4 things to look for to get the best life insurance

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:55 AM

One key factor in buying a life insurance policy is to shop around because companies can vary widely.
One key factor in buying a life insurance policy is to shop around because companies can vary widely.

If no one at all depends on you financially, you are free to forget all about life insurance. But everyone else should set aside the cultural distaste for talking about death and work toward finding an individual life insurance policy plan to provide for dependents after you're gone.

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According to Forbes contributor and wealth advisor Tim Maurer, those depending on a replacement for your income might include a spouse and kids, sure, but also an ex-spouse, life partner, sibling, employee, employer or business partner.

"You don't have to become an expert before you buy life insurance, but it's important to be an informed consumer and know your options," noted the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation.

Within those options, which all fall loosely into the categories of either term or whole life insurance, here are four things to look for before settling on the best life insurance.

A policy that offers enough coverage: A few numbers to consider are the amount it will take to cover such expenses as your mortgage, personal or car loans, property taxes and so forth, recommended DFR. You may also want to include enough life insurance payout to cover your final expenses, and, if you're a parent, some of your children's future college tuition and other expenses. 

But don't assume that life insurance will have to cover those expenses in their entirety, DFR added. It recommended also listing all the income sources and assets your family would have if you were gone starting tomorrow and using that to offset the total insurance benefit they would require. Also add the face value of any group life insurance you already qualify for. "Do not forget to include the ability of other members of your family to earn a living," DFR noted. 

A policy you can afford: While you want enough life insurance, buying a policy you cannot afford is counterproductive since you're likely to lose it when you can't pay the premiums, noted DFR.

If you're straining to purchase enough insurance to give your dependents the financial support they would need if you died, term life insurance is for you, according to Kiplinger, which added, "Dollar for dollar, term gives you the most protection for your money. Period."

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A company that will be around a long time: You want to be sure the company you purchase from will be around long enough to protect your loved ones after you die, DFR noted. Obtain information about a company's financial strength from your insurance agent or a commercial rating service that evaluates insurance companies' financial strength and ability to pay claims, like Moody's Investor Service.

A carrier who charges the least for your health issues and habits: Before you shop for individual life insurance, recognize that rates are based on life expectancy. There are some factors you can't do much about: young people get better rates, for example, and so do women, because they statistically have longer life expectancies. But with other individual risk profiles, different companies are more lenient with certain factors, according to Kiplinger. It advised consumers to shop around for the companies with the best requirements in these areas:
  • Weight: Since obesity can cause or be related to other severe health conditions, insurers will consider your weight, Kiplinger noted. But the designated weight ranges for the best life insurance rates vary by company, so use an online quote site like AccuQuote or Insure.com to see who is most lenient if you have weight issues. Women should seek companies that use unisex weight tables, which ordinarily allow more weight for top rates.
  • Family history: All life insurance providers will determine whether your close relatives have died or been diagnosed with life threatening and chronic illnesses. But according to Kiplinger, an online quote site should divulge insurers with more lenient standards in this area.
  • Travel plans. People planning travel to risky parts of the world ordinarily have to pay a higher premium for life insurance. But comparison shopping pays off here, too, since rules on overseas travel vary from company to company. 
  • Credit history: Some life insurance providers will put your credit history into play. If you have concerns, like a bankruptcy in the past five years, find a broker or online quote service to tell you which insurers don't use this factor in setting rates.

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Top tips for selling your old stuff on eBay (and actually making cash)

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 2:52 PM

Here are some tips from experts Only sell valuable stuff Understand the fees Avoid the scams Optimize your title Take great photos Don't try to profit from shipping charges

Too much clutter, too little money, too many gifts you didn't like... an eBay auction is one of the simplest solutions to all three issues.

If your trash might be someone else's treasure, an eBay business is simple to start and accessible to just about anyone. "It has low start-up costs and it can be started out of your home," noted the New Life Auctions blog, written by sellers who have been active since 2000. "You can work at your own pace and on your own time."

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Within that flexible framework, though, are certain strategies for making far more money and clearing out a lot more junk as an eBay seller.

 

»Here are 10 tips from NLA and other experts: 

Only sell valuable stuff

Yes, you're trying to profit by selling stuff you don't want, but you want to make sure there are some potential buyers who will disagree with you. Start by perusing eBay's own list of what's selling well.

Understand the fees

While it's easy to enter the world of eBay sellers, sales involve fees and you'd do well to balance them against earnings, according to NLA, which offers an eBay fee calculator that allows you to compare which listing formats and categories have the lowest fees, and how much each listing upgrade will deduct from your bottom line.

