Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ten Government Programs You Should Know About

One of the functions of government is to address citizens’ needs that are not being met by the private, for-profit sector. Nowhere is this more evident than the insurance industry. Insurers as a whole do a pretty good job of meeting the needs of most people with car, home, life, disability, health, and long-term-care insurance. But insurers seeking and entitled to a small profit don’t have the means to provide insurance to people who either can’t afford insurance or who can’t qualify.

The FDIC: Insurance on

Your Bank Deposits
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protects against loss of deposits in any FDIC-insured bank or savings association — in other words, if you have money in a bank and that bank goes under, you’re protected.

The insurance covers both regular and IRA funds in checking, savings, CDs
and money-market accounts. The FDIC does not cover other financial products (like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or insurance annuities). The FDIC insures accounts up to $250,000 per owner; $500,000 for joint accounts.

Ten Ways to Save Big Bucks on Car Insurance

Because car accidents happen so frequently and cost so much — both in injuries and property damage — the cost of car insurance is often one of the biggest insurance items in your budget. In this chapter, I offer ten tips to help keep those costs to a minimum without sacrificing coverage

1. Take the Bus or Ride Your Bike to Work

If you drive more than 3 miles to work right now, you’ll probably save 20 percent off your car insurance bill if you quit commuting to and from work. If taking the bus or riding a bike aren’t practical where you live, consider carpooling. Many insurance companies offer good discounts on car insurance if you carpool.
If you’re the driver of the carpool, be careful. It’s okay for your passengers to chip in on your gasoline and other expenses, but don’t charge for the ride or your car insurance may be null and void.

When is a Good Time to Buy a Home?

Have you ever heard a real estate agent say that it’s a bad time to buy? I haven’t. It’s either ‘‘The market’s hot, buy now before prices go up even further,’’ or ‘‘It’s a buyer’s market right now, make an offer while the deals are good.’’ Come on, agents need to make money, too, right? A good time to buy is when you, and only you, decide that it’s right.

When I moved from San Diego, California to Austin, Texas, I knew I wanted to live in Austin, but I really had no idea about where to live within the area. Austin’s a great town with a lot going on, but I knew nothing about the area’s traffic, schools, or where the best dry cleaners were. I know that there are plenty of tools out there to help make decisions and there are many relocation experts that can help.

But I picked out a house to rent for about a year instead of buying. I wasn’t ready to buy. Why? While I knew Austin, I didn’t know Austin.

I couldn’t have known certain things without living there. I also knew that if I bought in Austin, I would most likely soon be moving out of that house to the area where I determined I really wanted to live.

How Should I Search for a House?

That’s easy. Start doing some research on your own on the Internet, even before contacting a real estate agent. If the Internet was invented for any particular industry it has to have been for real estate.

Before the World Wide Web was born, one could typically locate houses only in the newspaper on the weekend. If you saw a house that you liked, you’d contact the agent selling the home. Then came the endless cycle of driving around in a real estate agent’s car looking at houses until—finally, finally—you found a home you wanted to buy.

The Internet has helped agents become more productive by letting consumers do a little shopping first before they get serious enough to use an agent. An agent who advertises a house is called the ‘‘listing’’ agent, because he puts the house for sale on the multiple listing service, or MLS.

The agent will show you the home and ask if you are using another agent. If you aren’t, the agent will ask if you would like to see other homes for sale. You of course say ‘‘yes,’’ and the agent then becomes a ‘‘buyer’s’’ agent as well, helping you find a home to buy and not just listing a house for sale. You give your agent your requirements for your dream home, such as four bedrooms on a culde- sac with a swimming pool. Your agent would then scour the MLS to search for such homes. After the search, you’d both get in the agent’s car and go see the homes.

How do I Know if it's Better to Buy a Home or Continue Renting?

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to determine if it’s better to buy or rent is to sit down and calculate the financial advantages of owning versus renting. This is commonly done online with a ‘‘rent versus buy’’ calculator found on the Web.

These calculators compare your current or probable rent situation with a projected home ownership number. They’re easy to find. I ran a Google search for the term ‘‘mortgage and calculator’’ and retrieved 6,100,000 websites that had those two terms in combination.

But the kicker is that these calculators rarely will tell you, ‘‘No, it’s not a good idea to buy.’’ That’s because of the tax benefits of home ownership. The interest and property taxes associated with a mortgage are generally tax deductible. You can deduct them from your gross income when you file your taxes. With rent, you can’t.

Yeah, I know. When you’re a renter you don’t pay property taxes or mortgage payments. Instead you give money to someone else for the privilege of living there. But you can’t write off your rent. It’s just that. Rent.

The Difference Between Buying and Renting

One way you own the roof over your head, and the other way, you don’t. If you’ve always rented or otherwise never owned a home, one of the things you’ll discover is that when things go wrong with your house there’s no landlord to yell at.

There’s no superintendent to come fix your leaky faucet. If your hot-water heater is busted, you’re the one who has to make the trip to your appliance store to shell out another thousand bucks or so just so you can take a hot shower in the morning.

When you rent, you can pretty much walk away as long as your lease agreement has been fulfilled. Want a change of scenery? Pack up and move across town. Want a swimming pool and fitness center without the hassles of owning either? Rent.