Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 Ways to Save Money on Summer Vacations

Summer vacations are not what they used to be. This summer's vacation may prove to be difficult for many Americans due to the country's current economic situation or "recession". In years past Americans couldn't wait for summer vacation. They planned months in advance for their vacations and talked on and on about how much fun they would have. With the high cost of gas and food summer vacation may not exist this summer for some Americans. People are really cutting back and trying to find ways to save money to offset their increasing expenses and to just live day to day. If you can afford to go on vacation without charging it and having to pay for it later – do it! Here are 5 tips to help save money when you are planning for your summer vacation.

1. Snacks. Buy snacks and a few drinks and pack them in your suitcase before you leave. This will tide you over when you get hungry while on vacation until you are able to eat a full meal. This will also help you save you money that would be spent on midnight snacks.

2. Think Ahead. Plan at least six months to one year in advance for vacations. This will prevent you from going into debt just to have fun.

3. Shop around. Shop around to find the best deal. Visit websites like Kayak, Hottickets, AAA, Costco or to find comparison shop for airfare and hotels or vacation packages.

4. Safety. Buy traveler's checks instead of carrying credit or cash because they can quickly be replaced if lost. Take only one credit card only for emergencies.

5. Enjoy yourself. The most important thing to do while on vacation is - have fun, but don't overextend yourself by splurging on unnecessary items. Create a small list of items you want to purchase and stick to it. The worst feeling is to return from vacation and get bills in the mail from items charged while on vacation.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Beware of Identity Theft Protection Companies

Taken from the Associated Press, May 22, 2008.

Todd Davis has dared criminals for two years to try stealing his identity: Ads for his fraud-prevention company, LifeLock, even offer his Social Security number next to his smiling mug.

Now, Lifelock customers in Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia are suing Davis, claiming his service didn't work as promised and he knew it wouldn't, because the service had failed even him. Attorney David Paris said he found records of other people applying for or receiving driver's licenses at least 20 times using Davis' Social Security number, though some of the applications may have been rejected because data in them didn't match what the Social Security Administration had on file.

Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis' Social Security number. Paris said the fact Davis' records were compromised at all supports the claim that Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock doesn't provide the comprehensive protection its advertisements say it does."

It's further evidence of the ineffectiveness of the services that LifeLock advertises," said Paris, who is lead attorney on the three new lawsuits, the latest of which was filed this month.Davis learned about the fraud in Texas when the payday-loan outfit called to collect on the loan, he said. He didn't get an alert beforehand because the company didn't go through one of the three major credit bureaus before approving the transaction.

Davis said it's possible driver's licenses have been issued to other people in his name because of the widespread availability of his personal information and because of what he described as the flimsy mechanisms in place to report that kind of fraud.Paris noted that LifeLock charges $10 a month to set fraud alerts with credit bureaus, even though consumers can do it themselves for free.

But Davis stands by his company and his advertising gimmick, which has appeared in newspapers and on billboards, radio and MTV. He even broadcasts it by bullhorn on walking tours through crowded downtowns."There's nothing on my actual credit report about uncollected funds, no outstanding tickets or warrants or anything," he said. "There's nothing to indicate my identity has been successfully compromised other than the one instance. I know I'm taking a slightly higher risk. But I'll take my risk for the tremendous benefit we're bringing to society and to consumers."

The lawsuits, for which Paris is seeking class-action status, highlight the fundamental limits on how much security identity-theft companies can provide. Companies like LifeLock can help guard against only certain types of financial fraud by helping consumers set up alerts with credit bureaus, which inform them when someone tries to open a new line of credit or boost their credit limit to finance a buying binge, for example.

The services don't guard against many types of identity theft such as use of a stolen Social Security number on a job application or for medical services, or even the instance of an arrestee giving police a stolen Social Security number to shield his own identity.

LifeLock is also being sued in Arizona over its $1 million service guarantee, which the plaintiffs claim is misleading because it only covers a defect in LifeLock's service, and in California by the Experian credit bureau. Experian accuses LifeLock of deceiving consumers about the breadth of its protection and abusing the system for attaching fraud alerts to credit reports.Security experts say complaints about the company reinforce the time-honored wisdom of keeping your Social Security number secret."

