Take it Slow: Financial Help for Widows

No one is ever ready for the loss of a spouse, and when it happens, the hard reality of dealing with money comes along with the intense grief. Financial help for widows should come only from trusted sources, so remember, go slow and be cautious.

Six Important Pieces of Advice

  1. Get organized – If you were already handling bills and other financial matters, you’re fortunate. You’re already up to speed on what’s going on. If not, the first thing you should do is tackle all the files and paperwork. Use an accordion file, three-ring binders, or whatever filing system works for you to set up a system for managing information.

  2. Pay the bills – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as you try to locate account passwords and understand your household bills, so enlist the help of your children or close friends. Focus on setting up a system for paying your bills automatically and on time. Make sure you have funds to cover your immediate needs. If you’re in an urgent cash crunch, a resource like CashMax can help you with short-term loans and other services.

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What to Do After a Car Accident

Nobody plans to be involved in a car accident, but when it happens, it can quickly become one of life’s most stressful experiences. In the immediate aftermath of a collision, things happen fast and the details can become blurry. You may also feel at a loss about what to do after a car accident. Take a look at our post-accident checklist and, the next time a collision happens, you can avoid some common mistakes and come out in better shape.

At the Scene

  1. Safety First: When a collision has occurred, attend to safety matters. If the vehicles are drivable, get them off the road and out of traffic by pulling to the shoulder or into a parking lot. If they aren’t drivable, turn on any operable emergency flashers and put out cones, reflective triangles, and/or flares, if you have them, to warn approaching drivers to slow down. Ascertain whether anyone is injured; if they are or think they might be, make sure 911 is called right away.

  2. Make the Call: If the accident is serious, you most definitely want officers on the scene. Even if your accident was minor, it’s a good idea to call authorities so that a police report is filed. Some cities won’t dispatch officers to a crash if the incident wasn’t serious; if that is the case, you’ll have to file your own report with local authorities, which leads us to…

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The Real Cost of Raising a Child

As new parents become caught up in the love and enjoyment of having a baby as well as the stresses and lifestyle changes, ­­the cost of raising a child also begins to quickly make itself felt.

The exact cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is something the U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent decades trying to pinpoint. The USDA released its latest data in 2013, revealing some interesting spending changes that have taken place for parents over the last 50 years or so.

Child-Rearing Price Tag

As of 2013, the USDA has found that, on average, middle-income families composed of two parents and up to five kids will spend $245,340 raising a child from birth to age 18. For low-income households, that number drops to $176,550. For high-income households, the cost rises to an average of $407,820 per child.

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Managing Finances After Losing a Job

When you find yourself dealing with job loss, it can be a very stressful time as you seek new employment and figure out how to cope financially in the meantime. Along your road to re-employment, there are some things you can do to lessen the financial blow.

1 – Assess the Situation

Taking stock of your finances is the first natural step when you’ve lost a job. The initial shock and stress can make things seem worse than they really are, so examine where you are at financially. Assess your monthly expenses and what it’s going to take for you to survive until you’ve found a new job. Consider savings accounts, investments that can be easily liquidated, lines of credit, home equity, and nonessential valuables that can be sold or pawned. Many creditors will also work with you when you experience hardships like a job loss and will allow you to skip payments. A lending company like CashMax Title & Loan can also be of help to provide you with extra cash while you’re getting back on your feet.

2 – Take Advantage of Unemployment Benefits

Many people mistakenly equate filing for unemployment with applying for welfare. Collecting unemployment is in no way the same thing as taking a government handout. You have earned that unemployment cushion, and you’d be foolish not to utilize it during your period of joblessness. Collecting unemployment achieves two things: It gives you a weekly income, albeit smaller than what you were earning at your job, to help you get by while you hunt for employment; and it also helps motivate you in your job search, as you have to apply for a certain number of jobs each week in order to remain eligible. And don’t assume you won’t qualify to receive unemployment. Even if you’ve been fired from a job, you may still be approved to receive those benefits, so apply!

