How to Keep Your Identity Safe at 30,000 Feet

Man using tablet during the flight
Hacking is becoming more commonplace, and your data isn’t safer 30,000 miles up on in the air.

While surfing, shopping or sending emails aboard a flight is becoming more popular and is convenient as more airlines are adding Wi-Fi, your connection is just as insecure as hanging out in your local coffee shop.

Here are some common tips to avoid being hacked at the airport or during your flight.

If you are going to connect to a free wireless network, check to see if it is a secure, trusted hotspot operated by a known organization such a JetBlue (JBLU), said Sergio Galindo, a general manager of GFI Software, a Durham, North Carolina, developer of IT solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.

IT admins at airports often don’t have the time or resources to constantly monitor for intruders or interlopers.

Remain skeptical of suspicious-looking network names such as “Free Wi-Fi” or “AmAir2,” he said. Avoid logging into sensitive sites or engaging in mobile banking while on a free Wi-Fi network.

If you have to log-in through a website, make sure the site is secure and looks legitimate such as the fact that that everything is spelled correctly in the URL.

Paying for wireless connectivitydoesn’t mean it’s secure. Other so-called “secure” Wi-Fi networks can still pose risks because they are difficult to manage. At some airports or airlines, those networks may not be managed at all, Galindo said.

“IT admins at airports often don’t have the time or resources to constantly monitor for intruders or interlopers,” he said. “It’s important to stay vigilant and follow data security best practices at all times.”

Since airline Wi-Fi networks are similar to public Wi-Fi networks because they are designed with the lowest possible interference against getting users connected, the amount of security on these networks will be “nearly non-existent,” said Mark Parker, a senior product manager at iSheriff, a Redwood Shores, California, cloud security provider.

“Users should assume that they are on a network that could potentially be shared by everyone else on the plane,” he said. “This means that there is nothing between your device and the device of that shady looking character over in seat 22D.”

Mobile Devices Can Be Hacked, Too

It’s not only your laptop that hackers can worm their way into. Don’t forget about your smartphone and tablet. If you want to avoid the possibility of hacking altogether, turn off the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your mobile device and only use the LTE/4G/3G data connection from mobile device, said Jason Hart, a vice president at Gemalto, a Belcamp, Maryland, digital security company.

“It is easy for hackers to spoof Wi-Fi networks and fool your mobile device into connecting to it,” he said. “They do this by setting up spoof networks using commonly used Wi-Fi network names and your mobile device will automatically connect to a Wi-Fi network if it recognizes the name.”

When you are using your laptop, only turn on Wi-Fi when you are connecting to a known Wi-Fi network and always turn on the Virtual Private Network, or VPN, connection which routes your online activities through a private and secure network even when using Wi-Fi.

Make sure you disable all sharing services like iCloud on a laptop or mobile device. This is crucial, because not doing this means “you’re opening yourself up to more data and content that can be stolen,” Hart said.

Use two-factor authentication on everything that requires a password, including social media, because that’s “just good security hygiene,” he said.

Breaching most networks or systems is something that can be done easily, said Dave Bennett, CTO of IONU, a data security company based in Longmont, Colorado. While having more access to Wi-Fi sounds like a good thing for consumers, in reality it is just opening more people up to additional data loss because public networks are “hideously unsecure,” he said.

“They can easily be snooped [allowing] them to get access to your data,” Bennett said. “It is common for trains, airplanes, airports and hotels to provide wireless access, and these are ripe for being compromised and becoming a common means of data leakage and loss.”

Instead of assuming that you won’t get hacked because you have software installed on your laptop, a better strategy is to “always assume that the network is compromised because it almost always is,” he said.

Travelers on a plane are even more vulnerable, because they are more likely to be have their Wi-Fi turned on for hours and do not suspect any intrusion attempts.

Since airlines appear to be switching to having fliers use their personal computers and wireless devices to deliver in-flight entertainment, this only opens up another connection which can be compromised and give hackers access to people’s data.

Easy Precautions

If your data is properly protected and backed-up, you are less vulnerable to data loss.

“Most people don’t protect their data or take some easy precautions before traveling,” he said. “They are just tempting fate.”

Even someone on your flight could be attempting to hack into your data, Bennett said.

“Frankly, there are so many different ways in which you can attack someone’s computer if you know they are sitting a few seats away,” he said.

Commercially available products can allow a moderately computer savvy person to act as a “man in the middle” of a wireless network, Bennett said. Some of these devices are battery operated and small enough to be carried on board easily and allow the person to monitor, “snoop” and modify traffic flowing through the device such as such as e-mail, instant messages and browser sessions.

