The Basics of Home Security

Your home is more than just an investment: it’s the place your family lives and grows, and where you and your loved ones should feel your safest and most secure. So, as a homeowner, parent and responsible adult, how can you protect your home and family? How can you prevent burglaries, theft, home invasions and other dangerous scenarios?

The Fundamentals of Home Security

The basics of home security may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many break-ins occur as a result of unlocked doors or windows. In fact, more than 25% of burglaries in the United States are no-force break-ins. That said, the importance of secure locks and deadbolts cannot be understated. What’s more, it’s not enough to lock your doors when you’re away or asleep; to prevent home invasions and daytime burglaries, make sure your whole family gets into the habit of keeping doors and windows locked at all times.

Home security systems are also a safety fundamental. And, in addition to deterring crime, modern systems, like these home security systems in Florida, offer added benefits like motion detectors, smoke alarms and other hi-tech features, all designed to keep your property safe and secure. So, to protect both your home and loved ones, investing in a home system is just good common sense

Thinking Like a Criminal

In addition to basic security measures, thinking like a would-be criminal can help you ramp up the safety of your home. Use these tips to reduce your risk of being victimized:

  • Keep valuables out of sight. Step outside your home and see if any valuables are visible from the outside. Can you see electronics, works of art, etc. from the yard or porch? If so, invest in some window treatments, and stop enticing would-be burglars.
  •  Secure outdoor items. Motorcycles, tools and even children’s toys can attract burglars. Keep these items locked away, and be sure to keep your garage and outdoor storage spaces secure, as well.
  •  Know who’s in your home. Conduct thorough background checks before you hire someone to do work on your house or property. Also, after strangers have been in your home, check to make sure that all windows and possible entrances are locked and secure. Many burglars enter a home under innocent pretenses, then unlock a door or window so that they can return at a later date.
  •  Make sure your home looks occupied. If you plan on being away from home for an extended period, making your home look occupied can deter would-be criminals. Use timers for your lights, have a neighbor pick up newspapers and mail, and make sure all blinds and curtains are closed.
  •  Keep your lawn and hedges neat. Tall bushes, trees and overgrown shrubbery can serve as hiding spots for burglars and other criminals; therefore, you should keep everything neat and maintained.

Forming a Neighborhood Watch Group

Neighborhood watch groups can be extremely useful in preventing theft, burglaries, vandalism and other types of crime. If your community already has a watch group, sign up and lend a helping hand; if not, talk to your neighbors about your community’s need for added crime protection. Canvas your neighborhood, and suggest a meeting spot where residents can brainstorm ideas on keeping your area safer and more secure.

Your home and family deserve the best in safety and security. And with the tips provided here, you can protect your property and loved ones, and reduce the risks associated with burglaries, home invasions and other types of emergencies.

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How to Talk to Your Teens About Money

How do you teach teens about finances and making good choices? How do you discuss their first credit cards? How do you talk about how to get cost effective student loans?

It’s important to keep things simple to hold their interest.

Finance can be difficult. There are many topics to discuss. You can talk about the dangers of debt. You can talk about the effects of poor credit ratings. And you can talk about money management.

But one way to keep things simple is to introduce  basic ideas about money. These ideas are the rules of thumb about spending, earning, saving, and investing. Personal money management is just a commentary on these four aspects of money.

Spending

When talking to a teenager about money, you should focus on how spending works.

There is a distinct difference between three different ways of spending:

  • Spending more than you earn.
  • Spending as much as you earn.
  • Spending less than you earn.

If you spend more than you earn, you will experience debt. This can spiral out of control. Debt, in turn, leads to self-doubt. Dwindling self-confidence soon becomes helplessness. Some people spend their entire lives stuck in this cycle of insufficiency. With credit cards, it is easy to spend more than you earn. You are under the impression that borrowed money can be  paid off. Unfortunately, the amount borrowed keeps on growing. Rather than pay on the amount borrowed, you  pay off the smallest balance on a credit card. This results in your interest adding up as the balance grows. Over time, you start falling farther behind. You should share stories of people who fell into bankruptcy following this track.

If you spend as much as you earn, then you are walking a tightrope. An unexpected expense can throw the delicate balance between income and expenses off balance. Talk about how living paycheck to paycheck creates a sense of quiet desperation.

If you spend less than you earn, then you have a chance of getting ahead. You can pay off unexpected bills.  You can embrace new opportunities.

It sounds simple to spend less than you earn. It sounds simple to avoid the trap of living paycheck to paycheck. It sounds simple to avoid spending less than you earn. Yet, this is not easy. Even the government can’t figure out how to do it.

Additionally, we live in a world of constant temptation. Advertisers spend millions to persuade us to buy unessential things.

Earnings are flexible. There is no such thing as a fixed income. Earnings depend on proven ability—either through knowledge, skills, or diligence. We earn what we deserve. A lawyer will earn more than a retail store clerk for a reason. A lawyer has spent many years in law school while a clerk learns the basics of the job in a week. A lawyer will also provide a more valued social contribution.