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How Traffic Violations Increase Insurance

Most people don’t leave their homes thinking, “I’m going to drive poorly today.” But as life happens over the course of your day, you may find yourself at the receiving end of a traffic violation, which can mean court appearances, expensive fines, and even a suspended driver’s license if you’re a repeat offender. Whether your traffic violation was true negligence or just an accident, getting that ticket can also mean a car insurance increase. If you are in a tough financial situation following a traffic violation, CashMax offers short-term financial solutions that may help.

Rate Hikes

We’ve explored some of the ways in which receiving a traffic violation can affect your auto insurance rates. To put it simply, the more insurance companies view you as an unsafe driver, the more you are likely to pay for your insurance. But, specifically, the following factors can affect how much your insurance is impacted by a traffic violation:

  • Frequency: When you’ve received a lot of traffic tickets, insurance companies will typically see you as a liability and as someone who is more likely to be involved in an auto accident. The consequence of that is that you will pay more for your insurance than someone with a clean driving record.
  • Severity: The impact a traffic violation will have on your insurance depends on the severity of the infraction. Being cited for something more minor, like traveling 5 miles over the speed limit, will likely have little—or even no—impact on your insurance rate, particularly if it’s the first ticket you’ve had in a long time. However, being cited for, say, traveling 30 miles per hour over the speed limit is much more extreme and can have more severe repercussions. An even more serious violation, like a DUI or vehicular manslaughter, will have dire consequences—both legally and in terms of your insurance costs.
  • Location: Many people mistakenly think that receiving a traffic violation in another state won’t affect their car insurance, but that isn’t necessarily true. Before you engage in any risky driving behaviors while on vacation, bear in mind that most states take part in an interstate information sharing program that reports citations and moving violations. So, odds are good that the speeding ticket or DUI violation you received during spring break is going to follow you home and end up on your driving record—which means your insurance provider will likely find out about it and may adjust your premium accordingly.
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Best Online Shopping Tips

As the holiday season approaches once again, millions of consumers will be turning to the Internet as a convenient way to do their holiday shopping and purchase gifts. As you prepare to head into the cyber world armed with your credit card, take heed of some of these online shopping tips to ensure your holiday spending is safe and secure.

Use Secure Sites

Check for SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption before you shop on any website. Sites with SSL will show HTTPS:// in the address bar instead of HTTP://, and there will also be a padlock icon.

Stick to the Familiar

Shop on familiar, trusted websites that you know are legitimate, like Amazon.com or the official website of a major retailer, like Walmart or Barnes & Noble. When navigating to one of these major sites, make sure you are on the official website. Misspelled words and the use of domains like .net instead of .com are indicators that you could be on a copycat site, so watch out for that. You can also download the official apps for major retailers and do your shopping that way.

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Addressing Financial Challenges With Elderly Parents

When the people who raised you are suddenly the ones that need taking care of, it can be uncomfortable to broach certain subjects with them. Discussing financial challenges with elderly parents, for instance, can be particularly riddled with conversational land mines. The last thing an aging mother or father wants to hear, after all, is that they’ve become incapable of managing their money and of living independently.

Egos can become tender when discussing the transference of financial responsibility with an aging parent. Having these conversations is nevertheless very important. When a parent starts falling victim to dementia or other conditions related to old age, you may suddenly find you’ve waited too long to set the framework for taking over their finances. If you don’t have the legal power, the necessary documentation, and the information to begin overseeing your parent’s finances, you and your siblings could quickly find yourselves scrambling and panicking.

Advance Preparation

When you approach parents about their finances, it may take more than one conversation to make progress. It may also require kid gloves.

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The Emotional Impact of Debt

Like a bad habit, debt is something that is easy to acquire but painstakingly difficult to get rid of.

People can end up finding themselves shackled by debt for a variety of reasons. A “buy now, worry later” attitude can lead someone to frivolously amass debt as they make spur-of-the-moment and unnecessary purchases. Debt can also be accumulated out of necessity, such as to survive a sudden job loss or medical emergency.

Whatever the reason for the existence of debt in a person’s life, the emotional impacts of debt can be devastating and long-lasting.

