Educational Resources

The Tools You Need To Empower Yourself Financially

Table of Contents A
1. 2. 3. 4. Asset Allocation Automotive Expenses Autos: Buying vs. Leasing Autos: New vs. Used

I
36. Identity Theft 37. Identity Theft Prevention 38. Insurance 39. Interest-only Loans 40. Investment Options

B
5. Bad Checks 6. Bankruptcy 7. Budget- Money Saving Tips 8. Budget – Planning 9. Budget – Spending Percentages 10. Budget - Worksheet

J
41. Job Search 42. Judgment

L
43. Loan Calculator

C
11. Child Support 12. Collections 13. College Education Savings 14. Coping with Job Loss 15. Co-signing for Credit 16. Credit Cards – Accelerate Your Pay-off 17. Credit Reports 18. Credit Report Disputes 19. Credit Scores

M
44. Marriage, Divorce & Debt 45. Medical Savings Account

O
46. Opt Out

P
47. Payday Loans 48. Prioritizing Debts

R
49. Renting vs. Buying a home 50. Repossession 51. Retirement Savings 52. Reverse Mortgages

D
20. Debt Settlement 21. Disputing Credit Charges

E
22. Educating Kids 23. Education Expenses 24. Emergency Fund 25. Establishing Credit 26. Eviction Process

S
53. State Abbreviations Listing 54. Student Loan Information - Repayment 55. Student Loan Information - Types

T
56. Tax Tips – Charitable Donations 57. Tax Tips - General 58. Truth in Lending Act

F
27. Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) 28. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 29. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) 30. Foreclosures 31. Frugal Living

U
59. Unsecured Personal Loans 60. Utilities

G
32. Garnishments

V
61. Vacationing on a budget

H
33. Holiday Saving Tips 34. Home Equity Refinancing 35. Home Mortgages

W
62. Wants vs. Needs

Ctrl. 75 Rev. 3 1/31/05

Asset Allocation Asset allocation refers to the way in which a person (an investor) chooses how to divide their investments. An asset can refer to stocks, bonds, real estate, and cash. The division is determined by the needs of the individual. The goal is to maximize investment return. Investors who have an investment plan through their company, such as a 401(k), a 403(b) or a 457, may inquire with the plan administrator (usually a bank or stock broker) for information on allocation options. By anticipating the amount of desired return, the administrator will be able to advise how to allocate, based on past performance. For those with individual retirement accounts (IRAs) directly through a financial institution, inquire with the branch manager for assistance. There is also the option of obtaining an “asset allocation fund” which is specifically designed to accomplish the goal of allocation on its own. These funds invest in a variety of different areas to provide the investor with the desired result of diversity, without the hassle of purchasing a huge amount of funds separately. Allocating assets is a complicated process requiring in-depth knowledge. The best course of action when considering changing your allocation is to consult with a professional. Do not rely on publications even if you feel they are from reputable companies. Financial information changes frequently, and publications can be outdated even if new.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.investorwords.com www.investorhome.com www.gofso.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Automotive Expenses Over the course of time, any car owner will be faced with automotive expenses. Some expenses are routine and can be planned for – oil changes, new tires, tire rotation/balance, etc. Double-check your warranty to see if some of these simple items are covered. Nonetheless, many expenses catch us by surprise -- the starter goes up, the air-conditioner quits working, a tire blows out and must be replaced. In the surprise instances, it is important to have money set aside for these occasions. By budgeting money each month in an emergency fund, you will be prepared when emergencies happen. Consider adding rental insurance to your insurance policy to allow for an alternate transportation source should the need arise.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.frugalliving.about.com/library/weekly/aa060600a.htm www.thestreet.com/funds/mutualfundmonday/10003078.html www.bankrate.com/brm/news/financial-literacy/faq-emergency-savings1.asp

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Autos: Buying vs. Leasing When you are in the market for a new car, there are many options available to fit your financial situation. To help you decide whether leasing or buying is best, review the list below for a comparison of different features. Buying • • • • • • The vehicle is yours when payments are completed. Initial costs may include cash price or down payment, title, taxes, registration and other fees. Monthly loan payments are usually higher than lease payments. There are no mileage limits. There are no fees for excessive “wear and tear” on the vehicle. Selling or trading the vehicle is your responsibility. Value will be determined in part by mileage, “wear and tear,” and depreciation.

Leasing • • • • • • • The vehicle is not yours. It must be returned at the end of the lease. Initial costs may include down payment, security deposit, first month’s payment, taxes, registration and other fees. Monthly lease payments are usually lower than loan payments. There are limits to the number of miles driven per year. There may be fees if there is excessive “wear and tear” on the vehicle. At the end of the lease, you may renegotiate with the dealer to continue your lease, purchase the vehicle, or lease a new vehicle. Selling or trading the vehicle is the responsibility of the dealer.

Things to consider: • • • • • Compare different lease offers and negotiate terms. A lower “sticker-price” can reduce your monthly payment. Ask for “gap” coverage in case the vehicle is stolen or totaled. Negotiate the mileage allowed and per-mile charges for excess miles. Be sure to get everything in writing before you sign.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.federalreserve.gov www.leasesource.com www.leaseguide.com www.carclicks.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Autos: New vs. Used Purchasing a new vehicle can be a lot of fun. It is also a lot of responsibility. Before you make that big commitment, consider the pros and cons of buying a new vehicle versus a used one. It may turn out that buying a used vehicle will suit your budget and needs equally as well as, if not better than, a new one.

New Cars • • • • • • • • Condition of vehicle is perfect New vehicles can be customized to suit buyer’s needs Vehicle will be more reliable Vehicle will have a full warranty – or a variety of options Interest rates on a new vehicle are generally lower New vehicles will have a higher purchase price/monthly payment Insurance premiums are higher Higher depreciation (about 40% of the car’s value is lost in the first three years)

Used Cars • • • • • • • • • Condition of vehicle varies; choice will be limited Reliability varies - unless you buy a certified pre-owned vehicle Vehicle warranty will be limited Higher interest rates on loans Used vehicles will have a lower purchase price/monthly payments Lower insurance premiums Lower depreciation Lower registration and license fees Possible maintenance costs such as replacing tires, brakes, etc.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.bestautousa.com www.creditoption.com/autosites.htm www.auto-buying-tips.com www.consumerreports.org
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Bad Checks
Whether you’ve written a “bad” check or someone has stolen yours and used them, it’s important to know what to do. It’s also important to understand how to keep from bouncing checks in the future, as it is a costly mistake. If your checks have been stolen or misused, close the account and ask your bank to notify the appropriate check verification service. While no federal law limits your losses if someone steals your checks and forges your signature, state laws may protect you. Most states hold the bank responsible for losses from a forged check, but they also require you to take reasonable care of your account. For example, you may be held responsible for the forgery if you fail to notify the bank in a timely way that a check was lost or stolen. Contact your state banking or consumer protection agency for more information. You also should contact these major check verification companies. Ask that retailers who use their databases not accept your checks. TeleCheck — 1-800-710-9898 or 927-0188 Certegy, Inc. — 1-800-437-5120 International Check Services — 1-800-631-9656 Call SCAN (1-800-262-7771) to find out if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name. It’s equally important to understand laws that may affect you as a consumer. A new law that went into effect October 28, 2004 is “Check 21” or Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act. The aim of this law is to “foster innovation in payments system and enhance its efficiency by reducing some of the legal impediments involved with check processing. Here are some other points to know about Check 21: • You won’t get your original paper checks back. • Checks you write will clear sooner, possibly the same day you write it. • You may not get access to funds from checks that you deposit any sooner. • Only a substitute check (not regular copies of the original) can be the legal equivalent of the original and only a substitute check triggers your rights to re-credit disputed funds. Some possible hazards to processing electronic images vs. the original: • • • A double payment could occur - one payment on the paper check and one on the electronic image. Check payment amounts might be changed in the process of transferring checks back and forth between paper and electronic formats. It may be impossible to prove a check has been forged or altered without the original.

Websites that can provide additional information:
http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/truncation/ http://www.aba.com/About+ABA/CheckTruncationAct.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Bankruptcy There are two types of bankruptcy that affect consumers: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Chapter 7 completely absolves the consumer from unsecured debt. It allows almost all unsecured debts to be completely discharged. The debtor loses all property except that which is exempt by law (varies by state). A consumer should seek the advice of an attorney to determine which items are exempt. Necessary items such as car and home are usually exempt. Once the bankruptcy is discharged, the consumer will not have any debt from anything filed under that specific bankruptcy. * Chapter 7 bankruptcy can only be filed once every seven years and remains on the credit report for a period of ten years. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Chapter 13 is for individuals who wish to repay their debts and seek court protection while they negotiate a plan of reorganization with their creditors. This is an alternative to Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is designed for “wage-earners.” The plan is usually for a period of three years, unless otherwise approved by the courts, but not to exceed five years. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed during any difficult financial situation. The information remains on the credit report for a period of seven years if discharged, ten years if dismissed. Discharged: Once a debtor has satisfied the Chapter 13 payments, the court will order a termination of the proceedings, usually relieving the individual of the obligation. A discharge will remain on the report for seven years. Dismissed: When a debtor fails to make payments on a Chapter 13 plan, the bankruptcy court will dismiss the debtor. All creditors will then have the same rights to pursue the debtor as before the filing of the Chapter 13. A dismissal will remain on the report for ten years.

Things to Consider • • • • • • • • • • • • • Before filing for bankruptcy, a consumer should consider all of the alternatives Bankruptcy may not be necessary if the consumer has no attachable assets or if assets are exempt The cost of filing bankruptcy varies – shop around just as you would for any other major purchase Get a second opinion and consider the negative effects of filing bankruptcy All creditors may be notified, including landlords or mortgage lenders Bank accounts may be frozen or closed Credit cards may be revoked Significant assets could be claimed, including life insurance policies, pensions or savings Psychological stress or depression may be experienced It may be difficult to gain employment Cost of insurance, both home and auto, may increase significantly It may be difficult to obtain meaningful credit Taxes, student loans, debt from prior bankruptcy, spouse/child support, criminal fines/penalties, and credit card charges made within 40 days of filing, cannot be included in any type of bankruptcy

Websites that can provide additional information: www.findlaw.com/01topics/03bankruptcy/index.html www.bankruptcy-courts.net/ www.thebankruptcysite.com www.nolo.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

*Aiello, John et al. (2002). Credit counseling: keys for success. National Institute for Financial Counseling Education, 2 Edition.

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Budget - Money Saving Tips Housing • Refinance your home • Sell your home and buy a more affordable one • Rent out an empty room or basement • Move to a less expensive apartment • Compare your insurance or bundle it with auto insurance Transportation • Sell your car and buy a more affordable one • Carpool to reduce gas expenses • Shop around for less expensive car insurance • Use regular gas instead of premium grade • Do some maintenance yourself such as replacing windshield wipers and air filters • Sell unnecessary items such as boats, RVs, or ATVs Utilities • Eliminate unnecessary services such as extra telephone or fax lines, caller ID or other phone features. In times of extreme financial hardship, terminating these services will provide extra income for necessities. • Reduce usage. Turn off lights not in use. Turn off the water when brushing teeth or shaving. • Make changes to your home to save on your bills: Use an insulation blanket for your water heater Lower water heater temperature from 140° to 120° Adjust temperature settings to 78° in the summer and 70° in the winter Replace regular bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs Use energy-efficient shower heads Use toilet dams or water savers Use faucet flow restrictors Food • • • • • Use bonus cards and coupons Buy generic brands instead of name brands Shop with a list Don’t buy pre-packaged convenience items such as salads – Buy fresh. Canned and frozen vegetables are less expensive than fresh ones

Budget - Money Saving Tips (cont’d) Clothing • Buy only what you need • Shop at less expensive stores • Start a clothing swap with friends, church members or neighbors • Shop at consignment stores • For growing children, buy pants and dresses long and hem them. You can let out the hem as they grow. Medical • Ask for generic prescriptions • Compare monthly prices on insurance including comparisons of co-pays and other out-ofpocket expenses • Use preventive medicine to reduce serious medical costs • Maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water • Get plenty of rest and exercise Miscellaneous • Adjust or eliminate cell phone plans or pager services • Reduce or eliminate internet services • Reduce or eliminate cable TV • Use cell phones during off-peak hours Personal • Start a walking club in your neighborhood rather than paying expensive gym fees • Smoke less or quit altogether • Volunteer your time rather than donating money to charities • Reduce or eliminate personal care expenses (hair, nails, salon) • Do not pay for private school if you can’t afford it Recreation • Look for free activities and programs • Go to the matinee show • Eat at restaurants less often • Use coupons for amusement parks • Reduce or eliminate media purchases (books, magazines, CDs) Unsecured Debts • Pay your bills on time • Ask for reduced interest rates • Pay off high-interest rate cards first • Purchase items with cash only

Budget - Planning One of the most helpful tools for becoming debt-free is a budget. Here are some steps to help you get started as well as a sample budget worksheet: • Gather all the facts

Calculate your monthly income. Be sure to include all sources including child support, alimony, pensions, etc. Record all expenses. Include fixed monthly expenses (housing, car payment, insurance, etc.) and varying expenses (utilities, groceries, etc.). Be sure to include items such as school supplies, snacks at work and membership dues. For bills that you pay once or twice per year, such as car insurance or property taxes, be sure to allot sufficient funds each month to cover that expense when it comes due. • Determine spending patterns

Identify where you are spending money. If you are having trouble determining where your money is going, keep a notepad and record each purchase. • Set temporary short-term goals

Short-term goals should be set to keep you motivated. Short- term goals may include paying off a credit card, saving for a vacation or purchasing a new appliance. “Big ticket items” should be planned out before the purchase is made with a specific pay-off date. If the item cannot be purchased and paid off within three months, you should not buy the item at that time. • Establish long-term goals