“Even someone who’s security conscious can be easily burned by something like the Pineapple device,” he said. “Once a hacker on the plane finds a way onto your computer, they can implant malware such as Poison Ivy, with which they can take control of your computer, log your keystrokes to learn all of your passwords and provide a backdoor into your computer and access to your data.”

Travelers should take the same precautions you would with every other public network you use, “you’ll just be doing it in a much less comfortable seat at 35,000 feet,” said Parker.

Limit the amount of personal information you have on your portable devices, said Steve Weisman, a Boston lawyer and a lecturer of law, taxation and financial planning at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Use the cloud and opt for dual factor authentication which seeks two forms of identification such as a password and an SMS notification to access it.

“What you don’t have can’t be stolen,” he said. “Remember, even paranoids have enemies.”

GM to Offer Android, Apple Systems in Many 2016 Models

Autos Apple and AndroidBy the end of the year, nearly every major automaker will begin offering Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto, two systems that effectively turn a car’s dashboard screen into a smartphone.

General Motors (GM) made the biggest move so far Wednesday, announcing that both systems will be available in seven 2016 Chevrolet models starting in the summer. The Apple system will appear in seven additional Chevy models. Earlier in the week, Hyundai announced the Android system in the Sonata midsize car.

Experts say the move to systems devised in Silicon Valley is an admission by the automakers that people favor the way their smartphones work over the automakers’ own touch screens and voice commands, which have been prone to glitches. The in-house systems have cost the car companies millions and dinged their quality ratings.

We just want familiar. We want our content, our services that we already own on our phone.

People are familiar with smartphones and have music libraries, podcasts, social media contacts and other personal items on them, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology research firm in San Jose, California. Automakers, he said, have realized that most drivers can’t be bothered learning a whole new car-based system.

“We just want familiar. We want our content, our services that we already own on our phone. We just want the car to have the representation of that on demand,” Bajarin said.

To get the systems, GM customers will have to purchase a new Chevrolet equipped with the brand’s “MyLink” touch screens, which are available on many entry-level models.

Once people plug into the car’s USB port, the system will convert the screen to resemble the phone. The system will then be able to play a person’s music library, log on to music apps with a touch, send and receive text messages by voice, and even call up Apple or Google Maps for navigation.

The number of available apps will be limited to avoid driver distraction, GM officials said. Many can be controlled by voice commands, and video won’t be supported by the car system.

To work with MyLink, Android phones must have at least the Lollipop 5.0 operating system, while Apple CarPlay requires an iPhone 5 or newer model.

Consumer Choice

GM will provide CarPlay or Android Car for no additional cost. Although this might cause some drivers to shun MyLink, GM believes that ultimately giving consumers the choice will help it sell more cars, said Saejin Park, the company’s director of innovation and portfolio planning.

Mark Boyadjis, senior analyst for infotainment at IHS Automotive, said the decision doesn’t necessarily mean the death of MyLink, Ford’s Sync and other systems. The automakers’ systems have specific information about the car that Apple or Google can’t duplicate — engine diagnostics, heating and air conditioning controls or even the ability to set up service appointments with dealerships, Boyadjis said.

GM officials also noted that some car owners might drive in areas without the cellular telephone coverage needed to run the Apple or Google systems. And others prefer not to plug anything in to their cars.

Initially both systems will be offered in the 2016 Spark mini car, Cruze compact, Malibu midisze car, Camaro and Camaro convertible and the Silverado pickup, both regular and heavy-duty models.

If something goes wrong with the system under warranty, Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) would be responsible if the problem originates with their software. GM would handle any problems on its end such as the MyLink hardware, GM said.

Apple and Android combined control about 95 percent of the world’s smartphone market, so having both systems is necessary. International Data Corp. is forecasting Android will have a 79 percent share of the smartphone market this year with Apple’s iOS a distant second at 16 percent.

Increasingly Sad, Costly Picture of Elder Financial Abuse

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It used to be that Theresa Lyons, a single mother of three children, bartered with the elderly relatives in her family. “My aging mother and her sister were helping me pay the rent, gas and electricity bills, and I would take them out to eat and drive them around to where they needed to go.”

That was until 2011 when Blanca Tozzo, Lyons’s aunt, passed away and the Department of Children and Families placed her mother, Carmen Hernandez Tozzo, in a retirement home.

“I have no access to my mom’s finances,” Lyons told MainStreet. “The only way I can get any money is through a subpoena and blessings from the probate judge.” Once Tozzo became a ward of the state under a professional guardian, Lyons said most of her mother’s $100,000 in retirement savings was drained. “When I complained, my visitation was taken away,” said Lyons, who is in her 50s.