There's been a lot of marketing, a lot of hype about LifeLock," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. "The question is, 'How much protection does it really buy you?'""There is no company that can guarantee they can protect you (completely) against identity theft," Stephens said. "Absolutely nobody can do that."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

6 Ways to Save on Airline Fares

With the current economic crisis (recession) that we are experiencing in America, this summer will be an expensive one. The cost of gas, food, dairy, clothing and air fares will increase. American Airlines plans to start charging $15 for the first bag checked in, all others bag can be checked in at no charge. United Airlines and US Airways charge a $25 fee each way for a second bag checked in. Plan ahead so you don't get caught in the price increase that will occur this summer. Here are 6 tips to help you save money on buying an airline ticket.

1. Start with the airlines first. Many airlines have specials that are not advertised on their website. You can call the airline directly and ask about current specials or sign up for the airlines free newsletter or airfare alert service to find out about discounted air fares.

2. Find deals. Shop around to find the best deal. Visit websites like, Kayak, Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, Cheaptickets or to find cheap rates for hotel, airfare and cruises. You can also try using smaller airlines such as airline travel booking websites such as

3. Book in advance. Try booking your flight at least 2 weeks in advance to save money.

4. Be flexible. Try booking your flight during the week and avoid flights near holidays unless you are specifically doing holiday traveling. You can also search for flights with one or two stops instead of non-stop flights to save money.

5. Fly big. Book flights that fly out of larger airports to save money.

6. Ask for membership discounts. Some airlines offer discounts to students, senior citizens, government employees, AAA members, and other organizations. Contact the airline to find out what discounts they offer to see if you are eligible.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Don't Let the Cost of Gas Crimple You

For the past year now I have not really realized the effects of the price of gas until this week. Prior to the price hike I could fill up my gas tank with a mere $12. I bragged to all my friends and family about how I could fill up my car with less than $20 a week. I loved my car and was glad I had didn't have a gas guzzler. Unfortunately that slowly began to increase.

One month it took $15, then $20, then $22, then $27, then $30, now I am at $33 for a fill-up. Now I know many of you are saying, that doesn't even fill up half my gas tank and I should be happy, but I am not. I didn't get to where I am in life by spending money frivolous. I did so by comparison shopping to find the best bargains, unfortunately this expense is not something I can negotiate.

What myself and everyone can do is complain about it to Congress by writing letters and depending a dramatic decrease in the price of gas. Inform your current State Legislators that if they do not lower the price of gas they will lose your vote. This is very critical since this is an election year. You may not feel you have the power to make a difference, but one voice can and if they hear all of our voices we can make a change. In the meantime here are 4 tips to help ease the cost of gas:

1. Combine nearby trips on the same day - this will save you time and money

2. Drive the speed limit - this reduces the amount of gas needed for your car

3. Buy your gas in the morning - gas is more dense in cold weather and in the early morning in the summer month you will get more for your money

4. Check your tires - ensure you tires are properly inflated helps prevents less friction on the road and helps tires last longer

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Upcoming Events

May 2008
May 12, 2008, WUFO 1080AM, Interview with Pat Freeman, Buffalo, NY, noon-1pm
May 16, 2008, Interview w/iM4radio, Lanham, MD, 10am
May 17, 2008, Featured Speaker at Univ. of MD Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, MD

June 2008
June 6, 2008, Enterpreneurship Seminar with HOBY, George Washington University, Florence Hollis Hand Chapel, Washington, DC
June 7, 2008, Barnes & Noble Booksigning, 21 Grand Corner Avenue, Gaithersubrg, MD 1- 3pm
June 11, 2008, Credit Repair Teleseminar with the Women Network, 8-9pm
June 21, 2008, Booksigning at Urban Knowledge Bookstore, Mondawmin Mall, 2301 Liberty Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 2-4pm

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

5 Ways to Survive In This Economy

We have had recessions in America in the past which has affected various industries such as agricultural and manufacturing. The last recession we had was in 2001. There have been 8 recessions in the past 40 years and since 1945 there have been 11 recessions.