Long-term goals may include having a certain amount in savings, purchasing a home, or saving for a college education. • Monitor and record financial progress

Once a budget is created, it should not be set aside and forgotten. Revisit your budget and goals on a monthly basis to keep yourself focused or make necessary adjustments. If you make a plan but don’t stick to it, then it doesn’t do you any good.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.betterbudgeting.com www.moneyadvise.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Debtscape Budget Worksheet Name: ________________________________________________________ SSN: ___________-___________-___________ Debtscape can assist you with creating a budget that is realistic and easy to maintain. Fill out all applicable categories, and your Debtscape Certified Credit Counselor will review your budget with you along with any necessary changes. *Note: If an item is deducted from your paycheck, such as health insurance, do not list it again as a monthly expense.* Monthly Food Expenses Monthly Income – All Sources Groceries $_____________ (For wages, use amounts after taxes, insurance and School/Work Lunches $_____________ medical are deducted) Snacks/Other $_____________ Dining Out $_____________ Salary/Wages $_____________ Salary/Wages (spouse) $_____________ TOTAL FOOD EXPENSES $_____________ Social Security Income $_____________ Pension Plan/Retirement $_____________ Military Income $_____________ Monthly Clothing Expenses Interest Income $_____________ Real Estate Dividends $_____________ Clothing $_____________ Investment Dividends $_____________ Dry Cleaning/Laundry Service $_____________ Unemployment Income $_____________ Disability Income $_____________ TOTAL CLOTHING EXPENSES $_____________ Alimony/Child Support $_____________

TOTAL MONTHLY INCOME

$_____________

Monthly Miscellaneous Expenses Cellular Phone/Pager Internet Service Cable Television Personal Care (Hair/Nails) Education (Training/Supplies) Tobacco/Alcohol Alimony/Child Support Donations (Religious/Charity) Child Care (Day Care/Sitters) Club Dues or Fees (Health or other) Magazines/CD’s/Movies/Books Children’s Activities (Sports, etc.) $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________

Monthly Housing Expenses Mortgage Payment 1 Mortgage Payment 2 Rent Payment (Apartment) Rent Payment (Other) Insurance (Homeowner/Renter) Fees (Homeowner/Condo) Utilities (Oil/Gas/Elec/Telephone) Water/Sewer Trash Removal Alarm/Security Service $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________

TOTAL HOUSING EXPENSES $_____________

TOTAL MISC. EXPENSES

$____________

Monthly Transportation Expenses
Automobile Loan 1 Automobile Loan 2 Automobile Loan 3 Automobile Lease Boat/RV/ATV Loan Automobile Insurance Gasoline Repairs/Maintenance $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________

Monthly Savings Expenses
Savings Account Deposits* $_____________ $_____________

TOTAL MONTHLY SAVINGS

Monthly Unsecured Debts
Credit Card Credit Card Credit Card Personal Loan Student Loan Collections/Judgments $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________ $_____________

TOTAL TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES

$____________

Monthly Medical Expenses
Prescriptions Co-Payments Life & Disability Insurance* Health & Dental Insurance* $____________ $____________ $____________ $____________

TOTAL MONTHLY UNSECURED DEBT

$_____________

BUDGET SUMMARY TOTAL MONTHLY INCOME (Subtract your) TOTAL MONTHLY EXPENSES (total all boxes) TOTAL LEFTOVER (+/-) $_____________ $_____________ $_____________

TOTAL MEDICAL EXPENSES $____________

The goal is to have leftover income that equals 5-10% of your total take-home income.

Budget Spending Percentage Guide
The following are national averages to help you determine where your client is overspending. To obtain the average for the client, take the monthly payment amount, and divide that by the total amount of monthly income. For example: Total Spent on Housing: Total Monthly Income: $750.00 divided by $1920.00 equals: $750.00 $1920.00 39%

This client spends 39% of the monthly income on housing. This is over the recommended national average. See below for details:

Housing
(Mortgage, Rent, Insurance, Fees)

25-35% 10-15% 5-10% 5-15% 2-7% 5-10% 5-15% 2-5% 5-10%

Transportation Utilities
(Oil, Gas, Electric, Water/Sewer, Phone, Trash, Alarm/Security)

Food Clothing Medical/Health Savings Miscellaneous
(Cell/Pager, Internet, Cable TV)

Personal
(Personal Care, Education, Tobacco/Alcohol, Alimony/Child Support, Donations, Child Care)

Recreation
(Club Dues, Magazines/CD/Movies/Books, Children’s Activities)

5-10% 5-10%

Unsecured Debts

Child Support Many families are suffering due to divorce. Single parents are trying to care for their children with only one income. This is a difficult and stressful situation. If you have a client who mentions that their ex-spouse or child’s non-custodial parent is not paying child support, here are some links to help them get the money that is owed.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.childsupport.com/index.asp www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/ www.supportkids.com/

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Collection Agencies When an account is past due, and the creditor has exhausted all efforts to collect this debt from the consumer, the creditor will then hire a third-party collection agency to attempt to retrieve the debt. The creditor may either hire the agency to work on their behalf or sell the account to the collection agency. Most consumers find dealing with a collection agency both aggravating and difficult. Collection agents tend to be more aggressive as compared with the original creditors. From the perspective of the creditor, this is fair – a consumer has borrowed money and the creditor wants to be repaid. When we accept a credit card and spend someone else’s money, we also accept the responsibility for repayment at the creditor’s terms. Furthermore, because most collection agents are paid by commission, the payment amounts are determined by the drive to earn more money, not to work out an affordable repayment plan for the consumer. However, due to over-aggressive behaviors and deceptive tactics, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in 1996 to protect consumers from undue abuse from third party collectors. This law does not apply to original creditors. While some feel that even one phone call per day is abusive, that would be an incorrect assessment. The collection agency does have rights, but so does the consumer. The following items taken from the FDCPA are very important to remember when dealing with a third-party collection agency: • Collection agents surprise consumers by calling them by their first name – “Hello Bill, how ya doin’?” Consumers, caught off guard will then identify themselves. The FDCPA states that a collection agent MUST identify themselves by name and company. If the caller will not identify themselves, hang up the phone. Collection agents try to control calls by refusing to disclose full information about the debt. They attempt to bully and scare consumers into making payments without even knowing what is being paid! They push consumers into a “check by phone” payment. Often, consumers are afraid and do whatever the agent tells them to do. Consumers are entitled to FULL disclosure - including the original creditor’s name and balance. It is your right under the FDCPA to receive full disclosure in writing prior to payment. Request the information in the mail. If they refuse, ask to speak with the supervisor or compliance officer. Collection agents will often threaten to take legal action against the consumer, or threaten to garnish their wages. Although some creditors DO hire lawyers to represent their interests, the collection agent may not be a lawyer, and may not be authorized to take any such action. It is against the law for a collection agent to identify themselves as a lawyer, if in fact, they are not. That is why it is vital to know to whom you are speaking. If you are actually being sued by a creditor, you will receive a certified or hand-delivered summon to appear in court.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov www.ustreas.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

College Education Savings There are many options available to those who are trying to finance a college education. • 529 Plans are education savings plans operated by a state or educational institution. It allows you to establish an account on behalf of a designated beneficiary (the student) and provide some tax benefits to you (the plan participant). The Coverdell Education Savings Act (ESA) was formerly known as the Education IRA. This investment option is a tax-advantaged savings account designed to help pay for eligible education expenses. Government Series EE Savings Bonds can be purchased at your local bank or directly from the U.S. Treasury for as little as $25.00. UGMA’s (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) and UTMA's (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) allow you to establish a savings account on a child's behalf. Current laws allow you to give up to a maximum of $11,000 per year to any person without tax penalties. Hope & Lifetime Learning Credits are tax credits available to a parent or child who pays out of pocket for qualified tuition expenses. Student Loan Interest Deductions may allow you to deduct student loan interest. Loans must be for your dependents, and must be for qualified education expenses. Scholarships can vary depending on certain factors. Some can be applied to any school, while others are school-specific. Financial Assistance is available in the form of loans, grants, and work-study programs. The Reserve Officer's Training Corp (ROTC) has full and partial scholarships plus a spending allowance for those who make a commitment to military service. The US Military Academies are four-year colleges that are tuition free. They also require a commitment to serve in the military. Grandma and Grandpa (and other relatives) should make the check(s) payable directly to the school. Tuition payments made directly to the school are not subject to a federal gift tax. Home Equity Loans allow you to tap into the value of your home. Although this is an available option, it may not be your best option. Taking out a home equity loan can seriously affect your retirement plans. You may be making second mortgage payments well into your eighties. Retirement Funds like 401(k) plans, allow borrowing at favorable rates to pay for college. One potential problem with funding all or part of your child's education with your retirement fund is that you risk having to fund your retirement all over again. Also, the potential for longterm growth is interrupted when you withdraw funds.
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College Education Savings
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All of these options are viable, and may be used in combination with one another. The age of your child will determine the best option. If you have a newborn or young child, 529 plans and Education IRAs are great options with plenty of time for your investments to grow. Savings bonds are good options if you have limited amounts of money to invest. Although they will not fund all tuition costs, they can be purchased $25.00 at a time. If your child is already a teenager, you might have fewer options available. Check into scholarships, ROTC, financial assistance, or a home equity loan. The Hope and Lifetime Learning credits do not require advanced planning; however, you will need to remember to take advantage of this at tax-time. The best advice for college planning is to start as early as possible.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.fastweb.monster.com/cpt/ www.fafsa.ed.gov For websites and toll free numbers for state plans, visit www.collegesavings.org To compare 529 plans for each state, go to www.savingforcollege.com For the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits, see IRS publication 970.

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Coping with Job Loss There are two aspects to consider when dealing with job loss: emotional stress and financial stress. Everyone deals with job loss differently. For some, it can be similar to a death in the family. For others, selfimage and self-worth may be affected. Others may become depressed. It’s OK to have these feelings. Seek support from friends and family, or a professional. The financial aspect of job loss can create a lot of stress and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It is important to create a plan and restructure your finances. The main goal is to minimize hardship and damage until you are back on your feet. • • • • Evaluate your finances. Make a list of assets and debts. Calculate your monthly expenses. After adjusting the budget, contact the creditors. Explain your situation and ask if they offer a hardship program or temporary repayment plan. Reduce your expenses. In times of severe financial distress, non-essentials such as cable TV, cell phone, bowling leagues, etc., are not necessary. Check with your employer for information on COBRA, which allows you to retain your insurance coverage even after you leave.

Some serious changes to consider: • • • • • • • Sell a second car to eliminate car payment, insurance payment, gas, repairs. Look for extra sources of cash such as items that can be sold. Sell your house and rent until you can afford another mortgage. Use a 401(k) or home equity loan if the situation is temporary. Perhaps a spouse can obtain a second job. Look for a job outside of your profession. Draw upon other skills you have. If jobs in your profession are not available in your area, consider relocating.

You may also seek assistance from a non-profit credit counseling organization. They will be able to provide information on several options including a debt management plan, possible home equity refinancing and even bankruptcy. A certified, professional credit counselor can advise you of your best options. Websites that can provide additional information: www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/businessmanagement/DF6499.html

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Co-signing for Credit Co-signing for someone else is a big responsibility and potentially a big liability. The co-signer lends their name and good credit history to the primary borrower (or maker). If the primary borrower dies, loses a job or just decides not to pay, the co-signer is legally responsible for the debt. Co-signers beware! Here are some points to consider before making a decision to help someone in need. • • If the borrower defaults, the creditor will come after you for repayment. You could have your property seized or your wages garnished even though you are only the co-signer. Official documents and statements are only sent to the primary borrower. Protect yourself by asking the lender to provide notification to you in writing should the borrower default on a payment. Be sure to get copies of all documentation from the lender. Keep them in a safe place until the loan is repaid. Although this is usually a transaction between friends or relatives, treat this like a business transaction. Obtain a notarized written agreement with the borrower. Define the expectations of both parties. Will the primary borrower be responsible for the entire debt? What responsibilities does the co-signer have? If it is a secured debt, whose names will appear on the title? If the loan balance is paid down to a certain amount, will the co-signer be released from the responsibilities to the lender in case of default? How will this affect the co-signer’s credit? Will future lenders consider this a risk to the cosigner’s credit rating? The co-signer may need to show documentation that he/she are not making payments toward this debt at all. When there is a default on the loan, the creditor can demand payment from the co-signer rather than trying to collect from the primary borrower. When in doubt, don’t co-sign.