Huge Losses Found

Lyons’s mother is among the senior citizens losing some $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse, according to a True Link study called Friendly Grandparent Syndrome. “These numbers indicate how the guardianship industry destroys the legitimate inter-generational transfer of wealth and in the process irreparably damages entire generations of innocent families,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of the Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship in Miami.

“Elder financial abuse is probably the most unreported crime in the country,” said Jack Halpern, CEO of My Elder Advocate, a franchise that works with families to solve elder care-related crises.

Some $16.9 billion of these losses a year comes from deceptive tactics designed to take advantage of older Americans, according to the 2015 True Link Report on Financial Elder Abuse. “This crime is shielded from public view because the criminal is most often a lawyer in probate court,” said Kristi Hood, author of the new book “Probate Pirates.” “The probate pirate attorney either directly or indirectly finds a way to pick the pockets of the elderly ward of the state, taking money that should be used to care for the person or charging their adult children exorbitant legal fees for help.”

Uncannily similar to organized crime defined in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, probate piracy can involve the involuntary redistribution of assets — also known as property poaching — with the elderly person becoming the enterprise that is defrauded.

‘Potential Gold Mine’

“Unscrupulous charities, probate courts, home repair scammers, retirement homes, neighbors and even distant family members know that a friendly senior with cognitive issues is a potential gold mine,” said Kai Stinchcombe, CEO and founder of True Link.

Baby boomers and Gen X-ers are reportedly expected to be the recipients of $41 trillion from their World War II generation parents as they pass away. “The transfer of wealth is going to last for the next 30 to 40 years,” said Dan McElwee, certified financial planner and executive vice president with Ventura Wealth Management. And that money is tempting. “Those of us working in the field have long known that the United States is in the throes of an elder financial abuse epidemic,” said Shawna Reeves, director of elder abuse prevention at the Institute of Aging.

Family members can report the fraud to their local district attorney’s office, consumer protection agency, the state attorney general and even the local FBI office. “We are all affected by these scams,” Halpern said. “When an elder loses their assets to scam and they need care, they will have to look to welfare and Medicaid.”

Mary Tolan – The Complete Package of Superiority

As the co-founder of the Accretive Health, Inc. and also serving there as the president and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mary Tolan has achieved great heights in the professional field. She is a versatile individual who has reached the acme of success by catering to the needs of the individuals in many ways. Firstly, her perfection gets defined with her enormous experience of 22 years with the Accenture. For any individual it becomes quite challenging to hold such a designation of repute, but in case of Tolan it was a cakewalk. There are umpteen attributes of Tolan, which even make clear her persona. It clearly showcases her professionalism and inspires other to be like her. She is somebody who left others far behind in the race, thereby racing ahead to the top with great ease.

For any person, it really becomes tough to crack the whip, but in her case she has performed impeccably and reached all the core limits. Tolan is regarded with high esteem in the industry where she served. She steals the show owing to her enormous contribution to the work. As she always said, obtaining something in life requires nothing, but utmost dedication and everything gets fulfilled once you get to pass through the tough grind.

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There are several factors that advocate her magnanimity. Despite her reach towards the pinnacle of her career, she has never been reluctant to lend a helping hand to the needy. Her generosity amalgamated with compassion speaks more about her. With the quantum altruism, she has reached several destitute and given catered to their requirements. This type of nature is hard to acknowledge in the masses that are in the same league of the achievements as her, but here the story is different like chalk and cheese. She has always been earnest in her efforts that have made her an exception from others.

Mary Tolan , has pursued Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Chicago and later on walked on the same track with the masters degree from the very same university. No doubt she worked in Accenture, but with these degrees she has also contributed enough to the health sectors. In the broader terminology it is known as professionalism. Only few people can attain this in life and the one who do this are avant garde.

Taking the glimpse from her college life – she has been an avid scholar and has been felicitated at several podiums. Her contribution to the firms wherein for the long run she has been at the helm is astounding. Pandering to the essences of the big time firms and then ruling the roost in those offices is undoubtedly extensive. Candidly speaking, when it comes to the title like Mary Tolan, you will have to have the copious time to count the virtues which are inculcated in her and beyond doubt all these virtues frame her distinct from others in the market. In the nutshell, Tolan is the package of superiority that is meant for the betterment of other.

How To Be A Successful Network Marketer

 

For many individuals, network marketing is seen as a wonderful new opportunity. For some, it is a helping hand for sheer survival during tough times. Multi-level marketing takes hard work and focus to produce an income.

MLM is like a game wherein you try to compete in signing the most people. Having the right attitude and developing the perspective that you are helping people become successful is the correct way to approach network marketing.

