Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Have you checked your credit report?

Every year you should get a copy of your credit report. Why? Because decisions about loans and credit cards are based on what is in your report. But also, you can pay more for insurance or be denied a job based on what is in your credit report. What are you waiting for??? Go here to get a free copy:
You can get one, two, or all three at the same time. You can get one now, and then space out the other 2 or get more than one. It's your choice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Hope that everyone is a having a great start to 2011. Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I'm always careful about not trying to do too much, even though the start of a new year is a great time to reflect on things that we would like to change. Research shows that small steps are the best thing to making changes.

What are the goals that you are considering? Figure it (or them) out and then make a plan for small changes. Small steps can make a big difference. Need help? Small Steps to Health and Wealth is an Extension program to help you make those changes. The online challenge for 2011 starts on January 16th. Will you join us? Sign up under challenges at the SSHW website:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Year, New Goals

It's the start of a new year and a good time to make new goals. My first goal for this year is to keep this blog updated. 2009 was a busy and exciting year and I had good intentions that didn't happen, but I do want to make this blog work. I'm taking this opportunity with a fresh year to make a fresh start. I hope you will keep coming back to read it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Employment Scam and Identity Theft

If you are unemployed, finding a job in this currrent market can be a difficult thing to do. Let's add to that an employment scam that I heard about recently. It goes like this:

You put your resume on one of the national job search boards. You get contacted by a company that wants to interview you. Then they tell you that they need to run a background check, so they'll need you to supply some personal information, like your Social Security number. Well, unfortunately, you find out later that this wasn't a real company and now someone has used your information to steal your identity. This just makes your already unhappy situation worse. What can you do?

As always, I recommend that you don't give out your personal information unless you are sure that you have to. Do you need to give the clerk at the grocery store your Social Security number in order to write a check? Well, if they won't take a check without it, then you have two choices: give them the number or pay a different way.

One thing that you should do (and you have no excuse) is to get a copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit bureaus. The great thing about this is that it used to cost $10 each, but a new law made it free once per year from each credit bureau. Here's the deal. Go to to request your free report. You can get all three now, or space them out. You can get it online after answering a series of questions, by calling the toll-free number, or by mailing in the form that you can print from the website.

Now, many people ask about the companies that will give you a free credit report. If it's not the official one, listed above, it probably has strings attached, like a credit monitoring service that you sign up for and is not free after the first month. It's not that this is a bad service, but just be aware of what you are getting yourself into. And if you intend to cancel before they start charging your credit card, make sure to mark it on your calendar to do that.

Another question I get is about credit scores. Should you pay for one? That's entirely up to you, but it is not a requirement of the annual credit report program. They will offer to sell you one, but you can decline and still get your credit report for free. It can be useful to know what your credit score is, but don't count on the one they will sell you to be the one that a lender would use. They are two different things. Talk to your lender about your situation if you are concerned about the number or what they use to decide about credit. You can go to this website to see an estimate of your credit score:

There is someone waiting to scam you with the next big "news", so please be careful. And get a free copy of your credit report. Yes, in this case, there is such a thing as a free lunch!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Should you pay off debt or should you build your savings?

Good afternoon! The question of whether you should pay off your debt or build your savings is a common one. Usually, we recommend that you have some savings, but that paying off your debt faster will actually save you more money in the long run. Unfortunately right now, there are some things happening in the credit world that may change the way we do our personal business.

Some credit card companies are lowering the credit limit on consumers, even those that have been good customers. What does this mean? It can mean a lower credit score if you are carrying a balance on any of your cards. And it can mean that you have reduced access to credit. This can be a problem for anyone that is hoping to use their available credit for emergencies.

Loans may not be as readily available as they have in the past because creditors are tightening their criteria for lending money.

What can you do about all of this?
1) First, take a deep breath. Then get to work and make a plan.
2) Look at your net worth, including your savings and your assets. You might want to make sure that you have enough savings available if you were to need it. We recommend 3-6 months of living expenses in an account that is readily accessible (like savings and checking accounts and money market accounts).
3) Set financial goals.
4)Make a spending plan and track your expenses. Look at ways to cut back on expenses, even if this means cutting back temporarily on things that you really want. Make a plan for paying off your debt as soon as you can. Afterall, this will save you the most money in the long run!

These tough economic times will be hard for all of us, but it will be important to focus on what your family really needs.

Where can you find resources for financial planning? You can go to the Virginia Cooperative Extension website: You can also check out "eXtension", a great resource of materials from the nation's Cooperative Extension System. There is even a special page for dealing with "Financial Crisis". You can find the website here:

And as always, if I can be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me by e-mail at

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gift Cards for the Holidays

Good afternoon! As you are preparing for the holidays and are out shopping for gifts, please remember to be careful when buying gift cards. Make sure that you read the fine print about the fees and restrictions. Some gift cards incur a fee after a certain period of inactivity, so the value of the card can shrink while it sits in your wallet or in your drawer.

There has been an e-mail recently received in in-boxes that relates to gift cards and stores closing or declaring bankruptcy. While the spirit of the e-mail is true, not all of the information is accurate. You do need to be careful when buying gift cards for stores that are closing. That gift card will be useless if the recipient can't use it because the store near them is closed or the company no longer exists. If you do give gift cards this season, remind the recipient to use it soon. For the e-mail specifics, please check out this link:

I hope that you and your family have a very Happy Holiday season!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Welcome to my new blog! I'll be posting information about financial topics and consumer issues here, as well as addressing questions that I get from consumers. If you have a question, please let me know. I won't post any names on this site, so please feel free to contact me. You are also welcome to sign up to receive notices when I update the blog. Thanks for reading!