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Websites that can provide additional information: www.bankrate.com www.moneycentral.msn.com/content/Banking/Yourcreditrating/P38054.asp

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Credit Cards – Accelerate Your Pay Off So, you’ve decided to handle your bills on your own. With the high interest rates on your credit cards accruing monthly, a debt consolidation loan may be tempting; however, you may not want to take on another debt payment. Or, maybe you can’t get approved for another line of credit. That’s OK. Here are some steps to take for getting rid of your debt without mortgaging the house. 1. Ask your creditors for an interest-rate reduction. This may seem to be an obvious action to take, but surprisingly, many people overlook this option. The worst they can do is say no. 2. Discontinue using your credit cards. Most people have great intentions of paying off their cards, but continue using them for “emergencies.” 3. Create a budget. Determine how much you can afford to spend to pay off your debt and how soon you would like to be debt-free. 4. Always send more than the minimum payments. Choose how much you can pay towards each card and consistently send that amount until the debt is paid off. Even an extra $10 each month will make a big difference. 5. Roll payments into remaining accounts’ payments. When an account has been paid off, put that payment towards your other accounts, increasing pay-off time. Some people like to pay off the card with the lowest balance first (reducing the number of accounts you have), while others prefer to pay off the account with the highest interest rate (saving you money in interest). Regardless of the plan you prefer, the key is to stick with it! Here is a calculator to help you determine how much to pay and how long it will take. • http://extension.usu.edu/cooperative/powerpay/ If you are really committed to getting out of debt, examine your budget. Look for unnecessary expenses that you can reduce or eliminate. Use the extra money to pay off your credit cards. Examples include: Cable Services Cell Phone Services Snacks Entertainment Un-needed vehicles (boats, ATVs, etc.) Dry-cleaning There are other ways to reduce your spending in order to put more money towards your bills. Ask your counselor for more information.
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Credit Report Disputes According to a recent study, 70% of consumers who order their credit reports find errors. Errors can include incorrect spelling of name, incorrect address, name changes, incorrect place of employment, incorrect date of birth, or unknown accounts. Even the simplest of mistakes can prevent a consumer from obtaining the credit they deserve. Furthermore, the prevalence of identity theft creates an additional need for consumers to maintain accurate credit files. Each credit report ordered will arrive with a form to dispute any incorrect items. It is important to order reports from all three of the credit bureaus due to the fact that some creditors do not report to each one. In order to dispute an item on the credit report, you must first obtain a copy of the report from the credit reporting agencies. If your credit report has been pulled by a third party (for example a mortgage broker or automobile finance company), you must still obtain a report directly from the credit reporting agencies. In order to dispute an item, you must have your credit report in hand. Due to changes made to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (Fact Act of 2003), it is now possible to dispute credit report items directly with the source of the information (i.e. creditors). To have information corrected, you must notify the creditors in writing. The credit bureaus may be notified either in writing or via their website. Utilize the form that is provided with the credit report, or visit the website of the credit reporting agency for their online dispute form. You must include your name, current address, date of birth, and Social Security number. Be sure to include as much information as possible regarding the error. In most cases of incorrect personal information, you will be required to provide documentation with the correct data. This could include a copy of your marriage license, driver’s license, pay stub, etc. If you are disputing a listing on your report, give as much information about yourself or the account as possible. It may be a good idea to contact the creditor to obtain documentation to support your claim. For example, a letter stating that your account is closed, and paid in full, may be sufficient documentation to correct an error. In other words, if you recognize the account as yours, you may contact the creditor directly for supporting details. If you do not recognize the creditor listing, you may contact them to obtain whatever documentation that they can provide, and then forward that to the credit reporting agency so that they may open an investigation. If the creditor is unable to provide documentation, initiate an investigation with the credit reporting agency. By law, the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) must investigate your claim and respond within 30 days. Be sure to send your correspondence via certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep copies of everything for your files. Once the investigation is completed, you should receive an additional copy of your credit report from the CRAs to review

Websites that can provide additional information: www.equifax.com www.experian.com www.transunion.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Credit Reports
A credit report is a record of your payment history to companies that have lent you money. All payment activity is recorded – both positive and negative – generating a credit score. Your score is then used by creditors to determine how much credit to extend, and at what interest rate credit will be offered. Generally, activity remains on the report for a period of seven to ten years.
Credit Bureaus Equifax — www.equifax.com To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian — www.experian.com To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013 To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013 TransUnion — www.transunion.com To order your report, call: 1-800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

It is important to order reports from all three of the credit bureaus due to the fact that some creditors do not report to each one. In accordance with the FACT Act of 2003, every consumer is entitled to free credit reports from each credit bureau once each year. You are also entitled to a free copy of your credit report if any of the following conditions apply: • • • • • You have been denied credit, insurance, employment or other benefits within the last sixty days. You can certify that you are unemployed and seeking employment. You are a recipient of public welfare assistance. You believe that your file contains inaccurate information due to fraud and can provide supporting details. You reside in California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey or Vermont.

If the above conditions do not apply or if you have already received your free reports for the year, the state in which you reside will determine your fee. Most states charge $9.00; however, residents of Connecticut pay $5.00, while residents of Minnesota and Maine pay $3.00. Note: To obtain your free credit reports, you must request them through www.annualcreditreport.com. In other instances, the credit report will only be free, or at the above price structure, if ordered directly from the Credit Reporting Agency via telephone or letter. Online reports are not free, regardless of circumstance.
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Credit Scores The most widely utilized scoring system is FICO, created by Fair, Isaac and Company. The score represents the credit risk associated with lending to the consumer. Your credit score is made up of several different factors. Let’s look at a breakdown of these factors. • • • • • Approximately 35% of your score is based on payment history. Approximately 30% of your score is based on the amounts owed and the types of accounts to which you owe. Approximately 15% of your score is based on the length of your credit history. Approximately 10% of your score is based on new credit and recent credit inquiries. Approximately 10% of your score is based on the variety of types of credit you have.
Payment History Amounts/Types Length of History New Credit & Inquiries Mix of Credit

Credit Scoring Above 730 700-729 670-699 585-669 Below 584 Excellent Credit Good Credit Average Credit Below Average Credit Poor Credit

Tips for Raising your Credit Score • • • • • Pay your bills on time! Delinquent payments have a negative effect on your score. Pay off collection accounts! Paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report, but the account will be shown as paid which is a positive reflection. Keep revolving credit card accounts low. The amount of available credit, compared to the amount of credit being used on the account, is a factor that determines your score. Pay off debt instead of moving it around. Transferring balances from one card to another will not pay off the debt and creditors do not view this method of payment favorably. Avoid opening new accounts that you do not need. Focus on successfully managing the cards that you already have. Opening new accounts will not drastically increase your score and may actually decrease it.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.experian.com www.equifax.com www.transunion.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Debt Settlement Debt settlement is an alternate solution if you have tried a credit counseling service, do not wish to file bankruptcy, and cannot afford your payments. With a debt settlement, you pay the creditor a percentage of what you owe. There are generally two ways to arrange a debt settlement. One way would be dealing directly with the creditor or collector; the other way would be through a debt settlement company. Here are some things to keep in mind: • Any ‘forgiven debt’ or ‘settled debt’ in excess of $600 is considered income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will receive IRS form 1099-C. You will be taxed $350 for every $1000 that is forgiven. It is wise to check with a certified public accountant for details. Settling a debt is not the same as filing bankruptcy. In bankruptcy, debts are either fully discharged, or repaid at an alternate schedule with court protection. Your credit report shows that you filed for bankruptcy. With a debt settlement, you will pay back a fraction of the original amount that you owe and the credit report shows “account paid as settlement.” While this is not viewed as bankruptcy, it may still carry a negative effect for future credit. Bankruptcy is a public record and settlements are not. When you settle, you can still answer “No” to the question “Have you ever filed bankruptcy?” You need to be quite delinquent before you can settle, usually about six months or more. When a settlement amount is offered, it may be more cost effective to accept repayment terms earlier in the process. Holding out for a better offer may result in hundreds of extra dollars in late/over-thelimit fees and finance charges added to the balance.

• • •

(Example: If your balance due is $1000.00, and you are offered a settlement of 75% of that balance $750.00, it may be wise to accept. If you hold out for a better offer, for example 50%, you may accrue late fees, over-the-limit fees and additional finance charges while you are waiting. That may very well total MORE than the $250.00 you were attempting to save). • • • • You are allowed to handle the negotiating yourself – you do not need to pay a company thousands of dollars to do this. Even if you are in the process of settling, the creditor still retains the right to pursue you in court. Never disclose where you work or bank. If the company obtains a judgment against you, it makes their job that much easier to garnish your wages. Be sure that the creditor agrees to indicate “paid in full” in your credit report. Ask for this in writing as part of your settlement.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.credit.about.com www.nolo.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Disputing Credit Charges Each month, your creditor is required to send you a bill. It is your responsibility as a consumer, to double-check the bill for errors. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects your rights if you do find an error. It also defines your obligations for getting the error corrected. According to the FCBA of 1974, in order to preserve your rights, you must do the following: • • • Write to the creditor at the address given for “billing inquiries.” Include your name, address, account number, and a description of the billing error. Send the letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days of receiving the first bill that contained the error. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested to ensure that it was received. Include copies, not originals, of sales receipts or other documents to verify your claim.

The creditor must respond to your inquiry within 30 days, in writing, unless the problem has been resolved. The dispute must be resolved within two billing cycles after receiving your letter. • • • • • • • • You will still need to make payments on the undisputed portion of your bill. The creditor may not take legal action to collect on the disputed amount during investigation. Your account cannot be closed or restricted, but the disputed amount may count against your available credit. The creditor must explain any corrections in writing. If crediting your account, the creditor is required to remove all finance charges, late fees or other charges related to the error. If you owe a portion of the disputed amount, you are entitled to receive a written explanation. If the bill is correct, you must be notified promptly in writing about the amount that you owe and why. You will owe the amount in dispute plus any charges that accrued while the amount was in dispute. You may request copies of any documents that the creditor is using to prove its decision. Any collector who does not follow proper procedures may not collect the amount in dispute, or the related finance charges (up to $50), even if the bill turns out to be correct.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Educating Kids Children don’t need to be accountants by the age of ten, but it is important to teach them the value of a dollar when they are young. We live in a consumer-driven economy wherein it is vital to learn how to manage money, spend responsibly, and save for the future by planning ahead. The earlier we address these issues with our children, the more likely lessons will be retained. For the youngest children (ages 3-5) • • Introduce them to money by playing shopkeeper. Label some items around the house and have them “purchase” the items. Keep the “revenues” in the “bank.” Trade roles so that they can see both sides. Let children handle coupons at the grocery store. You can foster a fun environment by allowing them to match coupons to products, and then allow them to keep the savings for the items that they have matched correctly. This is a concrete example of how saving a few pennies here or there can add up. Teach them why sale items are cheaper and how buying in bulk affects the price. Let them handle coins and bills. Teach them how the different sizes have different values. Let them trade in their pennies for quarters.

For young children (ages 6-8) • • • It is time to start an allowance. Children this age should begin handling money and counting it. Let them hand over money to a cashier. Allow them to keep the change if they choose the correct bills. Compare name brand and bargain brand items for taste or quality versus price. Make it a game to find markdown or sale items. Start setting limits on what you, as a parent, are willing to spend on clothing, toys or sporting events. If the child wants more, then they need to make up the difference with their allowance. This will help teach children how to live within their means.

For older children (ages 9-12) • • It is time for them to supplement their allowance. Allow them to do chores around the house for extra income. Perhaps a paper route or lawn-mowing job would be appropriate. If your child is constantly asking, “Why can’t I have it?” they may require a visual example. You can either cash your paycheck or use play money. Put the money into stacks that represent housing expenses, utilities, auto insurance, food, savings, etc. Also, show what is leftover after all bills are paid. This will show that you are not made of money and why we cannot always have what we want, unless we save. Teach your pre-teen to set short-term goals. Create a plan and a schedule. Allow them to make the deposits into your savings account and help them to keep track.

Teenagers • • • • Teens can begin to earn extra money by picking up a part-time job. Their primary job should be as a successful student, so don’t allow the paying job to interfere with study time. Teenagers should open their own savings account. Also, opening a checking account and learning to keep the checkbook balanced will be very valuable. Introduce them to the idea of credit. Teen credit cards are available and teen mathematical skills are sufficient to understand the concepts of finance charges and annual percentage rates. If your teen is interested, investing in the stock market may be a good tool for teaching them about investment and risk. The newspaper lists the trading information daily – this is a good place to start learning.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.moneyinstructor.com www.msgen.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Education Expenses When we think of education expenses, we usually think of college expenses. While we realize there are many plans available to those attending college or university, there are also plans available for use at any school, for a variety of expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Act (ESA), formerly known as the Education IRA-this investment option is a tax advantaged savings account designed to help pay for eligible education expenses. • Assets withdrawn to cover educational expenses are tax-free. • Principal and earnings can be used to cover K-12 costs such as tuition, tutoring, computer equipment, room and board, and uniforms. • You may contribute until the child is eighteen unless he/she has qualifying special needs. • You may contribute up to $2000.00 per year. • Contributions do not affect eligibility to contribute to the full $3000.00 traditional IRA • Contributions are not tax-deductible • Contributions can be made until April 15th for the current tax year. • Contributions must be made in cash. You cannot use stocks or bonds to supplement the IRA. If you are planning on sending your child to private school for any portion of their schooling, the ESA would be a good option. Begin this plan when the child is a newborn. If there is any money left after they graduate from high school, it can then be applied to college expenses. Government Series EE Savings Bonds • You may buy bonds for small amounts of money. You only need a minimum of $25.00 to invest. • You may buy them at your local bank or directly from the US Treasury Department. • There is a lower risk than most investments since principle and interest are guaranteed by the US government • Lost, stolen, or destroyed bonds can be replaced. • Bonds are exempt from state and local tax; tax can be postponed until you cash in your bond or until it reaches maturity at thirty years. • Money invested directly helps finance our nation’s borrowing needs. • Because these carry a lower risk, the return on your investment is not as aggressive. • The interest rates are generally lower than other options available. UGMA's (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) and UTMA's (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) • Allows you to establish a savings account on a child's behalf. • Current laws allow you to give up to $11,000.00 per year to another person without any tax penalties. • This type of account may lower the family annual tax bill because earnings on the account are taxed at the child tax rate which is lower. • When the child reaches the age of majority, he/she has full control of the account. This type of account does not have to be for educational expenses. Grandma and Grandpa (and other relatives) Sometimes relatives are willing to help pay for nieces, nephews or grandchildren. Rather than giving money directly to the student or parent wherein the gift tax may apply, have the relative make the check payable directly to the school. Tuition payments made directly to the school are not subject to a federal gift tax. Websites that can provide additional information: www.ustreas.gov www.entrustadmin.com/open_an_account/open_education_IRA.html www.principal.com/investment/ind/coverdell.htm www.invest-faq.com/articles/tax-ugma.html
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional

Emergency Fund Emergency savings should be those that are specifically for emergencies. Money that you set aside should not be used for random purchases or luxury items. There are two types of emergency savings—long-term and short-term. Short-term savings In the event that your car breaks down, the refrigerator dies or a pipe bursts, you should have the peace of mind knowing you can just write a check or hand over some cash. Most people rely on a credit card for emergencies, but paying cash ensures you pay only once, rather than paying for it several times over due to interest and fees on credit. Long-term savings In the event that you lose your job, face a legal situation or major medical expense, it will be important to have money set aside. The general rule suggests that three months worth of living expenses in the bank should be sufficient. This may take some time to build up, but there is no time like the present to start. Even if you begin with only $10.00 per month or per pay check, it’s better than nothing at all. Over time, you may be able to increase the contributions to your Emergency Fund. The key to building your savings is to treat it as if it were a bill. When you decide how much you can afford to save each month, pay your “bill” before having fun. Once you’ve reached your goal amount, you will have become accustomed to not having that extra money and will be able to put it towards your retirement fund or other investments. Websites that can provide additional information: www.frugalliving.about.com/library/weekly/aa060600a.htm www.thestreet.com/funds/mutualfundmonday/10003078.html www.bankrate.com/brm/news/financial-literacy/faq-emergency-savings1.asp
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Establishing Credit Having credit is important in today’s society. It is required for major purchases such as automobiles and homes. If you have good credit, you will receive better interest rates and more favorable repayment terms, meaning you will pay less for the money that you borrow. But how do you establish credit in the first place? Here are several ways to establish credit, and some Do’s and Don’ts. • Co-signing allows you to “use” someone else’s credit history in order to obtain a loan or line of credit. By paying the bills on time, you are then establishing your own credit history. However, defaulting on the payments will affect the co-signer’s credit as well. Secured credit cards allow you to have a credit line reported to the credit bureau. With this method, opening a savings account is required, and purchases with the credit card are permitted up to the amount in the savings account. Department and gasoline credit cards are also relatively easy to obtain and can be a good start to establishing credit.

There is a process for establishing meaningful credit. Once a debt is created, wait for the initial statement to arrive, and pay it on time and in full. If payment in full is not possible make payments until it is paid off. Do not make more purchases! Repeat the process until your score is sufficient to obtain unsecured credit. Remember a very important part of maintaining and establishing good credit is to always make payments on time. Do’s • • • • Open a bank account and use it responsibly Pay utilities on time Pay loans and credit accounts on time each month Review your credit report annually to ensure accuracy

Don’ts • Don’t overdraw your account • Don’t make late payments to loans and credit accounts • Don’t let other people use your accounts • Don’t leave utilities in your name if you move Websites that can provide additional information: www.beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/establishcredit/?terms=secured+credit www.credit-land.com/establish.php www.credittalk.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Eviction Process There are several steps that will occur before you are evicted from your rental property or your home is foreclosed upon. For Renters: If you do not pay your rent, your landlord has certain rights, including taking you to court or evicting you from the property. This can take as little as two weeks or as much as two or three months, depending on the state in which you live. The first step to eviction is a Notice to Quit or Notice to Vacate. This tells the renter to pay up or move out. It is a warning to the renter that he can stay put only if he pays his back-rent and becomes current on the payments. After the time has expired on the Notice to Quit, the landlord can file an eviction order with the court. The renter will receive a summons to appear in court. If you do not attend the hearing, a default judgment is entered, and the sheriff will serve the eviction notice. If you have not vacated the premises by the date stated on the notice, your belongings can be removed and put on the street. For Homeowners: After missing one or two payments, the lender will contact you by phone and letter. After sixty to ninety days, you will receive a notice in the mail, called a Notice of Default. This is the first step in the foreclosure process. From this point, you have 90 days to “cure” the debt (bring the account current). If you do not make up your missed payments, or contact the lender for payment arrangements, you will receive a Notice of Acceleration. At this point, the full amount that you owe is due immediately to avoid foreclosure. After that there will be a Notice of Sale. This gives the date and time that the foreclosure will take place. The foreclosure process can take anywhere from six to eighteen months depending on the circumstances of the case. Websites that can provide additional information: www.911tenant.net www.consumeraffairs.com www.expertlaw.com/library/pubarticles/Real_Estate/evicted_tenant.html www.nolo.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Fair Credit Billing Act The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) was created to protect consumers from improper billing practices. It designates a fair system to which creditors must adhere when crediting payments and correcting mistakes. It ensures payments are credited promptly, and provides protection to consumers in cases of defective goods, or services that were incomplete. It applies to “open-end” accounts like credit cards or department store cards. It does not cover items paid by fixed monthly installments, such as personal loans or car loans. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974, your rights include protection from billing errors resulting from: • unauthorized charges; • charges that list the wrong date or amount; • charges for items that you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed; • mathematical errors; • failure to promptly post payments, credits, etc.; • failure to send bills to the current address (Consumers are responsible for providing address changes in writing, at least 20 days before the billing period ends); • charges for which you ask for an explanation, or written proof of purchase along with a claimed error or request for clarification. According to the FCBA of 1974, in order to preserve your rights, you must do the following: • Write to the creditor at the address given for “billing inquiries.” Include your name, address, account number, and a description of the billing error. • Send the letter so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days of receiving the first bill that contained the error. • Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested to ensure that it was received. Include copies, not originals, of sales receipts or other documents to verify your claim. The creditor must respond to your inquiry within 30 days, in writing, unless the problem has been resolved. The dispute must be resolved within two billing cycles after receiving your letter. • You will still need to make payments on the undisputed portion of your bill. • The creditor may not take legal action to collect on the disputed amount during investigation. • Your account cannot be closed or restricted, but the disputed amount may count against your available credit. • The creditor must explain any corrections in writing. If crediting your account, the creditor is required to remove all finance charges, late fees or other charges related to the error. • If you owe a portion of the disputed amount, you are entitled to receive a written explanation. • If the bill is correct, you must be notified promptly in writing about the amount that you owe and why. You will owe the amount in dispute plus any charges that accrued while the amount was in dispute. • You may request copies of any documents that the creditor is using to prove its decision. Any collector who does not follow proper procedures may not collect the amount in dispute, or the related finance charges (up to $50), even if the bill turns out to be correct. This act covers billing errors only. It does not allow the consumer to dispute the quality of the goods or services. These disputes can be handled directly with the credit card issuer if the purchase was made in your home state, or within 100 miles of your current billing address. You must have also made a good faith effort to resolve the issue with the seller. The FCBA also states that businesses offering “open end” credit must also: • provide written notice that describes your right to dispute billing errors; • provide a statement for each billing cycle in which you owe more than one dollar; • send your bill at least 14 days before the due date; • credit all payments to your account on the date they are received; • promptly credit or refund overpayments owed to your account; You can sue a creditor if they violate the FCBA. Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Fair Credit Reporting Act The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was created to protect the consumer. It promotes accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information regarding an individual’s credit file. The FCRA provides guidelines for the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) defining their obligations to report and maintain accurate information. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA or FACT Act) of 2003 amends the FCRA by adding provisions to “prevent identity theft, improve resolutions for consumer disputes, improve accuracy of consumer records, make improvement in the use of, and consumer access to credit information (www.ftc.gov).” Our credit reports are viewed not only when we attempt to obtain new credit, but also when we apply for insurance, and sometimes even employment. According to the FCRA, if your credit report is used to make a negative decision, you are entitled to an explanation in writing stating which CRA report was utilized. You have the right to then obtain a free credit report, if you request the report within 60 days of being denied. You must be given the name, address, and phone number of the CRA where the report was obtained. In addition: • You have the right to request an investigation if you think information on your report is inaccurate. At your request, the CRA is required to investigate your claim within 30 days. If it is inaccurate, it must be removed or corrected. If the dispute is not resolved, you have the right to add a statement to your file. Consumers are also entitled to a free report every 12 months, and additionally, if one of the following applies: o You are unemployed and plan to seek employment within 60 days o You are receiving public assistance o You have reason to believe there is fraudulent activity on your report You have the right to review your file and be given a list of anyone who has recently requested your file. The CRA must remove or correct inaccurate or unverified information. The CRA is not required to remove accurate data unless it is outdated. If an item is in dispute with a creditor, the CRA must report the account information along with a notice of the dispute. CRAs must not report negative information that is older than seven years (ten years for bankruptcies). A CRA must not disclose information, without your written consent, to an employer or prospective employer. You may sue a CRA if they violate any portion of the FCRA. All “Credit Repair” companies are now regulated under the FCRA. It is illegal for them to make promises that they can “change your social security number” to hide a negative credit background. Furthermore, a consumer can work directly with the CRA for resolution, free of charge, without outside assistance.

• • • • • • •

Additionally, the FACT Act requires the following: • • • • • • Creditors must notify you prior to adding negative information to your credit file, reducing the number of inaccurate records going into the file. Restricted access to private health information Allow consumers to place fraud alerts on their file. A one-call-for-all protection against identity theft by requiring the credit bureaus to share consumer calls. Creditors must take extra precautions before extending credit to consumers with fraud alerts in their files. Merchants may only print the last 5 digits of a credit card on an electronic receipt.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.fair-credit-reporting.com/ www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/money/fair-debt/fair-dbt.htm www.ftc.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was created to provide the consumer rights and privileges with regards to debt collectors.

According to the FDCPA, collection agencies may not: • • • • • • • • • • • Give misleading or false information about the debt to others; Call before 8am or after 9pm within the client’s time zone; Interrupt the work flow at the client’s place of employment; Make excessive phone calls as a method of harassment; Send a letter in a format that appears to be an official government document; Threaten to take legal action unless such action is imminent or underway; Imply that any physical harm may come to the client or the client’s property; Deposit a post-dated check before the date on the check; Misrepresent themselves as a government agency or a law practice; Continue to harass the client after being notified in writing to stop. Refuse to identify themselves and their employer and relate the reason for the call.

Collection agents may: • • • • Ask for personal information. However, the client does not have to reply. Offer partial payments or other incentives to motivate the client to pay. File a claim against the estate of a deceased debtor. Ask if the client can be called at work. If the person answering the phone gives permission, the agent may proceed and call the debtor at that number.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov www.nolo.com www.credit.about.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Foreclosure If you are facing a situation in which your mortgage payments are going to be late, contact your creditor immediately. They are more willing to work with you before there is a problem rather than after the problem has already occurred. If you have already fallen behind, there are several short-term solutions that may be available to you. • • • • Reinstatement occurs when you can afford to make a lump sum payment to bring your mortgage current by a specific date. Forbearance allows the homeowner to delay payments for a short period of time, with the understanding that another option will be used to bring the account current in the future. A Repayment Plan may be established allowing you to add a portion of your past due amount to your current payments until you bring the account current. Recasting is another solution that some lenders offer. This allows you to add the late payments to the back end of your mortgage.

If these options are not available to you, or are not applicable to your situation, you may need to look at long-term solutions. • • • Mortgage Modification allows you to extend the length of your loan, or take other steps to reduce your payments. Selling your home may be your best option. The lender may be willing to delay foreclosure in order to provide you time to sell your home. Deed in lieu of foreclosure is when you give back the property in return for debt forgiveness. The bank accepts the deed, and does not pursue official foreclosure proceedings. The former homeowner may be responsible for a deficiency balance. The lender may require that you attempt to sell the home prior to accepting this arrangement. This option may not be available if there are other liens on the home. For FHA loans, you may be able to apply for a one-time payment from the FHA Insurance Fund. You may qualify if your mortgage is between four and twelve months past due. The funds must be repaid, usually when your mortgage is paid off or if you sell the property. HUD will ask you to sign a promissory note and place a lien on your home. The loan is interest free. For VA loans, you can contact the VA Regional Loan Center at 1-800-827-1000 for financial assistance or counseling. HUD-approved counselors are available if you do not wish to contact your lender first. Call 1-800-569-4287 to find an approved agency. They may be able to negotiate payment arrangements on your behalf with the lender.

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Websites that can provide additional information: www.hud.gov www.drfg.com For approved HUD counseling offices: www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm For foreclosure laws in your state: www.drfg.com/info.php
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Frugal Living The word frugal is often viewed as a negative word. Consumers may think that if they are on a budget or trying to live more frugally, that this is somehow boring or restrictive. Well, that is true - it can be! However, it is OUR attitude towards the topic that makes it positive or negative. It is our job to learn to be content with what we have, and to understand that more “stuff” does not equal more happiness. Living a simpler, more frugal lifestyle will ultimately help a consumer save more money, identify the difference between necessities and desires, and realize long-term financial goals. Regardless of economic status or financial wealth, a frugal lifestyle will also benefit society as a whole. Reducing our consumption of natural resources will ensure that those resources are available for future generations. • • • • Create a budget and stay focused. We must know how much money is coming in and how much money is being paid out before we can accomplish financial goals. Grocery shopping should be a planned event. Prepare a list, clip coupons, and be sure to sign up for any bonus card programs. Avoid impulse purchases at check-out. Bring your lunch to work! The cost of constantly buying meals adds up! Make a romantic dinner at home rather than dining out – the internet is filled with recipes that require no more than the ability to read and count! Your dinner will be a fraction of the cost, and the dining environment will be more private! Reduce utility bills by paying more attention to consumption. Turn off lights when not in use. Do not run water while brushing teeth or shaving. A little effort creates more money in your pocket. Create your own crafts and gifts and cards for birthdays and holidays. We must understand that just because something is purchased, it does not necessarily have more “value” than a hand-made gift. Visit your local craft store for more ideas. Attend movies during the matinee hours when prices are lower. Check your local newspaper for free weekend events.