Envisioning your success can help you in your multi-level marketing venture. It may sound like a cliche, but thinking about what the future will be like is crucial to how much success your network will achieve. Positive visions of the future are imperative if you want to be a multilevel marketing marvel.

Do not let your mistakes keep you down, learn from them and move on. Analyze how you failed and take the information learned to heart. Studying failure allows you to eliminate non-working methods and to double down on ones that work.

When it comes to network marketing, demonstrate leadership in all that you do. Improve existing marketing methods or think of new ones. Offering something unique can cause your competitors to copy you, in hopes that they can generate the same kind of booming business you’re getting. Try to refrain from copying other sites, as you should always be as original as possible when marketing.

Encourage your contacts to liberally express their views, and listen closely to what they have to say. If you strive to learn the most about them by way of social media, blogs or other means of contact, you will be better positioned to market your products. You now have an understanding of what they need and want, what they dream of and what they’re afraid of, and can use this information to market to them directly.

Make your goals specific; that way you can prevent yourself from straying. You will probably have a long-range goal in mind for your business, perhaps three or five years out. However, with smaller goals as your focus immediately, you can build a foundation for these larger goals. Following specific goals is the key to a successful campaign.

You can enlist the help of other business professionals when planning a MLM strategy. People that work in the sales world on commission normally have a great work ethic because if they do not do a good job, they make no money. Furthermore, those already in business will be more likely to consider your offer.

The number one MLM tip is to always remember to treat it as a business. If you don’t put everything you’ve got into it, you won’t see the benefits, either. You need to spend a lot of time, and work hard at networking marketing in order to succeed. If you are willing to commit yourself every day, you are far more likely to become successful with your networking strategy.

With all of these new and different types of media, especially social connections, there are many ways you can market your products and ideas at full speed. There are always new ideas showing up on the Internet; everyone wants a piece of the pie. With so much competition, it is those that are knowledgeable with these tips that survive in a dog-eat-dog market.

11 Ways to Nail Savings on Your Remodeling Project

 
Cooking up a major kitchen remodeling, but hoping to get it for a price far below the project’s national average of $56,768? Or maybe a wood deck would do you, but its $10,048 average price doesn’t square with your budget.Almost six in 10 homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year, according to a Harris poll conducted for SunTrust Bank, but fewer than one in five plan to spend more than $10,000.

1. Pause for a Moment

Remodel magazine says the 2015 average home project will cost $43,800 but return only 62.2 percent of your investment if you sell your home. You might want to consider whether going forward with a project is even worth it. (Here are some we think are probably not.) If you do move ahead, use these creative tips to bring that price down to earth.

2. Save on Materials

  • Recycle and reuse building materials. Habitat for Humanity’s 850 ReStoressell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances at fractions of retail prices. Donations to locally operated ReStores are sold to the public, and proceeds go toward building homes, rather than trying to fit donated items into homes that volunteers build. You can find anything from prehung doors to acrylic skylights to partial insulation bundles.
  • Find free or cheap materials online through sites like eBay, Craigslist andFreecycle or in person at flea markets or building-supply auctions operated by state and federal governments.
  • Look for ways to repurpose materials. Actress Amanda Pays (“The Flash”) recently told Remodelista she loves the look of old wood, but reclaimed timber has gotten expensive and overused. Her builder, though, was happy to sell her and actor-husband Corbin Bernsen scaffolding boards for $10 a plank, she said. “They’re all over our house,” Pays said. “We even used them as stair treads.”
  • Ask your contractor for odds-and-ends left over from other jobs. “What we do is take 50 percent off the materials from the previous client, and we offer them to the next client,” says contractor Butch McKeon. “We always have extra materials left over.”

3. Look for Deals on Pivotal Pieces

Keep an eye out for specials on big-ticket items that you need, things like countertops, kitchen island installation, or new windows. Once you buy the deal, plan the rest of your remodel around it.

4. Stick With Standard Sizes

Semicustom pieces can cost twice the price of stock pieces, which already run $8,000 to $10,000 for a typically sized kitchen, says Houselogic.com. Custom is even more. You’ll sacrifice some options in size, color, finish and accents, such as crown molding, to get the less expensive stock cabinets.

5. Consider Good Imitations

Lowe’s recently advertised laminate wood planks strongly resembling hardwood floors at $1.89 per square foot, about half the price of real deal, prefinished oak, at $3.59.

6. Maximize Space Before You Enlarge It

For example, in the kitchen, replacing cabinet shelves with pullout draws and racks would cost $35,000, but that’s less than a $48,000 to $95,000 kitchen blowout, says This Old House.