When you bring this up, your teenager may point to exceptions. It is not always clear that income follows value. If someone is underpaid, then they have not demonstrated their value. If they have value, but are underpaid, then they have chosen to work for the wrong company.

This, leads to a new equation: increasing your value will increase your income.

You earn the value you deliver to the marketplace.

People do not get rich by accident. And, they don’t become poor because of bad luck. The law of earning and the law of causality are tied together.

Saving

If one gets good at earning, and one spends less than one earns, then there is a surplus. Save this surplus rather than spending it on big ticket items.

Savings can help in three instances:

  1. You might lose your job.
  2. You might have unexpected expenses.
  3. You might stumble upon an opportunity to invest.

Without savings, then reality has to stay exactly the same. If nothing changes, you will always have enough income. But life is about change, and most change is unpredictable.

Investing

You can invest in yourself or in an income opportunity.

You invest in yourself under the following conditions:

  1. You get more education.
  2. You increase your knowledge.
  3. You improve your skills.

These three things improve your value to the marketplace. You have increased your capacity to earn more.

Investing can also be investing in a new business or in the financial markets.

Investing is buying assets rather than liabilities. An asset puts more money into your pocket. A liability takes more money out of your pocket.

This is a simple definition, but an important one. Many salespeople try to convince you that their product is an investment. But since you have more money going out than coming in, it’s a liability.

The Basic Rules

Once your teens understand the rules of money, they will avoid making financial mistakes. They will learn to handle everything from student loans to credit cards with responsibility because they understand the rules about spending, earning, saving, and investing.

Citations:

Credit cards for teens: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/122214/find-best-credit-cards-teens.asp

Financial literacy for teens: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/03/05/financial-literacy-teen-money-education/

Student loans: http://www.simpletuition.com/student-loans/

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How to Avoid Payday Loans

Although they’ve grown in popularity over the course of the last decade, payday loans have managed to build up an extremely negative reputation. Not all payday loans share the same terms, but most have ruinous charges attached to them, high interest and strict repayment stipulations. As a result, even minimal initial borrowing can spiral to become a significant debt problem.

So why do they remain so attractive to ordinary borrowers? The answer is simple. They’re marketed well, are incredibly easy to apply for, and seem like an ideal solution for those who are only struggling short-term. Don’t be fooled, however; payday loans are unsuitable for the majority of people.

This advice is easy to give, but perhaps not so easy to heed. For those in need of money in the short-term, it creates a significant problem: a shortage of funds and no immediate remedy. Luckily, payday loans are not the only interim borrowing option available to you. Here are just a few alternatives to consider…

Overdrafts 

Most bank accounts will offer an attached overdraft facility, and these can provide a brilliant alternative to payday loans. On average, your overdraft will allow you to borrow between £500 and £5,000, with no set date on when this amount must be repaid. Although some banks will charge interest on certain accounts, this is likely to be significantly lower than payday loan options, and charges will only arise if your borrowing exceeds the set amount.  

Credit Cards 

For those that have already maxed out their overdraft, credit cards can also offer a viable solution for short-term borrowing problems. Most credit cards will allow you to borrow between £500 and £5,000 at a time, and although you’ll pay more interest than you would on an overdraft, this sum will be significantly less than if you borrowed from a payday lender. As an added boon, credit cards can be a great way to build a positive credit history, provided that you meet your repayment terms.

Specialist Short-Term Loans 

Some people, such as students, may also find that they qualify for specialist short-term loans from companies such as Smart-Pig. These alternatives allow you to borrow money quickly and easily, like payday options, yet they provide much more attractive terms, including features like grace periods, capped interest rates and ‘no rollover’ pledges.

Pawnbrokers 

Another very old but still useful borrowing option is pawnbroking. Pawnbrokers carry out very little in the way of background or credit checks, making them well suited to those with a poor credit history, but still provide quick and easy access to capital. In exchange, you’re required to hand over as an asset as surety, which is returned to you when the money you borrow has been paid back.

If you’re considering a payday loan, could one of these options be a suitable alternative for you?

 

 

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Simple Tips for Student Life

Students who successfully graduate from college hope to be able to use their degrees to provide them with the chance of a good career. It is not always easy to complete a college course and one of the obvious pressures is finance. There are student loans available but that is no reason to become complacent with money; they need to be repaid.   Youngsters often lack the experience to handle money sensibly. If it is scarce it becomes even more difficult to manage daily expenditure. Learning financial responsibility at a relatively young age and starting to create a good credit score is valuable when graduates are looking for unsecured loans in the future.  There are a few things worth considering that might help

Research Projects

There are occasions when students will be able to earn a few dollars more by asking within their college whether any of the research projects being undertaken need people to help within their testing. They are effectively the ‘guinea pigs’ that are used test theories, even scientific ideas or products. The amount of money available and the time that a student may need to set side will vary from case to case.

Brew at Home

The coffee shop may be a nice place to meet but the costs in a shop each day will certainly add up. Surely it is just as good, even better, to socialize out in the open air? Coffee from home comes much cheaper and everyone can take turns bringing it along. No student should ignore the importance of friends and socializing but likewise the reason for being at college is to study and get a good qualification and that should be the priority.