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Websites that can provide additional information: www.coolsavings.com www.frugalvillage.com/ www.frugalliving.about.com/ www.frugalcorner.com/ www.allthingsfrugal.com/ www.frugalfamilynetwork.com/ www.frugalhomemaker.com/
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Garnishment Once a creditor has exhausted all other avenues to collect a debt, wage garnishment is the final step. Once the creditor has obtained a judgment from the courts, garnishing a consumer’s wages is a legal and equitable process. The arrangements are made through the consumer’s employer, and the employer is responsible for withholding and distributing the designated amount to repay the debt. Most garnishments require a court order; however, debts owed to the federal government can be repaid via administrative garnishments for non-tax debts, or by levies for IRS and tax collection. The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limits the amount of earnings that can be garnished, and protects an employee from being fired if pay is garnished for only one debt. The law designates earnings as wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and distributions from a retirement fund or pension. Tips are not considered earnings for the purposes of wage garnishment. The law also allows for disability and social security income to be garnished, if the debt is owed to the Federal Government. The amount of pay subject to garnishment is called “disposable earnings.” This is the amount of earnings remaining after deductions are made for taxes, Medicare and Social Security. This does not include deductions for life/health insurance, union dues, or retirement funds. The law determines the amount that may be garnished, regardless of the number of garnishment orders the employer receives. A wage earner must be left with at least $154.50 per week. This amount is equal to the Federal minimum wage ($5.15) times thirty hours. Consumers who earn less than this are exempt from garnishment. Generally, consumers have one garnishment at a time deducted from their paycheck. However, the judge decides how much a creditor is allowed to garnish, up to the maximum allowed by law. If the maximum is not utilized, then there is “room” for another creditor to garnish. For ordinary garnishments, the government specifies that a person must be left with at least $154.50 per week. If a wage earner earns at least $206.00 per week, the amount garnished will be up to 25% of the total earnings. (If the wage earner earns more than $154.50 weekly, but less than $206.00 weekly, the garnishment can equal the difference between the two. Example: $203.00 minus $154.50 equals $48.50) For example, if an employee’s paycheck shows $400.00 per week for gross pay and has deductions for federal and state income tax, Medicare tax, and Social Security tax equal to $100.00, disposable earnings would equal $300.00. 25% of $300.00 is equal to $75.00. The debt would be repaid at $75.00 per week, leaving the wage earner with $225.00 per week. For child support and alimony, the law is different. If a worker is supporting only one ex-spouse or child, the law allows up to 60% of a worker’s disposable earnings to be garnished. If the worker is supporting more than one exspouse or child, the law allows up to 50% of the earnings to be garnished. An additional 5% may be garnished for support that is in arrears. For debts owed to the Federal Government, collection agencies acting on their behalf are authorized to garnish 15% of earnings for debts defaulted to the Federal Government. For defaulted student loans, the Department of Education guaranty agencies can garnish up to 10%. Check your state garnishment laws to see if they vary from Federal laws. If there is a difference, the lesser amount will be applied. These laws change frequently. Websites that can provide additional information: www.carreonandassociates.com/articles/collectionlaws.htm www.carreonandassociates.com/articles/garnishments.htm www.overdue.com/Garnishment_Statutes/
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Holiday Saving Tips The best way to prepare for the holidays is to make an early commitment to remaining organized and focused throughout the year. Most people will leave shopping to the last minute, battling the crowds of disorganized, panicked bargain hunters at the mall – all the while promising that NEXT year will be different. By planning ahead, you can avoid that stress and strain, and even have extra gifts handy, just in case. • • Create a budget. Stay within your limits! Figure out how much you have to spend and adjust gift selection accordingly. Remember – it is NOT about how much you spend on the gift! Create a list! Purchase throughout the year. Each pay period, purchase a few gift cards at popular stores. When the time comes, you can use the gift card to purchase the gift, or give the recipient the card to purchase what they choose. Either way, funds were allotted well ahead of time. “Secret Santa” is a good choice for larger families, or at the office. Throw names into a hat, and each person chooses one recipient. Gift selection has a maximum value, and each person only purchases one gift. That will save money and time for all who participate. Handmade gifts are often the most treasured. A card or craft is a wonderful alternative to high-priced gifts. Baked goods are also well appreciated during the holidays. Create your crafts throughout the year so that you have plenty of time. Local craft stores will have plenty of ideas to get you started. Coupon books can be created to give your services to the recipient. New parents, for example, might really appreciate a babysitter for an evening out. Or, an elderly person might appreciate landscaping or other cleaning service. Be creative! Our capacity to give is not limited by our wallet!

Websites that can provide additional information: www.organizedchristmas.com www.dummies.com www.frugalliving.about.com www.thefrugallife.com www.thelaboroflove.com/forum/dollar/22.html

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Home Equity Refinancing

Homeowners have the additional options of obtaining a loan or line of credit secured by the equity value in the home. Choices include a second mortgage (also called a home equity loan) and a home equity line of credit. A second mortgage is a lump sum loan, given to the borrower in cash. Repayment terms are fixed monthly installments, usually paid back within fifteen years. Interest begins to accrue immediately. A line of credit is different – interest will only begin to accrue once the funds are accessed. A lump sum of cash is not given to the borrower, but rather, the borrower decides how much to take and when. The borrower may access up to the full amount of the credit line, with a revolving payment structure. Once the balance is paid down, the borrower may use the remaining credit much like a credit card. A lender will require that the homeowner is fully current on the mortgage, has good credit, and has a debt to income ratio that is within acceptable parameters. Obtaining these types of loans will allow a consumer to pay off their existing creditors immediately, and then repay the loan to the lender at a more favorable interest rate. • • • A loan will only be an effective solution if the consumer closes the credit card accounts, and is able to successfully manage their spending. Two thirds of all homeowners who take out home equity loans do not close the credit card accounts – and unfortunately, max them out again, creating a far worse situation. Using a secured loan option transfers unsecured debt from a credit card to the secured value of the home. Missing loan payments could result in losing the house whereas missing credit card payments has less severe penalties. Interest rates on lines of credit are often adjustable – not a good option for the consumer who desires a fixed interest rate. Secured loans should never be considered for generating extra cash, or other frivolous matters. While a line of credit can be retained without accruing interest until the need presents itself, a second mortgage is a lump sum payment that should only be considered if there is an immediate use for the funds. A good place to begin research for a loan would be a local bank or credit union where the consumer does business.

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Websites that can provide additional information: www.about.com www.mortgage101.com www.mbaa.org www.hud.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Home Mortgages Purchasing a home is a big step. For the uninitiated, the process can be daunting, confusing, and frustrating. By doing a little homework beforehand, the process can move a lot more smoothly. Before beginning a search for a home, it is important to check your credit rating. Order credit reports from all three agencies so that you may review the reports, make necessary corrections, and check your debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio will be an important factor for determining how much you can afford to spend on a monthly mortgage. It tells the lender how much income is available once all financial obligations have been deducted. Once this has been determined, the lender will “pre-qualify” you for a loan. This means that you will know exactly how much you may borrow, and in what price range to begin your search. At this point, it will be helpful to enlist the services of a real estate agent. Do you have funds for a down payment? Loan companies may offer better rates if you have a down payment. Also, without a down payment, you may not qualify for as many loans as you would with some extra cash. Items and terms to learn: . • Points • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) versus Fixed Rate Mortgage • differences between pre-qualified, pre-approved and loan commitment • differences between VA loans, FHA loans and HUD loans • differences between mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders

Websites that can provide additional information: www.mortgage101.com www.homebuying.about.com/od/mortgagefacts/index.htm?terms=mortgages www.fanniemae.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Identity Theft Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information such as name, Social Security number, bank account number, or other personal data to commit fraud or criminal activity. Your information may be used to open new credit card accounts, bank accounts, even to secure personal loans and mortgages. A person who has been the victim of identity theft must prove that any fraudulent activity was done without their knowledge. Repairing such damage can take years and cost hundreds of dollars. If you think you are the victim of identity theft… • Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file. Once the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts. All three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge, for your review. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts. • Close the accounts you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts. • File a police report and get a copy for your records You may need documentation for your creditors or others who request proof of the crime. Contact county or state police if local authorities will not help. If identity theft is not a crime in your state, file a "miscellaneous incident report." • Contact the Federal Trade Commission Call 1-877-438-4338 or visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft to file a complaint. The FTC maintains the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse which is a database used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Consider this: • • • • New credit reports should be ordered to verify changes were made. Report lost or stolen cards immediately. For stolen checks, stop payment and ask the bank to notify their check verification service. Follow up all calls in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep copies for your files.

Credit Bureaus
Equifax — www.equifax.com To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian — www.experian.com To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013 To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
To notify retailers not to accept your checks: Telecheck Certegy, Inc. International Check Services 1-800-710-9898 1-800-437-5120 1-800-637-9656

To find out if bad checks have been passed: SCAN 1-800-262-7771

TransUnion — www.transunion.com To order your report, call: 1-800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Identity Theft - Prevention Identity theft is a serious crime. It is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information such as name, Social Security number, bank account number, or other personal data to commit fraud or criminal activity. Your information may be used to open new credit card accounts, bank accounts, even to secure personal loans and mortgages. A person who has been the victim of identity theft must prove that any fraudulent activity was done without their knowledge. Repairing such damage can take years and cost hundreds of dollars. There are several things that can be done to help prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. • • • • • • • • • Be proactive! Order your credit report once per year. Some victims may not realize they are victims for up to five years! When ordering checks, use only your initials in place of first and middle name. DO NOT list your social security number or home phone number on your checks (You can fill this in when making a purchase, if required). When sending a payment to a credit card company, do not list the complete account number on the “For” line of your check. Include only the last 4 digits. The creditor knows the additional information. Make copies of everything in your wallet, front and back. Keep the photocopies in a safe place. This will ensure you have all the information required to take action, if necessary. Never reveal personal or banking information over the phone unless you have initiated the call. For incoming calls, request all relevant account information from the caller. Then, hang up and call the creditor directly to ensure that you are being contacted by an authorized individual. Make sure internet purchases are done over a secure server. Do not give out your credit card information to anyone—friends and family may seem trustworthy, but better safe than sorry. Do not give out personal information in response to emails. If you have already been a victim, prevent further identity theft by adding fraud alerts to your credit files.

Equifax — www.equifax.com To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian — www.experian.com To order your report, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013 To report fraud, call: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013 TransUnion — www.transunion.com To order your report, call: 1-800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Insurance When attempting to balance the budget and save on household expenses, many people do not think about their insurance plans. Costs can vary greatly, with benefits and details often overlooked. Be sure to carefully consider all companies when selecting a provider. Here are some other factors to consider: Auto Insurance • Insurance companies can set their own prices, within reason. Compare similar features in the policies - not just dollar amounts. Mention your age and marital status as this may affect rates. • You may be able to reduce your premiums by 10% by changing your deductible from $250.00 to $500.00. Be sure you have the financial means to pay that deductible in case of accident or incident. • Remove coverage items you don’t need, such as towing, car rental, etc. • Ask about lowering your coverage amounts. Is the reduction in coverage worth the money saved? • Ask about “low-mileage” and “clean driving record” discounts. • Sports cars and high-performance vehicles cost more to insure. • Policies generally cost more in urban areas versus rural areas. • Vehicles kept in garages cost less to insure – they are far less likely to be vandalized or stolen. • You may receive discounts for anti-theft devices, air bags, anti-lock brakes, or other safety devices. • Most companies offer multiple-vehicle or multiple-policy discounts. Purchasing auto, life, and renter’s or homeowner’s insurance from one company will most likely result in savings. • Discounts may be available for non-smokers, senior citizens, or carpooling. Health Insurance • Check the price of co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance requirements. • Can you choose your own health-care providers? • Does the plan include all of the health services that you need? • Does the plan include the health-care providers you're currently using? • Does the plan offer family as well as individual coverage? • Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions? What is the waiting period, if any? • Does the plan include a Prescription Discount Program? • What is the insurance company’s reputation in the industry? Homeowner’s and Renter’s Insurance • These policies generally cover damages to the home or personal property due to theft, fire, smoke and lightning, bursting pipes, ice and snow. • These policies also protect guests in the house if they are injured on the property. • Some items are expressly NOT covered – for example - damage due to flooding, and coverage of excessively expensive jewelry and other luxuries. Companies will offer separate policies or “riders” to cover these items, at an additional cost. • For those who rent, renter’s insurance will function in a similar manner, covering those items that are not covered by the apartment complex policy. Life Insurance • Periodic review of your coverage is recommended. Do not purchase more coverage than you need. • The healthier you are, the better the rates - smokers will automatically pay higher rates. • Buy sooner rather than later - premiums increase as you grow older. • You don't necessarily have to pay a commission; look for “no-load” policies. • If affordable, pay your insurance quarterly or annually – there is usually a discount. • Don't rely solely on the life insurance offered by your employer - this may not cover all your needs. • Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth - if you lie about your health to get better coverage, the policy could be null and void if the insurance company finds out. Websites that can provide additional information: www.insure.com www.insurance.com www.iii.org

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Interest-only Loans
Interest-only loans were very popular in the 1920’s. Back then, the note was interest-only for the term of the loan. The borrower refinanced at term, which worked out, as long as the house didn’t lose value or the borrower didn’t lose his/her job. With the Great Depression, most of these loans went into foreclosure and lenders stopped writing them. Now, lenders are willing to do the interest-only portion for a fixed period of time. What is an interest-only loan? An interest-only loan is a home loan that allows the borrower to pay just the interest on the mortgage for a certain period of time (5-15 years). No money is paid towards the principal during this time. After the interestonly period is up, the monthly payment increases to include principal over the remaining term of the loan. Why would anyone want one? Interest-only mortgages offer a lower monthly payment. Borrowers are able to afford more house than their finances would normally allow. Once they have paid off high-interest debt, they can then begin making higher payments. Most homeowners expect to sell or refinance prior to the interest-only period expiring. Some borrowers would rather use the difference in payments to invest in retirement or some other investment. If a loan is only 5% interest and an investment can earn 8% interest over the same 15 year time period then the borrower would end up 4% ahead.

