or recycle? Here’s some guidelines as to how long you should keep your documents.

What to Keep for a Limited Time
– Household furnishings paperwork
– Investment purchase confirmations
– Loan documents
– Savings bonds
– Vehicle records

What to Keep for a Year or Less
– Bank records
– Credit-card bills
– Current-year tax records
– Insurance policies
– Investment statements
– Pay stubs
– Receipts

What to Keep for Seven Years
– Federal and State tax returns and supporting documents

What to Never Toss
– Defined-benefit plan documents
– Estate-planning documents
– Life-insurance policies
– Safe-deposit box inventory

For further details see http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2010/03/conquer-the-paper-piles/index.htmhttps://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-long-should-I-keep-records

Personal Finance Apps That Really Help!

Managing one’s personal finances can be hectic and stressful. However, if you own a smartphone, there are several apps out there that can help tidy things up and take a bit of the pressure off. All six of these apps are available for both Android and iOS.

Mint
Perhaps the most widely used personal finance app, Intuit’s Mint gives you a real-time, complete look into all of your finances, from bank accounts and credit cards to student loans and 401k. It automatically tracks your spending, categorizes it, and alerts you when/if you approach your budget limit. You can even ask for custom savings tips within the app. Everything is shown in simple, intuitive graphs and charts, making it one of the most popular personal finance apps in the world.

Acorn
Acorn is an app that helps you invest your spare change in low-cost ETFs. Once you connect your checking and credit card accounts to it, Acorn automatically rounds up every purchase to the next dollar, and invests the difference in a portfolio of your choice. For example, if you spent $2.25 for coffee, it will invest $0.75 for you. Acorn says users invest $30 to $180 a month on average in “round ups” alone. But if you want, you can also invest a lump sum amount up to $30,000.

Level Money
Level Money calls itself the “mobile money meter.” Once you connect the app to your bank account, it automatically calculates your income and recurring bills, and then suggests what your daily, weekly, and monthly spending should be. It also comes up with the amount you should be saving every month and subtracts that from your monthly budget. You can set up an auto-save amount too, and any cash left unspent from your budget will rollover to your savings account. It tracks your spending in real time, so you can easily see what you’ve spent and how much you can spend within a given period.

Credit Karma
Besides offering free credit scores and reports, Credit Karma allows users to monitor their spending patterns by linking to their credit card and bank accounts. Based on that information, Credit Karma recommends better credit card or loan offers that can further improve your finances. Its offering now ranges from auto insurance to mortgages, and users are absolutely loving it. It has over 32 million users worldwide, and just last September, raised an additional $75 million, valuing the company at over $1 billion.

Goodbudget
Goodbudget is an app that brings the time-tested envelope budgeting method into your smartphone. The users can create “envelopes” for each of their budget category – think groceries, transportation, shopping, etc. – and pre-determine how much they’re going to allocate in each envelope. Once it’s all set up, users can record and track how much they’re spending from each envelope. It may not be as sophisticated as some of the other apps, but Goodbudget offers a simple way to stick to your budget and keep your spending really disciplined.

Wally
Wally is an expense tracking app that shows a complete picture of your expenditures. You can view how much you’ve spent daily, weekly, or monthly, while dividing expenses into separate categories. The best part about the app is that it allows you to simply scan your receipts and it’ll automatically input all the details of your purchase. That way, users don’t have to go through the hassle of typing in every detail of its spending, while the app saves all the receipts.

 

Read more: HERE

Talk to Your Teens About Money

It’s the time of year when many of us make decisions about our employee benefits for the coming year–“open enrollment” season. The Office of Financial Education, a part of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, offers this sound advice:

You can guide your children in finding the financial help they need

The financial world of today isn’t the same world you grew up in. New services and choices are being offered all the time. For your children to navigate the new financial world they’ll face, they need to know when to seek out information and how to evaluate it. Your children need practice making money choices, and they could use your guidance. At this age they may be earning some money of their own. Now, as you make benefits choices for next year, think about including your teenager in your decision-making process. You can help your teenager think about how to use information to make a good decision. If you have benefits fact sheets or Web sites from your employer, sit with your teenager and go through them. Talk through the questions your child has, and ask a few questions of your own:

  • What is the most important thing to think about for the family’s health care? Why?

  • Have there been any changes in the family since last year that could make a difference to health care? To insurance? To flexible spending dollars?

  • What could be the advantages or disadvantages of having benefits deducted from your paycheck, compared to paying the costs on your own?

  • How trustworthy is the information you receive? How would you look for further information?

You don’t have to do anything you wouldn’t do normally, when you make your benefits choices. Just by showing your teens how you approach enrollment, you’re helping them practice the decision-making process before their own paychecks are at stake. For more ideas, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/parents.

Insurance Enrollment Assistance

It’s the time of year when many health insurance decisions must be made. If you need assistance in determining the best options, here’s some help:

Medicare Open Enrollment:

The Medicare Open Enrollment period began on Oct. 15 and runs until Dec. 7. The Illinois Dept. on Aging offers assistance through the department’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP.) Their counselors can explain the drug, health, and supplemental plans that are available. The nearest SHIP sites are at Arlington Heights Senior Center (847/253-5532) and Wheeling Township (847/259-7730.) For additional SHIP information, call 800/252-8966 or click here .

The Village of Mount Prospect Human Services Department also offers assistance for Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) enrollment. Call 847/870-5680 to set up an appointment.

Affordable Care Act Marketplace:

The enrollment period for uninsured people to sign up for coverage through the Illinois Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015. If you want your insurance coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2015, you must enroll by Dec. 15, 2014.

The Library is offering several programs to assist those using the Illinois Marketplace. Representatives from Get Covered Illinois will present an overview program,” Affordable Care Act Update,” on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. The Library will also host two enrollment events with trained navigators from Get Covered Illinois to provide assistance in navigating the site and signing up for insurance. The enrollment events are on Dec. 13, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015,  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 847/392-8682 ext. 227. Walk-ins are also welcome.