7. Don’t Move Plumbing

Relocating a toilet just three feet, for example, can cost you up to $1,000, says This Old House; relocating the kitchen sink, up to $2,000.

8. Plan What You’ll Spend — and Then Some

Make a budget, but build in 10 to 20 percent margin of error for whatever may go wrong.

9. Use Elbow Grease to Save on Labor Costs

What can you do yourself? Sometimes projects are best left to professionals. But interior painting and trim work can cost a small fortune, warns HomeAdditionPlus.com. If you can handle basic tools such as a paint brush, ladder, miter saw and a coping saw, you can save a bundle on labor. If you can’t, consider volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or other groups that would give you free lessons while you help a good cause.

If you do hire a contractor, ask about doing your own demolition or cleanup. Also ask if you can order supplies yourself. Contractors who order on their own often add markups for themselves on the materials they order for your job. You can also save if you can pick up materials and haul away job waste yourself.

10. Time Your Project

You’ll often pay a contractor more in summer, their busy season, than in winter months, when work usually slows and they may discount their services.

11. Save on Stress and Cost With a Schedule

However, as you craft your spending plan, build in up to a 20 percent cushion to cover nasty surprises. Sticking to a timetable may also help avoid cost overruns by eliminating inefficient use of any labor you may hire or having subcontractors show up to perform work that’s not ready for them to tackle.

For additional tips for stretch your remodeling dollars, such as remodeling slowly, using solar tubes instead of skylights and more, read on here.

Do you have ingenious ways of making home improvements without breaking the bank? Share them on our Facebook page. Did you find this article useful? Share it on your Facebook page! Like this article? Sign up for our newsletterand we’ll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We’ll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson’s “205 Ways to Save Money” as soon as you’ve subscribed. It’s full of great tips that’ll help you save a ton of extra cash.

How to Successfully Live Under a Homeowners Association

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If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in a newer development, you’re likely to become a member of a community association.

About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown to more than 333,000 today from about 10,000 in 1970.

Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide services such as road maintenance and streetlights.

The associations are set up by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collectingmaintenance dues and enforcing the rules. “This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the institute.

Satisfied — or Not?

While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission for kids with cancer to build a playhouse or veterans to fly a flag on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, institute statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with their community association experience and 26 percent are neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014 survey.

But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.

Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life, once you’ve bought or rented in an association, you’ve signed on. Being a member of an association ties your fate to your neighbors’ in ways that living in a traditional subdivision doesn’t. “You have to overcome that ‘my home is my castle’ issue,” Rathbun says.

Property Values, Property Values, Property Values

Rules are designed to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property values often leads to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if they’re handled poorly.

“People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing,” says Patrick Hohman, author of “Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations: How to Make Your Investment Safer” and a longtime volunteer board member who is now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He also runs an educational website calledwww.CondoHOAinfo.com. “It’s a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust,” Hohman says. “You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with people where they are and as they are. It’s kind of like dealing with your extended family at Thanksgiving.”

“Board members are almost never trained in property management,” says Richard Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and just published the book “Trade HOA Stress for Success.”

Professional Management Is Common

He recommends professional management — hiring trained and experienced property managers to oversee operations — for most associations. “If the board hires competent people, they’re going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out,” he says. About two-thirds of associations hire professional managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.

Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems for everyone, especially if they get on the board.

Experts say that communications and transparency — being very clear about where the money goes, welcoming residents and board meetings and sharing information about how decisions are made — go a long way toward building community harmony. “There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents,” Rathbun says.

How to Get Along

  • Know the rules before you move in. Too few prospective residents understand the rules before they buy or rent. It’s particularly important to be able to live with policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals, noise and architectural guidelines. “Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what they’re obligated to do,” Thompson says. “Few prospective buyers research these things before they close the deal.”
  • Follow proper procedures. Boards should set up clear procedures for everything from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those procedures.
  • Go to your neighbor before you go to the board. The board is there to make sure the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your neighbor’s loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your complaint to the HOA board.
  • If you don’t like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it.Changing circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules every few years to make sure they’re all serving the community. If you don’t like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a change.
  • Volunteer to help your community. It’s not always evident from the outside what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. “Get involved. Don’t wait until you’re dissatisfied about something,” Rathbun says.
  • Try to stay out of court. Every community has a few people who think the rules don’t apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. “Win, lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall between them,” Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: “Be reasonable: That applies to both the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board.”
  • Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to bereplaced or repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. “If the board had been collecting money and planning for this … every member along the timeline would have been paying some portion,” Thompson says.