Examples: • Consider a home loan for $200,000 at a fixed rate of 6.5 percent, paying only interest for the first five years. During the first five years, payments would be $1,083 a month, plus taxes and insurance, with nothing contributed towards the home’s equity. After the five year period, payments would rise to $1,350 in order to pay off the loan over the next 25 years. A traditional mortgage with the same terms would have monthly payments of $1,264. After five years, the borrower would have accumulated almost $13,000 in equity.

Websites that can provide additional information:
http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/mortgages/20030904a1.asp http://www.dfscorp.com/downloads/Cashflow_IO_Loan.pdf

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Investment Options Regardless of economic status or income, saving money is a sensible action. It is particularly important to plan for retirement. Today, it is predicted that Social Security funds may not be available for future generations – including perhaps yours! The range of savings and investment options is vast. A consumer should first determine the goal of saving. Are the savings for a short-term goal or a long-term goal? What is the level of risk that the consumer is willing to take? Will the consumer require continual access to these funds? The answers to these questions will help to determine what type of savings options to choose. The following is only a sample of these options. • Savings Accounts: A savings account at the local bank or lending institution is the simplest place to begin. A savings account will accrue only a very small amount of interest, however, the funds are always available for immediate withdrawal. Be sure to select a bank that is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Retirement Accounts: If your company offers any tax-free savings plans, this is a great option for creating a retirement account. Examples include a 401(k), a 403(b) and a 457. The funds are deducted ‘pre-tax’ from your paycheck. You have flexibility in choosing how much you place into the account. Sometimes your employer will match what you have deposited, basically giving you money just for choosing this option. The funds are then invested by the account administrator (usually a bank or brokerage firm) and the results of the investments are added or subtracted from your account. You will also have a choice in how the funds are invested. The account balance will vary as the market fluctuates; however, long-term performance is what matters most. If your company does not offer such savings plans, you can open an individual retirement account (IRA) at a local bank or lending institution. These accounts are designed to provide funds upon retirement. CD (Certificate of Deposit): A CD is an interest-bearing savings tool wherein the deposited funds are not available to withdraw for a certain period of time. A consumer “purchases” a CD at a bank or lending institution. The “cost” of the CD will vary, depending on the amount of interest that will accrue. The bank will then hold the funds within the CD until the time limit has expired. The consumer will then receive those funds back, plus whatever interest has accrued. It is a means for a bank to “borrow” money from you and then pay you back with interest. Example: A six-month CD has a minimum deposit of $1000.00 and will pay 2% interest. A consumer “purchases” the six-month CD by depositing $1000.00. Those funds will not be available until six months after the date of deposit – however, six months later that $1000.00 will be worth $1020.00. The Stock Market: Investing funds in the stock market requires research and attention. Whether you are a millionaire with thousands to invest, or a young adult with $25.00 per week to invest, utilizing the stock market as a means to accumulate wealth is a realistic, but risky venture. It may require a level of risk that the average consumer is not willing to take. It is possible to lose everything, so careful consideration is necessary! A stock broker will be able to give you advice depending on your circumstances. A minimum amount may be required to open an account with a broker, and broker fees apply when your stocks are traded, bought, or sold. A consumer can buy, sell, and trade stock on their own, if they are able to understand the process. The daily newspapers include the market activity on a regular basis. Consumers new to the stock market should try to read as much as possible on how the stock market operates before deciding to choose this option.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.stocks.com/ www.ourbusinessclasses.com/link/documents/save_invest_where_1000.htm www.mutualfunds.about.com/
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Job Search Tips
Update Your Resume Be sure to include: • Any training you’ve received (certifications, licenses) • Any skills that relate to the job (customer service, typing, etc.) • Any type of military service or volunteer work • Computer skills or training • Dates of training, service, and employment Circulate Your Resume • • • Submit your resume to an online job-search engine such as Monster.com Submit your resume to a recruitment firm Attend career fairs

Be Prepared For Interviews • • • • • Dress appropriately Do your homework – Learn some information about the company before you go Maintain eye contact Avoid touching your face or playing with your hair Answer interview questions appropriately o Most interviewers want to know what you can do for the company

Network, Network, Network One of the best ways to learn about job openings is to network. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, nearly 80% of the openings available at any one time are never advertised. Follow-up and Keep Records Be sure to keep records of where you sent your resume, who you talked to, thank you letters sent and any other pertinent information. Be Persistent Going on interviews can be disheartening if you aren’t offered a job. Do not blame yourself. Change your strategy and keep trying. Maintain your network. Websites that can provide additional information: http://www.free-resume-tips.com/10tips.html http://www.taos.com/resumetips.html
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Judgments

A judgment is the court’s final decision on a particular subject. In matters of debt, a judgment in favor of the creditor officially states that the debtor owes the money to that creditor. A judgment allows the creditor to then pursue further action such as wage garnishment. A judgment communicates to the public (and future creditors!) that the consumer literally had to be forced to repay the debt by court order. Future creditors may assume that this consumer probably will not bother to repay any other debt. A judgment carries negative, long-term ramifications. A consumer should do whatever it takes to avoid a judgment. This can be accomplished by setting up a payment plan with the creditor directly, or through a non-profit, credit counseling organization. You may still have to appear in court, but you will be able to provide documentation that you are intent on repaying the debt.

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Generally a consumer must be given thirty days notice prior to a hearing. ALWAYS appear in court if you are served. If you do not show up, the court may automatically enter a “default judgment” against you. Any out of court settlement or negotiation must be in writing! Check on the statute of limitations (SOL) for debts in your state. An expired SOL is a valid argument to take to court. If you believe you have been sued by mistake, you may file a “Motion to Vacate.” Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended to pursue this option.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.carreonandassociates.com/collectionlaws.htm www.nolo.com www.castlelaw.com/lit1.htm www.legal-definitions.com/legal-definitions-j.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Loan Calculators Loan calculators are used to determine pay-off time. The following list contains links to online calculators that can help you estimate your pay-off time for credit card debt, personal loans and mortgages.

Websites that can provide additional information:
www.interest.com/hugh/calc www.lowermybills.com www.bankrate.com/overkeyword/rate/calc_home.asp cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/debtplanner/debtplanner.jsp www.needhelpwithbills.com/debt_calculator.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Marriage, Divorce and Debt When couples decide to marry, often times they do not consider what would happen if they were to divorce. With divorce rates continuing to climb, and more and more couples citing ‘money trouble’ as one of the main reasons for divorce, the topic is certainly worth additional exploration. In addition to the emotional stress of dissolving the marriage and beginning life anew, couples will also be tasked with dividing and distributing property and possessions. This is especially true regarding credit and debt. Debts (both joint and individual) that were incurred during the marriage will need to be addressed to create a fair and equitable repayment strategy with which both parties can be satisfied. Since most creditors will view BOTH parties as equally responsible for said debts, the wisest action would be to consult an attorney as soon as possible. • • • • Information that will be helpful for the attorney will include details on ALL joint accounts – mortgages, automobiles, credit cards, utilities, tax returns, etc. Both parties should consider the effect that the divorce will have on individual credit ratings. Accounts that can be closed should be closed. This will reduce the incidence of ‘revenge spending’ wherein one spouse may try to accrue a lot of debt to spite the other spouse. Again, both parties may be held responsible even if the account only has one signature, so the best course of action is to meet with an attorney immediately.

For the most part, the state in which the couple resides will be the determining factor for the division of property and debts. Each state has a different system for dividing property when a partnership has ended. Accounts will have to be severed; each creditor has a different policy. Contact each individual creditor to determine what must be done. Because laws vary from state to state, only an attorney can direct you to the appropriate action for your situation.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.divorcesource.com www.experian-creditreport.com www.divorcehq.com www.divorceinteractive.com www.wife.org www.insurance.com
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Medical Savings Accounts

Medical savings accounts (MSAs) are tax-exempt savings accounts, similar to IRAs, which are used for medical expenses. The money can be applied to qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as prescriptions or co-payments. Unspent money left in the account can build interest for future expenses or retirement. • • • • • • Any qualified, self-employed person or company with fifty or fewer employees is eligible. The individual or the employer can make contributions to the MSA, but not both within the same year. Distributions can be made at anytime for qualified medical expenses without penalty. If the money is withdrawn for other purposes, it is subject to taxes and penalties. Insurance is required to participate in the MSA. Tax advantages take effect when you have low-premium, high-deductible insurance. There is a maximum dollar amount that can be contributed per year. Once an account reaches $3,500.00, any additional monies can be invested elsewhere.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.msaadvantage.com www.medicalsavingaccount.com/index.html?side.htm&0 www.msainfo.net/

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

OPT OUT

While it is true that consumers seek out credit by contacting the creditors directly – it is also true that creditors contact us even when we have not asked for their service! Is your mailbox cluttered with “pre-approved” credit card offers? Are you tired of the enormous amount of junk mail that you are receiving? Would you like to know why you are receiving all this mail? Credit cards companies and lenders rely on the information that is in your credit report to determine if they can offer you a “pre-approved” account. Most often, consumers who receive “pre-approved” credit card offers will sign up immediately – providing instant profit for the credit card company. Creditors know this, and they rely on this to increase their profits. Credit card companies and lenders can retrieve credit reports on whomever they choose – unless you have “opted-out.” When you choose to “opt-out” you are restricting those companies from having access to your credit report and score. They will no longer be able to initiate contact with you without your approval.

Call 1-888-567-8688 to OPT OUT!

Websites that can provide additional information: www.experian.com www.equifax.com www.transunion.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Payday Loans Payday loans, also known as cash advance loans, post-dated check loans, or deferred deposit check loans, are a very costly way to borrow money. Check-cashers and finance companies are making short-term, high-interest loans secured by your personal check. Here’s how the process works: • • • • • The borrower writes a post-dated personal check made payable to the lender for the amount borrowed plus a fee. The company gives the borrower the amount of the check minus the fee. For example, the borrower wants $100.00 until payday. He/she writes a check for $115.00. The lender gives $100.00 to the borrower and agrees to hold the check until the next payday. At that time, the lender either deposits the check, or the borrower can redeem the check by paying $115.00 in cash. You may be allowed to roll-over the check by paying a fee to extend the loan for another two weeks. Then, it would cost $30.00 to borrow the original $100.00. In this example, the initial cost of the loan is the $15.00 finance charge and an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 391%. Under the Truth in Lending Act, interest and finance charge information must be disclosed to the consumer in writing.

Tips and alternatives to payday loans • • • • • • • • • • Shop carefully, compare offers. Look for a loan with the lowest APR. Consider a small loan from your bank. Borrow the money from a friend or relative. Ask your employer for a pay advance. Obtain cash advances from your credit card. Ask creditors for more time to pay the bills. The late fees/finance charges may be less than the APR on the payday loan. Create and maintain a budget to avoid the need for a payday loan. Find out if you have, or can get, over-draft protection on your bank account. If you must use a payday loan, borrow only as much as you can afford to pay back with your next paycheck. If you need help with your budgeting or to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, contact a non-profit, credit counseling agency.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.credit.about.com/cs/consumerwisdom/a/042100.htm?terms=pay+day+loan www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/pdayalrt.htm

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional

Prioritizing Debt If a consumer has fallen behind on their payments, and funds are in short supply, it will be necessary to prioritize the debt. Is the debt secured or unsecured? The answer to this question will define the repayment strategy. A secured debt is one that is backed by collateral. Collateral can be legally seized by the lender in the event of a delinquency. Examples of secured debt include home mortgages and automobile loans. Falling behind on these debts means loss of property. No matter how strained the budget, the focus must remain on basic survival needs – housing, transportation, and food. Since homes and automobiles are usually secured debts, pay these first to ensure that essentials are maintained. An unsecured debt is one that is not backed by collateral. Examples of unsecured debt include credit cards or medical bills. If you have fallen behind, the most important factor to remember is that OPEN and HONEST communication with the creditors is the key to receiving assistance. Most creditors have their own ‘hardship’ program that is designed to help those in need. Also, a non-profit credit counseling organization may be able to design a repayment plan with creditors. In either case, a consumer who takes action at the first sign of trouble is more likely to be eligible for assistance. A consumer who ignores letters and phone calls, and evades the creditor at every turn, will ultimately find that the options from the creditor are few. Finally, if all attempts to collect by the creditor have failed, the creditor will then “charge-off” the account, and enlist the services of a third-party collection agency. That agency will then contact the consumer to collect the debt. • An account that has been “charged-off” as a bad debt is NOT exempt from repayment! Companies are required to report their profits and losses for tax purposes. When a creditor “charges-off” an account, they are confirming that the account cannot be considered as profit for the company. The creditor, however, would still retain the right to take legal action to attempt to collect the debt. The consumer is still responsible for repaying the debt. A lender of unsecured credit must first pursue and win a court judgment before money or property can be seized. Bear in mind that while court action is infrequent, it is still the right of the creditor.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/autos/carrepo.htm www.northeastfinancial.com/faq.html www.realtytimes.com/rtnews/rtcpages/20021111_workouts.htm www.iasfinancial.com/reposessors.htm www.kellygrover.com/foreclosure-prevention_workouts_help_financially-troubled_homeowners.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Renting vs. Buying a Home The decision to purchase a home or to rent a home is largely determined by the needs and desires of an individual. Many times we are advised the “American Dream” is to own a home, while renting a home is merely “throwing money in the trash!” This is not necessarily accurate. Circumstances regarding lifestyle, finances, and employment, should all be examined in order to make the most logical decision. For some, renting will be the wisest and most economical choice. For others, ownership will be the best selection. Consider these pros and cons: Renting – Pros • • • • More flexibility, temporary commitment – leases can be short or long-term Generally, only a “security deposit” is required in advance Utilities are often included in rent cost Not responsible for maintenance and repairs

