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Getting Ahead
1st Quarter 2009

In this issue:

Your Money: What to Do Now

Frugal Tips for Surviving a Recession

Prepare Now For Tax Season

Your Money: What to Do Now

When Consumer Reports asked Americans what they’re most worried about now, the top concerns they listed were: having enough money to retire, the value of their home, whether they have enough in savings, and the cost of everything from gas to college. Thirty-three percent said they’re worse off today than they were a year ago—nearly double last year’s figure, according to Consumer Reports’ nationally representative poll of 1,004 adults conducted in October. Here are questions from consumers, and answers from experts and others.

Are my bank accounts safe?
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they were concerned about this. Almost all bank savings, checking, and money market accounts and certificates of deposit are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for up to $250,000 per depositor until December 31, 2009. (After that, it’s $100,000). Deposits in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and some other retirement accounts are also insured up to $250,000 per owner. Credit unions are insured for the same amounts through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.

What to do
Keep your balances within the coverage limits. Check the health of your bank and/or credit union with’s Safe & Sound ratings. If your financial institution fails, insured accounts will probably be assumed by a new financial institution. It usually takes no more than two business days to get your money. Keep copies of your statements and deposit slips, especially if you bank online, to ensure that the new financial institution’s records are correct. See whether interest rates, fees or terms have changed. If you have uninsured balances, you’ll have a claim against the closed financial institutions for the uninsured amount. As the assets of the financial institution are liquidated, you might receive payments.

What should I do if I have trouble making my mortgage payments?
In October the federal HOPE for Homeowners program began restructuring mortgages for qualified homeowners. Restructured loans will be based on 90 percent of a home's current value, established with a new appraisal. For information, go to the HOPE for Homeowners Web site.

What to do
Contact your mortgage lender immediately and try to negotiate lower payments. Be persistent; lenders are overwhelmed with people in your situation and attend to those in default first. If you’ve been trying to sell but can’t get an offer that at least matches what you owe, see whether your lender will agree to a short sale, which means it will accept a lesser amount. Use recent comparable sales to show that your home is worth less than your unpaid balance.

I’m having trouble paying my credit card bill. What should I do?
You’re not alone. Some 35 percent of the respondents in the survey said that they’re concerned about their ability to pay off credit card debt.

What to do
Contact your card issuer right away. Some have payment programs for squeezed borrowers, though others are turning over delinquent accounts to collection agencies faster than in the past. If you’re paying a high interest rate on your balance, consider transferring it to a lower-rate card.

This article excerpted from

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Frugal Tips for Surviving a Recession

It was recently announced that the United States economy is officially in a recession. What does this mean for you? Among other things, it means your dollar doesn’t buy as much as it once did. So what can you do to help stretch your dollars during this recession? Readers of provided the following tips:

Grocery Shopping
• Always shop with a list (and stick to the list)
• Buy generic items
• Plan meals according to what’s on sale that week
• Shop at stores that double coupons
• Buy enough of a sale item to last 12 weeks. That’s about how long sales take to cycle.

Cooking and Eating
• Eat less meat
• Stop eating out
• Bring lunch from home
• Don’t drink soda; drink tap water
• Grow your own produce
• Make your own baby food

• Stay home more often
• Run errands once a week
• Use public transportation
• Fill up when your tank is half empty
• Use to find the lowest prices on gas
• Keep up on your car’s maintenance

Around the House
• Use rechargeable batteries for electronics and toys
• Use water from boiling eggs or pasta to water plants
• Get a roommate
• Wash and re-use Ziplock bags

For more frugal tips, visit

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Prepare Now For Tax Season
  Tax season creeps up on practically everyone. With it comes all the stress and anxiety that tax day brings. However, by simply taking the time to adjust your daily routine you can prepare yourself for the tax deadline in advance. To help you get—and stay—prepared, try these tips to prepare for the upcoming tax season.

Filing System
Having a well-organized and thorough filing system can help you avoid having to search for documents in April. Keep all tax-related documents in the same place, such as a small filing box or a file cabinet.

Write Down Everything
Whenever you make a tax-deductible purchase or any other tax-related move, write it down. This way you will have a quick and easy reference when you need it.

Figure Your Income
Be prepared to know this number by heart during tax season. If you have had multiple jobs throughout the year, keep accurate records of your earning from each. The easiest way to do this is to keep all of your pay stubs.

Balanced Checkbook
Balancing your checkbook does more than just keep your checking account accurate, it also builds good financial habits. Write down what you spend each day.

Bill Agenda
Put payday and all of your bills on your wall calendar or day planner. This way you can have a plan for your monthly finances. Paying bills on time will keep your budget on schedule and your money in order.

Save Receipts
Save receipts for tax-deductible purchase. By adding up your receipts monthly or bi-monthly, you can also save time and stress later on.

Seek Help
Before tax season arrives, research your options for tax professionals who can help you. Once the season gets rolling, it will be more difficult to get all of your questions answered thoroughly. An early start will ease tax stress and keep you ahead of the game.

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