5 Times Suze Orman Didn’t Follow Her Own Advice

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In the personal finance world, there aren’t many names more divisive than Suze Orman. In fact, even Orman doesn’t always seem to agree with herself, often giving her audience one piece of financial advice and then later suggesting the opposite course of action. “Orman is nothing if not a contradictory personality,” as The New York Times put it in a feature on Orman.

Orman has justified her evolving advice in the past by saying, “Financial advice needs to change according to what is happening in the economy,” according to CNBC. But sometimes it’s not only Orman’s advice that can be contradictory but also her actions. From launching a financial product she had previously railed against to endorsing products she’d often criticized as bad deals, here’s a look at five times Orman didn’t follow her own advice.

1. She Recommended Her Approved Prepaid Card

Orman often tells her audience to avoid fees on financial products, advising listeners to cancel credit cards with annual fees, shop around for a bank with low fees and avoid high-cost prepaid cards.

But in 2012, Orman launched her own prepaid card, the Approved card. She said that consumers who used the card as she prescribed would only ever pay $3 a month and she touted a partnership with TransUnion that she said would give cardholders unlimited access to their TransUnion credit scores and credit reports.

After the launch, however, the card was found to charge numerous fees, according to NerdWallet, from $2 to contact the customer help line — the first call every month was free — and $4.95 to make over-the-counter deposits to the highest fee on the account, a whopping $30 bill payment fee. The partnership with TransUnion also fizzled and nothing came of it despite Orman’s hopes that the bureau would one day factor the card usage data into credit score calculations. In June 2014, Approved cardholders received letters notifying them that their Approved cards would soon be shut down and Orman’s prepaid card was officially dead.

2. She Taught at a For-Profit University

Orman has often preached the evils of student debt. “Student loans can be the most dangerous loans anybody ever takes out because, in most cases, they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy,” she said in a “Money Tips” segment on her website. She advised students to do careful math to figure out what monthly payments would be and decide whether they could afford them once they left college.

Orman’s aversion to student loans didn’t prevent her from partnering with University of Phoenix to create a credited personal finance course, however. Orman made this move despite statistics that show University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools account for 47 percent of student loan defaults, even though only 13 percent of college students attend such institutions, according to The Huffington Post.

Students at for-profit schools are for more likely to end up with student loan debt they can’t afford, yet Orman still chose to join the school’s faculty and even praised University of Phoenix in a 2011 USA Today article for requiring all of its students to “go through a free and mandatory three-week orientation course to make sure they understand the full costs of college before they sign on the dotted line.”

3. She Sold Her Gold

In 2011, Orman was preaching the virtues of gold. Demand for this precious metal was surging, and it was quickly racing up in value. That year, gold reached a peak value of around $1,900 a troy ounce, an incredible rate of increase from about $1,350 in January 2011.

In August 2011, shortly before the price of gold peaked, Orman announced via Twitter that she had sold her gold. “I sold my gold today only because I had a tremendous gain and had way too much money in gold,” Orman tweeted.

Orman continued endorsing gold as a smart investment even though she’d just sold hers at a price that would turn out to be just under an all-time high. In September 2011, she tweeted, “Gold should make up at least 10-20% of your portfolio,” and predicted on Twitter that gold would reach $2,100 an ounce by November 2012, though she included the caveat “time will tell.” It never reached $1,800 in 2012.

4. She Endorsed a New Car

It’s no secret that buying a used car instead of a new car can mean several thousands of dollars in savings, and this was the reasoning behind Orman’s frequent suggestions to her audience to buy used. In a 2010 article for O, The Oprah Magazine, she wrote, “Since the most significant drop in a car’s value occurs in the first two or three years, buying one that’s just a few years old means you avoid paying for those early years of big depreciation.”

Then in 2012, Orman landed an endorsement deal for Acura’s “Season of Reason” marketing campaign, giving advice to “spend smart.” Acura and Orman were sending the message that smart spending apparently included spending $40,000 for a new Acura TL, reported Forbes, even though that contradicted Orman’s earlier advice.

5. She Supported Mortgage Default

Over the years, Orman’s advice on mortgages has changed. In the early 2000s, Orman told people to aggressively pay down their mortgages and even went as far as to say homes offered a “known return.” But this came with a big risk, wrote MarketWatch columnist Chuck Jaffe in 2003: Paying down a mortgage “to the exclusion of other investments is all-eggs-in-one-basket investing. It’s a dangerous strategy being pitched as the ultimate safe one.” Jaffe was unfortunately proved right when the 2008 housing market collapse leveled home values, and wiped out equity and investments many homeowners had poured into their homes.