Renting – Cons • • • • • Rent can be raised at anytime – there is no guarantee you can stay put Equity is not built by renting Less privacy – sharing of common areas required Landlord dictates all rules, changes to property not permitted You may have to wait for repairs

Buying – Pros • • • • • Ownership of the property when the mortgage is paid in full Property value should increase over time Potential tax savings Freedom to make changes to the property Repairs can be made without delay

Buying – Cons • • • • Large amount of funds required up front for settlement costs Large amount of funds may be needed for repairs and maintenance Long-term commitment required Potential required adherence to neighborhood rules

Websites that can offer additional information: www.invest-faq.com/articles/real-es-rent-vs-buy.html www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/buyorrent.html www.theknot.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Repossession When you purchase or lease a car, truck, boat, motor home or other vehicle, the lender holds the rights on the vehicle until you have paid it in full. The title to the vehicle is retained until full payment is received. These rights are established by the signed contract and state law. If you make late payments or default on the contract in any way, the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle. The state laws vary greatly. In many states, the lender has legal authority to seize the vehicle as soon as you default. There is no advance notice requirement, and they are generally allowed on your property without your permission. In other states, however, there are stricter procedures for repossession of a vehicle. The law states that a “breach of peace” in conjunction with the repossession is not allowed, but different states have different laws defining a breach of peace. For example, removing a car from a closed garage may constitute such a breach. The lender may be required to reimburse you for damages to you or your property for harm done. Each situation must be evaluated according to state law. Once the car has been repossessed, the lender may keep the car as compensation for your debt, or sell it to recoup some of the costs. In many states, you must be notified of the date of auction or private sale. In either case, you may be entitled to buy back the vehicle by repaying the full amount that you owe, plus expenses associated with the repossession. In some states, you can reinstate the contract by paying only the amount that is past due, plus any costs associated with the repossession. Lenders are not allowed to keep or sell any of the personal belongings inside the car. If the car is sold, usually there is a deficiency balance. This is the difference between the amount that you owed and the amount for which the car was sold. For example, if you owe $2500.00 on the car and your creditor sells the car for $1500.00, the deficiency balance is $1000.00. You would also owe any additional fees according to your contract. These fees can include those related to the repossession and early termination of your lease or early pay-off of your financing. In most states, the creditor is allowed to sue you for this deficiency balance. It is easier to prevent repossession than to pick up the pieces afterwards. Contact your lender as soon as you realize there might be a late payment. You may be able to negotiate a delay in payment or an altered schedule of payments. Make sure to get any changes in writing to avoid confusion later. Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Retirement Savings There are few things in life that are certain. Given the fact that you will live long enough, there will be a time when you will stop working. That time is called retirement. You need to begin planning early. For many generations, Social Security will not be a viable option. Planning for retirement is a time consuming job, but well worth the time spent. Because there are many unknown factors, it is difficult to plan exactly how much money you will need to save for retirement. Here are some ideas to consider: • Imagine your future

How old are you now? When do you plan to retire? To what age do you expect to live? Do you want to live at your current level? Do you want to keep working after you “retire?” Do you want to travel or stay close to home? • Define your goals

Now put those dreams into reality. If you want to retire early, you need to save more aggressively. How important is that goal? • Determine your income requirements

Determine your current spending level. Generally, retired folks spend the same amount of money, just on different things. While there may a decreased or eliminated mortgage payment, increased medical expenses will ensue. Estimate your benefits from Social Security. Estimate the return on your investments. Average return over time is about twelve percent for investments. By calculating about four percent return, you can allow sufficient leeway for inflation. • Plan your investment strategy

Use an investment calculator to determine how much money you need to save between now and retirement. Plan accordingly by using different investment vehicles such as stocks, bonds or annuities. For additional help, seek the advice of a professional financial planner. Websites that can provide additional information: For worksheets or calculators: www.smartmoney.com/retirement/planning/?nav=LeftNav
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Reverse Mortgages Simply put, a reverse mortgage is a “loan” designed to provide income for older consumers who own their homes outright. While a conventional mortgage loan is designed to build equity in the property, a reverse mortgage takes the equity out of the property and converts it into cash that the homeowner can borrow. To qualify for a reverse mortgages, a consumer needs to be at least sixtytwo years of age, and occupy the property as a principal residence. Reverse mortgages are offered through government programs, as well as through public lenders. • • • The most popular type of reverse mortgage loan is a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). There are no income or credit requirements for reverse mortgages. The amount of the loan will depend on the age of the applicant and the value of the property. If one applicant is younger than the other, the youngest applicant’s age is used for calculation. Interest rates and closing costs will also affect the amount that is available. A homeowner will still be responsible for repairs, paying property taxes and maintaining insurance coverage for the property. Failure to maintain these obligations may result in default of the loan. Reverse mortgages can affect tax liability, as well as eligibility for certain state and federal government assistance programs. Because of the complicated nature of reverse mortgages, The Truth in Lending Act specifies a reverse mortgage must be explained in terms of the Total Annual Loan Cost (TALC).

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Websites that can provide additional information: www.hud.gov www.aarp.org www.reverse.org
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Student Loans - Repayment After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, there is a six to nine month period before loan repayments begin. You will be notified by your loan provider regarding upcoming due dates. If you are unable to make payments, contact your lender to set up either forbearance or deferment. Otherwise, the maturity date on each promissory note is accelerated and the balance will be immediately due in full. Other negative consequences include wage garnishment, federal tax refund withholding, and losing eligibility to obtain other government loans like FHA or VA. There are many options available to people who have defaulted on their student loans. • • • You can set up a repayment plan with the guaranty agency to repay the loan You can consolidate your loan through the FFEL loan consolidation program or the William D. Ford Direct Loan program. You can rehabilitate the loan by entering the loan rehabilitation program.

Consolidation allows you to combine several types of loans to simplify repayment. For the FFEL, you must be in repayment on a defaulted loan and have made at least three consecutive on-time payments. Depending on the balance due, the new consolidated loan payment period may extend to as long as thirty years. The loan rehabilitation program allows you to set up reasonable, affordable payments. After you have made twelve consecutive payments, the Department of Education will agree to reinsure the loan. The loan will then be eligible to be repurchased by a lending institution. Once the loan is rehabilitated, it will be taken out of default, the negative credit bureau information will be deleted and you will be able to pay the loan over a nine year period. You will again be eligible for additional Title IV student aid funds. For more information on the loan rehabilitation program, call 1-800-621-3115 You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243), to find out which guaranty agency holds your loan Websites that can offer additional information: To find a listing of the guaranty agencies: http://bcol02.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SGA For information on loan rehabilitation: www.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/DCS/index.html
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Student Loans - Types
There are different types of grants and loans available. Each school generally has a financial aid office to which you may inquire. • • • Federal Pell Grants are designed for lower income families. The maximum annual award equals about $3,000.00. Pell grants are not available for graduate studies. State Grants are needs-based grants, usually for residents attending in-state schools. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are needs-based grants for undergraduate students. The Federal Work Study Program is part of the FSEOG. Typically, students work somewhere on campus (library or bookstore) and receive a paycheck and sometimes a break in tuition. Federal Perkins Loans are needs-based, low-interest loans (5%) for undergraduate and graduate students. Repayment must begin nine months after graduation or when schooling ends. Stafford Loans are needs-based loans, backed by the Federal Government. They can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. The circumstances of the applicant will determine eligibility. The loans are typically payable after leaving school. PLUS Loans for Parents are not based on need and are the responsibility of the parent(s). They offer reasonably competitive rates, but you'll need a solid credit record to qualify.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.fafsa.ed.gov

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Tax Tips - Charitable Donations Donating to a charitable organization is a great way to help those in need, and to receive a tax break. Here is some general information on taxes as applicable to charitable donations. • You must itemize your taxes using Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax form Schedule A. If your deductions (items such as mortgage interest, state and local income and property taxes, and donations) won’t exceed the standard deduction amount, there is no need to itemize. (It would be better to have a yard sale!) If you are donating less than $250.00, you don’t need a receipt. If you are donating between $250.00 and $500.00, create an itemized list of what you’ve donated and get a receipt to keep with your records. For donations over $500.00, you will need to fill out Form 8283, which requires a description of all donated property and the address of the charity that received the donations. Any donation worth more than $5,000.00 requires a certified appraisal. The fair market value of an item is the price you would pay for that item in its current condition, not the cost to buy the item new. Be sure to donate to an IRS-qualified charity or you won’t be eligible for deductions. If you receive any benefits or goods from the donation, you must subtract the value of the goods received from your donation. For example, if you attend a charity dinner and pay $3,500.00, you will have to subtract the cost of the dinner from the donation ($3,500.00 $250.00 = $3,250.00).

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Websites that can provide additional information: Fair market value guide for donated items www.salvationarmy-usaeast.org/help/valuation_guide.htm IRS Tax Questions and Assistance (800) 829-1040 www.irs.gov Tax Guide for Investors www.fairmark.com Smart Money Taxes www.smartmoney.com/tax/
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Tax Tips – General
For the average consumer, taxes are always due on or before April 15th. If you seem to owe a lot in taxes every year, you may need to adjust your deductions at work. If you are receiving a large refund, it may be nice to receive a lump sum; however, you may also adjust your deductions to take advantage of that money on a monthly basis. It doesn’t make any sense to allow the Federal Government to borrow your money interest-free when you could be investing it in an interest-bearing savings account or investment fund. Better yet, pay off those high-interest cards and get out of debt. For those who receive a big tax bill each year, owing money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t as scary as it was in the past. The IRS does have a payment plan that allows you to divide what you owe into fifty-eight months or less. According to the IRS, interest is charged on any unpaid tax from the due date of the return until the date of payment. The interest rate is determined every three months and is equal to the Federal short-term rate, plus three percent. Interest is compounded daily. If you have paid the net amount of tax that was due based on your return, but were subsequently advised that more tax should have been paid, the IRS will then charge a “failure to pay” penalty and send you a bill. If the IRS bills you for any tax, penalty, or interest, the bill must be paid within twenty-one calendar days (ten business days if the amount equals or exceeds $100,000.00) to avoid an additional late payment penalty. The due date is calculated from the date the original “failure to pay” penalty was charged. Missing this due date will result in additional penalties unless you can show reasonable cause for the failure. In addition, if you filed on time but didn't pay the net amount due, you will generally have to pay a late payment penalty. This penalty will be equal to one-half of one percent of the tax owed, for each month that the tax remains unpaid. This penalty can range up to twenty-five percent. However, you will not have to pay the penalty if you can show reasonable cause for the failure. • • • • • • • Keep all relevant receipts together throughout the year to be better prepared for tax time. Clean out your closet! Donating old clothes to charity equals a tax deduction for you. Excessive health care costs can be deductible. Interest paid on a mortgage or points paid to refinance a home may be deductible. Higher education expenses may be deductible (ask about Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits). Hybrid vehicles (half-electric, half-gas) qualify for deductions. The Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a tax credit for individuals who qualify. They must be employed, earn less than $34,692.00 and meet certain criteria. It reduces the amount of taxes that you owe and may give you a refund.

Contact a professional tax planner or certified public accountant (CPA) to maximize your deductions.
To contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service, call the toll-free telephone number: 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TTD: 1-800829-4059. Or you can call, write or visit the local taxpayer advocate office for your state. A list of Taxpayer Advocate Service offices may be found in Publication 1546, The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS, which may be downloaded and printed from the www.irs.gov website.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ustreas.gov www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p596.pdf
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Truth in Lending Act The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) protects the consumer by ensuring that creditors fully disclose ALL credit terms in a contract. According to TILA, lenders and creditors are subject to TILA regulations when the following four criteria have been met: • • • • Credit has been offered to consumers; The company offering credit does so on a regular basis (extends credit more than 25 times per year); The credit is subject to a finance charge or is payable by written agreement in more than four installments; The credit is for personal, family or household purposes.

A company offering credit cards for any purpose is regulated by TILA. Credit extended (loans or lines of credit) for business, commercial, agricultural, or organizational purposes are otherwise regulated. Student loans are protected by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. According to TILA, the following disclosures are required from creditors for closed-end credit transactions: • • • • • • • • • Identity of the creditor Amount financed Itemization of the amount financed Annual Percentage Rate (APR), including applicable variable-rate disclosures Finance charge Total of payments Payment schedule Prepayment/Late payment penalties If applicable to the transaction, (1) total sales cost, (2) demand feature, (3) security interest, (4) insurance, (5) required deposit, and (6) reference to contract

According to TILA, for open-end transactions such as credit cards, the following disclosures are required: • • • • • Annual Percentage Rate AND any variable-rate disclosures Method of determining finance charge and balance upon which finance charge is imposed Amount, or method, of determining membership or participation fees Security interests, if applicable to transaction Statement of billing rights

Websites that can provide additional information: www.ftc.gov www.about-all-credit-cards.com/Credit_Laws_Rights/truth-in-lending-act.html
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Unsecured Personal Loans

An unsecured loan does not require the consumer to have collateral. Credit is given to the consumer based solely on the ability to pay, as determined by the credit score. An unsecured loan can be obtained through a bank, credit union or finance company. Sometimes these loans are referred to as “Personal Loans” or “Signature Loans” or “Signature Lines of Credit.” These options are usually available to those with a good credit rating, and a debt to income ratio that is within acceptable parameters. Obtaining a personal loan or line of credit will allow the consumer to pay off existing creditors immediately, and then repay the loan to the lender at a more favorable interest rate.