Avoid the scams

You might be surprised to learn that plenty of the scams that surround eBay sales affect sellers. "Many of the scams take advantage of sellers not knowing all the rules for safe trading on eBay," NLA said. "It is very important for a seller to completely understand PayPal's seller protection program." One scam involves a buyer using PayPal, waiting for the item to be delivered and then opening a dispute with PayPal if you didn't check "delivery confirmation."

If you don't use PayPal's "signature confirmation" option to sell higher-priced goods on eBay, a scammer might open a dispute with PayPal claiming the item wasn't received. "Unable to show proof of delivery, PayPal takes the funds out of the seller's account and returns it to the scammer," NLA noted. The blog outlines other potential scams and ways to avoid them, including credit card chargeback, fake money order and "you have been chosen to sell our products" scams.

Optimize your title

Your title, not the item description, drives search results. Include critical keywords, using a search of keywords for similar completed listings to guide you. Try to include the same keywords as the listings that sold for the highest price. Avoid words like "look" or "incredible" in your title, advised NLA, since no one uses those words to search. If you have a few words leftover in your title, consider adding a common misspelling of the primary keyword to catch the eye both of bad spellers and bargain hunters who search using commonly misspelled listings

Emma Drew, who blogs about money on EmmaDrew.info, said you should include terms you would use when searching for something on eBay. (Be sure to check out her "10 weird things that actually sold on eBay" post each month.)

Spell it right

Most people can't find listings with the primary keyword spelled wrong. That means fewer bidders. 

Take great photos

A picture may not be worth the proverbial thousand words on eBay, but it's pretty close. eBay itself recommends these tactics in its section on taking great pictures:

  • Use a plain, uncluttered backdrop to draw attention to your item.
  • Turn off the flash, instead using diffused lighting to prevent shadows and reflections.
  • Use a tripod to prevent softness and blur.
  • Fill the frame with the item.
  • Capture all angles, details and blemishes.
  • Show the scale.
  • Don't use props.
  • For fashion items, use a model, dress form or mannequin so buyers can see fit.
  • Shoot shoes from different angles so buyers can see the front, top, sides and bottom.

List on Thursday nights

It is common knowledge that eBay auctions ending on Sunday evening are the most profitable and popular, noted Drew, and listing for 10 days on a Thursday gives you two Sunday nights. 

Allow international buyers

"Every bid counts, even if it comes from the other side of the world," according to NLA. "Odds are they won't win the auction, so why not let them bid?" If an international buyer does win your auction, you are able to charge a separate handling fee to compensate for your time filling out the customs form. You'll also want to make it a policy to insure all international packages.

Don't try to profit from shipping charges

If your shipping rates are unreasonable, most buyers will be on to you in a flash, according to NLA. "People know that they are being ripped off and they will leave your auction and not return. Charge a reasonable handling fee." 

Resist the urge to end an auction early

If someone e-mails you with an offer that requires you to end your auction early, don't take it, NLA urged. Even the best early offers are usually just a fraction of what your item is really worth.

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6 common first-time homebuyer mistakes that could cost you big time

Published: Friday, December 29, 2017 @ 9:42 AM

Be sure to avoid these 6 common mistakes that first-time home buyers often make Not getting a professional inspection Not putting a pause button on purchases Not keeping up with correspondence Not understanding the hidden costs of buying a home Not working with a buyer's agent Not looking into loan assistance programs

Buying a home can be a daunting task − whether it is your first or fifth time heading to the closing table. 

For most of us, it will be the largest investment of our lives. However, there are factors predicted for the upcoming year that will make purchasing a home even more stressful. 

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According to Redfin's 2018 projections, inventory will remain low, especially for smaller starter-homes. Additionally, thirty-year mortgage rates are expected to rise between 4.3 and 4.5 percent. Changes to the capital gains tax may also persuade many current homeowners not to sell, putting even more strain on the inventory list. However, there are still deals to be found and your dream home may very well still be out there waiting on you. 

When you find it, be sure to avoid these 6 common mistakes that first-time homebuyers often make:

Not getting a professional inspection

The idea of paying for a home inspection for a property that you might not even buy seems like a silly concept to some, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. The median cost of a home inspection is $350-$600 for an average or larger sized house, according to HomeInspector.org. Compared to potential issues with the foundation, electrical system or plumbing, however, it's a small price to pay.

Not putting a pause button on purchases

Buying your first house can be an exciting process and many new buyers get the urge to buy furniture and other home essentials before their closing date. While it's understandable to want to get a head start, it is very important that you not do this. According to Kayla Sweeny, a mortgage loan originator with Southeast Mortgage, a very common mistake is "buying things on credit during the mortgage process. The credit report has to be updated to add the new debt. Debt-to-Income ratios have to be recalculated and the file has to be reviewed again. This could potentially kill a deal."