After the collapse, Orman changed tacks on mortgages. In 2011, she recommended a strategic mortgage default as a smart option for homeowners with underwater mortgages. Then, in a 2013 episode of “The Suze Orman Show,” Orman told her audience that it was all right to buy a home with only a 10 percent down payment, reported CNBC.

For her own real estate portfolio, however, Orman pays cash. She told The Wall Street Journal in 2014, “If I can’t write a check for it, I can’t afford it.” Of course, with Orman’s net worth estimated to be about $35 million, what the personal finance expert can afford is very different than what the average American can afford.

This story originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

10 Fun, Creative Uses for Your Airline Miles

hot air balloons over the gorge ...

 

Most of us have a few ways of racking airline miles up, either through credit cards, loyalty clubs or frequent flyer programs. Depending on which way you earn your miles, they can be worth several cents a mile, with a penny a mile being the average.

What do you do with all those miles once you’ve collected a bunch — but aren’t flying anywhere? After all, 100,000 miles is a cool $1,000, and can be acquired quickly with a double miles card and some business and personal trips.

1. Do Something Thrilling

How do you fancy doing a tandem skydive? What about doing three laps in a stock car or Indy race? Maybe a hot air balloon ride, fighter pilot experience or scuba diving is your thing. Airline miles can now be turned into memories you will never forget. Some run as little as 10,000 miles, and others top 650,000 miles. It all depends on how much of your breath you want taken away.

2. Turn Them Into Magazines, Newspapers

If you really want to stretch your airline miles, why not turn a few thousand in for some subscriptions to big magazines and newspapers? The price is so cheap, it’s almost free. Many annual magazine subscriptions are under 2,000 miles, or $20. When you consider the average price at the newsstand is $4-$5, that’s a steal. Newspapers also take part, and you can use local papers. Simply enter your AIP code, and you’ll get airline mile quotes for your local papers, usually for 13 weeks and above.

3. Donate to Charity

If you’re feeling philanthropic, airline rewards can easily be donated to charities. Just enter your ZIP code and the area of interest you’d like to help out with. The miles will be turned into cash donations, and of course, they are tax-deductible.

4. Get the Latest in Entertainment

Whether it’s the latest albums, songs, eBooks, audiobooks, movies or TV series, you can easily exchange the miles you have accrued for hours and hours of great entertainment. Just check out the offers page of your airline miles website.

5. Bid in Auctions

Most airline miles reward sites have an auctions section now. For instance, United is accepting mileage bids on VIP experiences with sports stars. Of course, if you don’t win, you don’t lose the miles, so you can bid again on something else.

6. Upgrade Your Flight

It can cost many thousands of dollars to buy a first class ticket to Europe. But when you use your miles, it’s nowhere near as expensive. For instance, take a quick look at this chart. A typical upgrade to business class, from economy, is coming in at around 50,000 miles. You can take your long haul flight from a sardine can experience, to something much more pleasurable indeed. American Airlines charges just 25,000 miles to go from a full fare ticket to a business seat.

7. Get a Better Hotel Room

Most miles you accrue can be transferred to hotel loyalty programs, be it Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton HHonors or Marriott Rewards. So, next time you check in, see if you can use some of your miles to get a much better room. It can cost as little as 6,000 miles to go from a standard room to a fancy suite.

8. Take a Cruise

You can redeem your airline miles for tickets to cruise lines, including Norwegian, Royal, Celebrity, Carnival and Princess. How about four nights in the Bahamas for under 25,000 miles? In fact, the average cost of a night on board a cruise ship is between 9,000 and 10,000 points. That’s cheaper than a mediocre hotel room in the Midwest.

9. Pay Off Your Credit Card

Some credit cards have programs that can give you cash credits to your statement or even cold hard cash. With the former, you make travel related purchases with your credit card, and then use your miles to put that money back on the card at a later date. It’s basically like using your miles to go shopping without worrying about using points to redeem flights or stays.

10. Get Cool Merchandise

What kind of cool stuff? Well, what do you want? Airline miles can be turned into great purchases, with categories including apparel, accessories, automotive, tools, baby gear, electronics, gadgets, home and garden, sports, outdoors, toys and collectibles. I recently used rewards to get a fantastic hybrid coffee maker that uses both pods and regular filters. It’s also great fun to browse. Of course, make sure you’re not paying over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for anything.

Now, have you done something cool with your airline miles that isn’t on this list? Let us know.

For Boomers, It’s the Retirement Plan That Never Happened

 

 

Call it the retirement that never was. The oldest baby boomers are turning 69 years old this year, yet many are still working and have no plans to go anywhere.