• • • • • •

If the purpose of the loan is debt consolidation, a loan will only be an effective solution if the consumer closes the credit card accounts. Depending on credit rating, interest rates will vary – Shop around! A good place to begin research for a loan would be a local bank or credit union where the consumer does business. Finance companies may be an option for those with less than ideal credit scores. The interest rates will most likely be higher than usual, so be sure to pay close attention. Ensure that the terms of repayment are clearly understood. Ask if there are any penalties or fees if the debt is paid off earlier than scheduled. Some lenders will require that you purchase insurance to cover the cost of the loan in the event of death or disability. Before accepting any insurance plan from the lender, check with your existing life insurance provider, to determine if you have sufficient coverage to repay the loan already.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.about.com www.bankrate.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Utilities
How to save money on utilities Discount Plans: You may be eligible for reduced rates or a ‘Budget Billing’ plan with utility companies. Many companies have these types of programs available. Low-income households may qualify for assistance through the Federal Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Contact the local utility company or the state public utility commission for more information on these programs. Unnecessary Services: Many utilities that we consider vital are only conveniences. Examples include cable television, internet service, extra telephone or fax lines, and cellular service. In times of extreme financial hardship, terminating these services will provide extra income for necessities. Usage Reduction: You may save even more by using specialized fixtures available at the local home improvement store. Ask for energy-efficient light bulbs and ‘low-flow’ faucets or shower heads. Be frugal! Electricity, gas, and water are precious resources. Turn off lights not in use. Turn off the water when brushing teeth or shaving. Extra effort equals a big change in usage costs. Furthermore, “weatherizing” your home will decrease overall heating and cooling expenses. Knowing your rights and reducing your utility bills Consumer laws provide some protection against termination of utility services. Laws vary from state to state. Again, check with your state’s public utility commission. In most cases, • • • • • The consumer must be given written notice of an upcoming service termination. Consumers must be given the right to a hearing. Consumers are protected from service termination during winter months. Consumers who rely on electronic medical equipment and those who are seriously ill are protected from service termination. Landlords cannot terminate service to renters.

NOTE: A private utility company may not be required to follow these regulations. Service may be terminated without warning. Websites that can provide additional information: www.consumeraffairs.com/links/state_pucs.html www.ncat.org/liheap/tables/resleg.htm www.dps.state.ny.us/stateweb.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Vacationing on a Budget
Living on a budget does not mean you are not allowed to take a break! Everyone needs time away from the stress of everyday life. However, taking a vacation does not mean taking a vacation from budgeting. By planning in advance and examining your options carefully, you can get the recreation that you need, without breaking the bank. First things first – determine your budget. Once you know how much you will be able to spend, you will be able to plan accordingly. Next, determine the date that you would like to travel. Prices are determined, in part, by the availability of space on the airplane or at the hotel. Finally, visit a local travel agency. Initial consultation services are free, as are most of their other services. Let the agent know your operating budget. The agent will be able to offer several destinations that will fit, as well as provide you with brochures on these locations. • • • • • • Avoid planning vacations during “peak” times or holidays when rates are higher. Start saving for your vacation in advance. Check with your employer to see if overtime is an option to provide additional funds. Set money aside each month that is designated specifically for your vacation. Shop around for the best rates. The internet makes it easy to compare. Also, libraries and travel bookstores have books about bargain traveling. If your travel dates are flexible, check with the agent for any last minute travel bargains. Consider a destination that is close to your home. Ability to drive to a destination will save in airfare.

Websites that can provide additional information: www.asta.com www.expedia.com www.travelocity.com www.orbitz.com

The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Wants vs. Needs Consumers today are lost between a desire to stop spending and an inability to resist the urge to splurge. We reach for a new pair of shoes knowing that we do not have cash to pay - we purchase new items to replace items that are still in perfect working condition – we are shocked by the growing demands from our children. Then, surrounded by all of our purchases, we still feel like something is missing. Why? There are psychological reasons behind our spending habits. Studies indicate that the habits that we call our “personality” are the very factors that work against us. If we are not careful, we will pass these habits onto our children, increasing household budget stress, and creating unreal expectations for the very futures we strive to protect. Today, we are convinced that we need certain items, when these items are conveniences, not necessities. Combine this fact with personality influences and our easy access to money and credit…and we have a recipe for a debt disaster. Additional factors that influence spending behavior include the media and the internet. Each minute in front of the television adds to our perceptions that we must have certain things in order to be happy. Advertisers are trained to push triggers that will make us shop. The internet makes the situation worse – we can shop to our hearts desire without ever changing out of our pajamas! If we make an effort to steer clear of technology – take a walk, read a book, go to the park with our children – we will find we are spending our money more wisely, and becoming healthier and happier. • • • • • • Competitive Spenders are racing to ‘keep up with the Joneses’; to outspend everyone else; to make themselves feel better by amassing material wealth Revenge Spenders are spending money to punish someone else Compulsive Spenders spend to eliminate the sense of emptiness and unhappiness; to make up for a bad day at work or a fight with a loved one Co-dependent Spenders try to control others by showering them with gifts Narcissistic Spenders spend to beautify themselves to compensate for feelings of inferiority The People Pleaser spends to receive love and ensure popularity by buying things for others

Temptation is hard to resist. Yes, we need to purchase some items. Purchasing wisely is the key. Do not be lured by sales – just because an item is on sale does not mean that we must make a purchase! Take cash instead of using credit cards – studies PROVE that we spend less when we spend cash. Make a list of what is needed and stay focused. Check newspaper advertisements and compare prices. Finally, if you find you are frequently experiencing “buyer’s remorse” you are most likely falling into one of the above listed spending personalities – shopping not out of need but out of an artificially created desire. No matter what reason we have for overspending, we are likely to find that the “finer things in life” do not equal happiness. The old adage "mind over matter" is equally applicable as "mind over money." We each have the power to make the needed changes in our lives to accomplish our goals - the question is - where will we go from here? Websites that can provide additional information: www.missourifamilies.org/quick/financeqa/finqa115.htm www.dca.org/news/releases/052302PRMoneyAbuse2.htm
The websites listed are for informational purposes only. Debtscape Inc. does not endorse nor promote these companies. This information is provided as a courtesy resource, and is not intended to replace consultation with an industry professional.

Index of Websites
Asset Allocation www.investorwords.com www.investor.com www.gofso.com Automotive Expenses www.frugalliving.about.com/library/weekly/aa060600a.htm www.thestreet.com/funds/mutualfundmonday/10003078.html www.bankrate.com/brm/news/financial-literacy/faq-emergency-savings1.asp Autos: Buying Vs. Leasing www.federalreserve.gov www.leasesource.com www.leaseguide.com www.carclicks.com Autos: New vs. Used www.bestautousa.com www.creditoption.com/autosites.htm www.auto-buying-tips.com www.consumerreports.org Bad Checks http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/truncation/ http://www.aba.com/About+ABA/CheckTruncationAct.htm Bankruptcy www.findlaw.com/01topics/03bankruptcy/index.html www.bankruptcy-courts.net/ www.thebankruptcysite.com www.nolo.com Budget Planning www.betterbudgeting.com www.moneyadvise.com Child Support www.childsupport.com/index.asp www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/ www.supportkids.com/ Collections Agencies www.ftc.gov www.ustreas.gov College Education Savings www.fastweb.monster.com/cpt/ www.fafsa.ed.gov -For websites and toll free numbers for state plans, visit www.collegesavings.org -To compare 529 plans for each state, go to www.savingforcollege.com -For the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits, see IRS publication 970. Coping with Job Loss www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/businessmanagement/DF6499.html

Co-Signing for Credit www.bankrate.com www.moneycentral.msn.com/content/Banking/Yourcreditrating/P38054.asp Credit Cards – Accelerate Your Pay Off http://extension.usu.edu/cooperative/powerpay/ Credit Reports, Credit Scores, Credit Disputes. www.equifax.com www.experian.com www.transunion.com Debt Settlement www.credit.about.com www.nolo.com Disputing Credit Charges www.ftc.gov Educating Kids www.moneyinstructor.com www.msgen.com Education Expenses www.ustreas.gov www.entrustadmin.com/open_an_account/open_education_IRA.html www.principal.com/investment/ind/coverdell.htm www.invest-faq.com/articles/tax-ugma.html Emergency Fund www.frugalliving.about.com/library/weekly/aa060600a.htm www.thestreet.com/funds/mutualfundmonday/10003078.html www.bankrate.com/brm/news/financial-literacy/faq-emergency-savings1.asp Establishing Credit www.beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/establishcredit/?terms=secured+credit www.credit-land.com/establish.php www.credittalk.com Eviction Process www.911tenant.net www.consumeraffairs.com www.expertlaw.com/library/pubarticles/Real_Estate/evicted_tenant.html www.nolo.com Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) www.ftc.gov Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) www.fair-credit-reporting.com/ www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/money/fair-debt/fair-dbt.htm www.ftc.gov Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) www.ftc.gov www.nolo.com www.credit.about.com

Foreclosure www.hud.gov www.drfg.com For approved HUD counseling offices: www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm For foreclosure laws in your state: www.drfg.com/info.php Frugal Living www.frugalvillage.com/ www.frugalliving.about.com/ www.frugalcorner.com/ www.allthingsfrugal.com/ www.frugalfamilynetwork.com/ www.frugalhomemaker.com/ www.coolsavings.com Garnishment www.carreonandassociates.com/articles/collectionlaws.htm www.carreonandassociates.com/articles/garnishments.htm www.overdue.com/Garnishment_Statutes/ Holiday Saving Tips www.organizedchristmas.com www.dummies.com www.frugalliving.about.com www.thefrugallife.com www.thelaboroflove.com/forum/dollar/22.html Home Equity Refinancing www.about.com www.mortgage101.com www.mbaa.org www.hud.gov Home Mortgages www.mortgage101.com www.homebuying.about.com/od/mortgagefacts/index.htm?terms=mortgages www.fanniemae.com Identity Theft www.consumer.gov/idtheft www.equifax.com www.experian.com www.transunion.com Identity Theft – Prevention www.equifax.com www.experian.com www.transunion.com Insurance www.insure.com www.insurance.com www.iii.org

Interest-only Loans http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/mortgages/20030904a1.asp Investment Options www.stocks.com/ www.ourbusinessclasses.com/link/documents/save_invest_where_1000.htm www.mutualfunds.about.com/ Job Search

http://www.free-resume-tips.com/10tips.html http://www.taos.com/resumetips.html
Judgments www.carreonandassociates.com/collectionlaws.htm www.nolo.com www.castlelaw.com/lit1.htm www.legal-definitions.com/legal-definitions-j.htm Loan Calculator www.interest.com/hugh/calc www.lowermybills.com www.bankrate.com/overkeyword/rate/calc_home.asp cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/debtplanner/debtplanner.jsp www.needhelpwithbills.com/debt_calculator.htm Marriage, Divorce and Debt www.divorcesource.com www.experian-creditreport.com www.divorcehq.com www.divorceinteractive.com www.wife.org www.insurance.com Medical Savings Accounts www.msaadvantage.com www.medicalsavingaccount.com/index.html?side.htm&0 www.msainfo.net/ Opt Out www.equifax.com www.experian.com www.transunion.com Payday Loans www.credit.about.com/cs/consumerwisdom/a/042100.htm?terms=pay+day+loan www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/pdayalrt.htm Prioritizing Debt www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/autos/carrepo.htm www.northeastfinancial.com/faq.html www.realtytimes.com/rtnews/rtcpages/20021111_workouts.htm www.iasfinancial.com/reposessors.htm www.kellygrover.com/foreclosure-prevention_workouts_help_financially-troubled_homeowners.htm Repossession www.ftc.gov

Retirement Savings www.smartmoney.com/retirement/planning/?nav=LeftNav Reverse Mortgages www.hud.gov www.aarp.org www.reverse.org Renting vs. buying a home www.invest-faq.com/articles/real-es-rent-vs-buy.html www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/buyorrent.html www.theknot.com Student Loan Information – Repayment To find a listing of the guaranty agencies: http://bcol02.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SGA For information on loan rehabilitation: www.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/DCS/index.html Student Loan Information – Types www.fafsa.ed.gov Tax Tips – Charitable Donations Fair market value guide for donated items www.salvationarmy-usaeast.org/help/valuation_guide.htm IRS Tax Questions and Assistance (800) 829-1040 www.irs.gov Tax Guide for Investors www.fairmark.com Smart Money Taxes www.smartmoney.com/tax/ Tax Tips – General www.ustreas.gov www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p596.pdf

To contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service, call the toll-free telephone number: 1-877-777-4778 or TTY/TTD: 1-800-829-4059. Or you can call, write or visit the local taxpayer advocate office for your state. A list of Taxpayer Advocate Service offices may be found in Publication 1546, The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS, which may be downloaded and printed from the www.irs.gov website.
Truth in Lending Act www.ftc.gov www.about-all-credit-cards.com/Credit_Laws_Rights/truth-in-lending-act.html Unsecured Personal Loans www.about.com www.bankrate.com Utilities www.consumeraffairs.com/links/state_pucs.html www.ncat.org/liheap/tables/resleg.htm www.dps.state.ny.us/stateweb.htm

Vacationing on a Budget www.asta.com www.expedia.com www.travelocity.com www.orbitz.com Wants vs. Needs www.missourifamilies.org/quick/financeqa/finqa115.htm www.dca.org/news/releases/052302PRMoneyAbuse2.htm

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