The shortest recession lasted 6 months while the longest lasted 16 months. A recession is defined by Webster's as: an extended decline in general business activity, typically two consecutive quarters of falling real gross national product (GDP) or the state of the economy declines; a widespread decline in the GDP and employment and trade lasting from six months to a year.

The economy is classified as being in recession only if there is a widespread decline in the economy that includes an overall decline in production, employment, personal income, industrial sales, and total manufacturing and trade sales. The decline must be long enough to be classified as "substantial and significant." This recession included industries such as housing, oil, employment and manufacturing. We know we were in a recession because:

1. Shares price dropped sharply
2. There were frequent employee layoffs
3. Several business went bankrupt
4. There was a rise in unemployment
5. There was a decline in employee income
6. There was a decrease in sales of manufactured products
8. Americans received an economic stimulus package refund
9. Interest rate reductions by the Federal Reserve z times in the past x months
10. There was an increase in negative savings rate
11. Economic issues developed in other countries
12. Value of the dollar sharply declined
13. ising costs of products or services

Here are 5 ways to protect yourself during a recession:
Protect your investments - call your broker and adjust your portfolio to limit the effects of the recession and money lost during this time. Ensure your portfolio is adequately diversified.

Stay calm - don't make rash decisions based on your emotions. Before making any changes think about your situation and wait one or two days and think about a solution. Get advice from friends or family members who have previously had financial crises.

Reevaluate your existing mortgage loan - review your existing mortgage loan to see if you got a good deal on your mortgage loan. If not, it's time to refinance to a lower fixed interest rate that will provide a level of stability to help you get through these difficult times.

Reduce your debt - create a debt payoff plan to identify the total debt owed, the minimum monthly payment and balance on each account. Create a plan to pay off each bill and find ways to reduce expenses to get extra money to pay down debt.Update your resume - if you are currently employed and as a general rule of thumb, each time you start a new job or new position with your existing company revise your resume. Update it at least once every 6 months. Take training class or learn a new process or skill at work to make yourself seen as a valuable asset to the company. Also, begin networking with staff outside your department to make alliances to staff that can provide leads, and other information on finding a job.

Good luck!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Financial Tips for College Grads

Managing Credit Card Debt
1. Stop spending. Don't spend money you don't have. This will result in your owing more money. Use your credit card for emergencies only.

2. Educate yourself. Educate yourself about credit and your credit rights. Read as much information as you can about credit cards. Start by reading the credit card agreement or disclosure that was sent to you when you first received your credit card in the mail.

3. Setup a debt payoff plan. Setup a debt payoff plan to prioritize your bills. By using the debt snowball method you will be able to quickly pay off some of your debts. Start by paying off the smallest bills first, then use the money paid towards a previous bill and apply it to the next bill and continue this process until all your debts are paid.

4. Pay more than minimum monthly payment. If pay the minimum monthly payment you will end up paying 2 to 3 times what you actually charged due to the interest and finance charges that accrue on your balance. Try to send extra towards your balance each month.

5. Pay with cash. Pay for purchases with cash until your credit card balances are paid in full. If you pay for an item with a credit card you end up paying 112% the original cost of the item.

Investing in 401K's/IRAs
1. Start with your company's 401K as soon as you are hired for your first job. Do research to see what plan has the best options to help you achieve your retirement goals.

2. Start small. If you are not working setup your own IRA with at least $100 a month if you can afford it and then work you way up to saving 10% each paycheck towards your retirement.

3. Diversify. Control your risks by investing in various mutual funds that are a combination or low, medium and high risk to limit your losses.

4. Focus on long term growth. You have to be willing to leave your money untouched for the next 5 to 10 years. Otherwise you won't be able to see the benefits of your money growing.

Financial Planning
1. Plan for a family

2. Buy insurance – health, life, disability

3. Pay off those student loans and credit card debt

4. Plan for retirement early on, i.e. in your 20's