Discount

Many local businesses and entertainment venues are likely to have student discounts. There is nothing wrong in asking those that do not advertise such discounts whether they will do so. In any event it makes sense to patronize those that do.

Everyone should shop around. It should be a daily habit for a student to look at the cost of food, clothing and books. Bulk buying can save money.   When it comes to food it is important to avoid waste. If food has a limited shelf life it does not make sense to risk waste by buying in bulk.

Health and Exercise

Lots of enjoyable things are free. A host of outdoor activities are both healthy and great fun. Exercise and a healthy diet are important to life in general. The local park offers the chance for joggers to run safely. The fast food outlets that market themselves aggressively are convenient and the food is generally tasty. However those students that can cook should create their own tasty snacks and meals.

Having fun does not have to cost money. There are students who enjoy smoking and drinking. These things can be costly particularly in excess. Smoking is regarded as something that can be harmful to everyone’s health and drinking in excess is unwise. Students should be able to at least limit their spending on these two things if money is tight. In the early years of their careers it may still be tight; new home with mortgage to pay each month so it is worth learning the financial lessons early.

Everyone remembers their college days. The experience should be positive and contribute to the student becoming a rounded individual able to contribute positively to society. These days may involve a little sacrifice because money may be tight. However is it really a sacrifice being in a college environment? Sacrifice can be minimized by following a few simple tips and making them habits. There should be more comfortable financial times in the future for those that succeed. Recent graduates setting out on a career can even take advantage of current low interest rates to obtain loans. Student days when recalled should bring back a smile to every graduate no matter how successful subsequently.

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What Happens if You Call the Prize Claim Hotline on that Piece of Junk Mail?

Long before there was email, people’s physical mailboxes were inundated with junk mail. Lots of it. Whole forests likely perished supplying the paper for mailings that tempted us with offers from Publisher’s Clearing House, cheap magazines, and the Columbia Record and Tape Club. Records and tapes, for you young people, were— oh, never mind.

Today, the process has been digitized of course and with the added efficiency provided by the Internet, that pile of junk has now become an electronic mountain. One advantage though, is that you can easily choose who sends you offers and what kind, with a few mouse clicks. But the competition is fierce.

Clever marketers have realized though, that the key to reaching their target demographic is through the path of least resistance— old fashioned snail mail. Between 2007 and 2012, according to the New York Times, the amount of physical junk mail dropped by 26 percent. That’s a bummer for the U.S. Postal Service, but welcome news for mailbox owners.

The average person gets far less physical junk mail today, so the odds of standing out are much greater. When you stop and think about it, physical junk mail has a lot of advantages over the electronic kind. Not only is there less competition, but email can be much more easily blocked. The space in which marketers have to operate is much smaller with email as well, at least in the introductory phase.

Physical mail can come in any variety of shaped and sizes, with space available to for all manner of words and images. Email’s first and only impression, is often a mere subject line, usually limited to around 50 characters. That’s it.

Marketers can make a physical piece of mail all kinds of enticing. For example, the one below that informs the recipients that they have won a free Caribbean Cruise. Call the toll free number to claim the prize. Sounds pretty easy, so why not?

Well, for one it arrived pre-sorted, or what is also known as bulk mail.  That just feels sketchy. For most consumer advocates that’s the initial measuring stick. Does it look fishy (as it were for a cruise giveaway), or too good to be true? If so, discard immediately. But what if you call? Dollars and Sense decided to find out.

Thank you for calling

Again, the mailing we got a hold of stated that a Caribbean cruise on either Norwegian Cruise Lines, or Royal Caribbean International had been awarded. With round-trip airfare. Simply call to claim the prize. After waiting for several minutes, and being told repeatedly that our call was important, a representative finally came on the line. She asked for the claim number and put us back on hold for a few moments.

It turns out that the prize is being issued by a company called Endless Access (no kin to Axcess Financial, the company that owns Check ‘n Go). The representative says that Endless Access is a travel agency located in a nearby suburb called Blue Ash. However, a quick Google search returns no local office location for that company. They do have a website though.

The mailing is part of an advertising promotion, and to claim the prize you must only give 90 minutes of your time. During an hour and a half presentation they will present all the different travel services they offer. No obligation, just sit and listen. That doesn’t sound like a scam. Except it is. According to the Better Business Bureau, news reports, and some of the companies mentioned as partners in other mailings like Marriott Hotels, many consumers have complained endlessly about Endless Access.

According to a report by Alex Dunbar of CNY Central (a consortium of local TV stations in Syracuse, New York), seminar attendees are issued the vouchers. The problem is there are hundreds of dollars in fees associated with them, as well as loads of travel restrictions. It’s no wonder that they ask that you bring a credit card, and not a state-issued ID or driver’s license, as proof of your identity.

CNY Central also reports that membership with Endless Access is upwards of $9,000. And that doesn’t even involve any trips. You could go on a lot of Caribbean cruises for $9,000. People show up though. It’s almost like the Internet didn’t exist.

You can listen to the entire call to the prize claim line below or on our SoundCloud page.

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Research and insights for this article were provided by Check ‘n Go.

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