In 1990 just 12.1 percent of workers were 65 and older; by 2010 more than 16 percent were, according to the Census Bureau. That number is likely to grow as more boomers move into the over-65 demographic. Modern retirement calls for different rules, so it’s no wonder that boomers are redefining retirement.

“To think that you can finance a 40-year retirement is mathematically impossible,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. A Transmerica survey shows that almost two-thirds of baby boomer workers plan to stay on the job beyond age 65-or don’t plan to retire at all. “Baby boomers do not envision not working,” Collinson said.

People who are at least 65 can expect to live another 19 years, and those who make it to 75 should plan to live well into their 80s, reported the Centers for Disease Control. At the same time, the average account balance for workers in their 50s and 60s is less than $150,000, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

“Unless you socked away a lot of money, retirement for many is just not going to be what we grew up believing retirement was,” said certified financial planner Mark Singer, president of Safe Harbor Retirement Planning, author of “The 6 Secrets to a Happy Retirement” and himself a boomer, at age 60. As a result of working longer, boomers are transforming not just retirement, but the workplace itself.

Benefits of Working

Working longer is the most obvious solution to the retirement savings problem. Among all of the options available to pre-retirees, it’s the one that has the biggest impact on a nest egg, said Judith Ward, a senior financial planning with T. Rowe Price. Working three years longer and contributing 15 percent of income can grow a 401(k) by 22 percent; working five years more can increase savings by 39 percent. Combining more years of work with a bigger retirement-plan contribution (say, 25 percent) has an even more powerful impact.

Of course, not all boomers will be content to continue pounding out 40-hour weeks, said Kerry Hannon, a jobs expert with AARP and author of “Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness.” Some will opt for phased retirement schemes, where they’re able to cut back on their hours but still stay employed. Depending on the number of hours, they may be able to hold on to crucial health insurance and retirement-plan perks. Most important, however, is that even part-time work can keep boomers from tapping their nest eggs too soon.

However, employers may not be so quick to jump on the phased-retirement bandwagon. “The trend is happening so quickly that employment practices have simply not kept pace with the changing times,” Collinson said.

There are some legal obstacles in switching from full-time to part-time work-specifically, how to account for insurance and pensions for part-time workers-noted Mark Schmit, executive director of the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. What’s more, these arrangements could be seen as unfair to younger workers. “They might be thinking, ‘These older folks are getting a perk that the rest of the organization is not getting,'” he said.

Some industries, however, are more open to it, said Schmit, especially if they have a looming brain drain, as is the case in health care and mining. Phased retirement might give businesses time to accelerate their recruiting efforts while still benefiting from the talents of boomers.

Intergenerational Conflicts Loom

Of course, staying in the workplace longer is not without glitches. According to Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory firm focusing on millennials in the workplace, every generation has a negative view of the generation that’s coming up but a positive view of their elders’. “The younger generation is seen as more connected and they’re cheaper to hire, so they’re seen as a threat [by boomers],” he said.

In SHRM’s survey of human resource managers, more than a quarter reported some level of intergeneration conflict in their organizations. Dress code is a particular issue, with millennials advocating for casual dress and boomers insisting on business attire. “Millennials want you to appreciate what’s coming out of your head, not the costume they’re wearing,” said Anne Donovan, a managing director and millennials expert at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Focusing on dress code might seem trivial, said Donovan, but it speaks to workplace culture. Businesses that cling to formal dress will continue to lose young talent to companies that do not, she said. Few would argue that the hoodie-wearing engineers in Silicon Valley aren’t getting the job done.
Communication style, too, causes conflicts. “The technology divide is getting wider,” said Schawbel. “[Younger people] don’t use email; they’re texting and using Snapchat, and voice mail’s dead.”

These issues come to a head in particular when millennials supervise workers 20 years or more their senior. “We’re seeing more and more of that, and that’s just life,” said AARP’s Hannon. Boomers lamenting this reality, she added, are just “going to have to get with the program.”

Reverse Mentoring

To quell these conflicts, some companies have instituted reverse mentoring programs — pairing up boomers with younger workers who can help guide them in today’s technology and communications.

At Pricewaterhouse Coopers, where 80 percent of workers belong to the millennial generation, boomers in the company’s Atlanta office can get help with their technology questions through their millennial mentors. “What we’ve done is taken the stigma away for the boomers, and millennials want to have that interaction with leadership,” Donovan said.

Philips, a Dutch lighting company that’s a client of WorkplaceTrends.com, uses cross-generational teams of millennials who manage employees nearing retirement. “The millennials are learning from the baby boomers, but the baby boomers are also learning from the millennials,” Schawbel said.