Not keeping up with correspondence

Sweeny also noted that many first time buyers fail to check their mail, e-mail or messages regularly. "There could be critical loan documentation that a mortgage loan originator or processor has sent the borrower. The entire process is time sensitive. A sense of urgency is a must." This also applies to correspondence from your real estate agent, appraiser and inspector.

(For the AJC)

Not understanding the hidden costs of buying a home

Everyone knows that you'll likely require a mortgage to purchase a home. Unfortunately, many people fail to factor in the other costs associated with purchase - appraisals, earnest money, inspection costs, taxes, HOA dues, utilities and so on. Rafael Castellanos, president of Expert Title Insurance, told Bankrate.com, "They have an idea of what their mortgage payment is going to be, but they don't realize there's much more to it."

Not working with a buyer's agent

Some first-time buyers believe that they don't need or can't afford a buyer's agent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Home purchasing contracts can be long and confusing, filled with legalese that often baffle the layman. Eddie Hudson, owner of The Smyrna Team at Keller Williams, explains that "this means you have no representation, and working with a buyer's agent is free of charge as the seller is paying the commission."

Not looking into loan assistance programs

There are lots of loan programs out there for first-time buyers, from federal down to local levels. Many people don't know to look for them, though. Veterans should absolutely look at the VA program, while everyone else should look at the HUD website to see if any loan or grant programs apply to them. Some municipalities have programs to develop certain areas. The assistance offered can range from help with down payments and closing costs to discounted properties in certain areas.

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Aldi, Kroger recalls some apples due to possible listeria contamination

Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 3:50 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 21, 2017 @ 4:43 PM

Possible Listeria Contamination Forces Apple Recall at Aldi

Low-cost grocery store chain Aldi and supermarket Kroger have issued voluntary recalls of some of its apples.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which posts voluntary recalls, Jack Brown Produce, Inc., based in Sparta, Michigan, is recalling Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples because of listeria concerns.

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“In cooperation with Jack Brown Produce Inc., and out of an abundance of caution, Aldi has voluntarily recalled an assortment of apples that were available for purchase in stores starting  on December 13, 2017, due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination,” Aldi said in a news release Tuesday.

The recall came after one of Jack Brown Produce’s suppliers, Nyblad Orchards Inc., notified the businesses of the affected products.

The affected products were sold at some Aldi stores in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and North Carolina. 

“To date, no illnesses related to these products have been reported. No other Aldi products are affected by this,” the company said.

Kroger said it recalled lunchbox-size Fuji and Galas sold between Dec. 12 and Tuesday, according to USA Today.

The products affected are sold under the brand name “Apple Ridge” and are as follows: 

  • Honeycrisp apples in 2-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious apples in 3-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Fuji and Gala apples in 5-pound red-netted mesh bags; and
  • Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples that were tray-packed/individually sold.

Products that may be affected can be identified by the following lot numbers printed on the bag label or the bag-closure clip:

Fuji: NOI 163, 165, 167, 169, 174

Honeycrisp: NOI 159, 160, 173 Golden Delicious: NOI 168 
Gala: NOI 164, 166 on either the product labels and/or bag-closure clip

Affected customers should immediately discard the products or return them to a local store for a full refund. Customers with questions can callJack Brown Produce Inc. at 616-887-9568, Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

How to avoid FedEx, UPS, USPS email scams targeting some customers

Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 12:43 PM

A FedEx worker closes the roll up door of a delivery truck.  FedEx, U.S. Postal Service and UPS each have ways customers can report and avoid email scams.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Getty Images
A FedEx worker closes the roll up door of a delivery truck. FedEx, U.S. Postal Service and UPS each have ways customers can report and avoid email scams.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Getty Images)

An email scam affecting FedEx, UPS and U.S. Postal Service customers is taking advantage of an increase in package shipments during the holiday season.

KMOV reported that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning consumers about a fraudulent email scam.

The emails claim to be from one of the three organizations and say that a package cannot be delivered. The messages contain a link that users are prompted to click in order to get an invoice to pick up the package, but the link is spoofed and goes to a website set up to steal the user’s information, according to FBI officials.

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According to the FedEx Customer Protection Center, customers who get fraudulent emails or who come across suspicious websites should forward them to abuse@fedex.com. It also recommends immediately contacting your bank if interaction with fraudulent sites or emails have led of financial loss.

More information on how to report fraud to the company can be found on the FedEx website.

A sample fraudulent email from FedEx. FedEx, UPS and US Postal Service email scams are popping up for some customers.(FedEx)

USPS customers can report a phishing attempt by not clicking on any links and forwarding the message to the CyberSecurity Operations Center at CyberSafe@usps.gov. The suspicious message should be deleted right after.

Suspicious emails purporting to be from UPS should be deleted, according to the UPS website. Customers should not follow any links or click any attachments.

“If you’ve accidentally selected a link, you should run a virus scan immediately,” the site said.