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Budget Tips for New Parents

If you’re about to embark on the life-changing journey of parenthood, you’re likely feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there is to learn and prepare for. There is no doubt that having a child is expensive, and budget concerns can be one of the key things that get new parents keyed up as they begin caring for a baby. By following these helpful budget tips for new parents, rookie moms and dads can get a handle on their finances and save their focus for what really matters: that new little bundle of joy!

Charting New Financial Waters

When it comes to spending, new parents can no longer put fun and luxuries at the top of their lists. Extra cash that once went to pleasure shopping, going out with friends, and eating out must now be used for diapers, daycare, and a hundred other things that were never on your radar before a new baby came along. As new moms and dads adjust their spending habits to meet a baby’s needs, the following tips can greatly help.

  • Stay United: Financial priorities change rapidly once a child enters the picture, and spouses and partners should set financial goals together and regularly discuss and prioritize these goals. A desire to save up for a down payment on a house or feeling the urgent need to start a college fund for Baby can have you stretching your dollars too thin before you know it. Prioritize the needs that are most important and do only what you comfortably can. This will likely mean setting aside less important financial goals for now in favor of the more immediately necessary ones.
  • Find Creative Solutions: There are many ways new parents can save money and better stay afloat as they adjust to the costs of having a baby. For instance, to stave off the often astronomical costs of childcare, one parent may elect to stay at home while the other works. A move like this will likely mean tightening the belt as you move to a one-income lifestyle, but creative budget cuts can help there, as well.
  • Take Stock: Make a detailed list of where your money is going and find and eliminate the unnecessary fund drains. You may be surprised to learn just how many unnecessary expenditures are depleting your checking account. For example, paying for a premium cable TV package when a less expensive and more basic one will do; regularly ordering costly takeout rather than cooking at home; buying name brand products when a generic would do just as well. Saving a little in a lot of places will add up fast.
  • Build Up Your Savings: Parents should absolutely have emergency funds in reserve to protect against unforeseen occurrences, like job losses or medical emergencies. If you make a regular habit of setting aside a small percentage of each paycheck, even just five or 10 percent, it will build up quickly. Setting up an auto-deposit is a good way to do this. If the money is safely in savings, you won’t figure it into your monthly spending funds and it will remain safely in your savings account for a rainy day.
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How to Keep Your Internet Identity Secure

We are living in a virtual world, and you are a virtual girl…or boy. While today’s world citizens enjoy unprecedented conveniences thanks to the World Wide Web, we also experience unparalleled risks in terms of identity theft and vulnerability of key information. So, how can you keep your Internet identity secure? The experts have some important answers.

Create a Virtual Fort Knox

While no solution is failsafe when it comes to protecting your identity and your financial world on the Internet, there are some things you can do to make it dang hard for would-be thieves to get their grubby virtual paws on your data.

  • Toughen Up Those Passwords – If you’re one of the guilty many who use the same password for everything, it is bad move No. 1 in the world of virtual identity protection. Use different passwords for each website and make them complicated. Randomly using uppercase letters within your passwords, intentionally misspelling words, or just plain creating a nonsense mishmash of letters and numbers are great strategies for keeping hackers at bay.
  • Put Some Armor on Your Security Questions, too – Password-toughening tips can also be applied to your security question answers. Use bad grammar that would make your high school English teacher blush! Throw in random numbers where letters should be; misspell things to your heart’s content; or, once again, just put plain nonsense in there rather than an answer that makes logical sense with the question.
  • Use Secure Sites – Use https sites when you get online, especially if you’re connecting to the Internet through public Wi-Fi. Most of the Internet biggies (Yahoo, Google, Facebook) have secure connections that will encrypt your data while you’re using them.
  • Use Two-Step Authentication- If websites you frequently login into offer the option of a two-step sign-in, do it. Is it inconvenient? You betcha. But two login points make it twice as hard for hackers to break into your account.
  • Get Notified – Another option you should utilize whenever it’s available is receiving login notifications to alert you to suspicious activity, like an unfamiliar IP address gaining access to one of your accounts. A quick text message from Facebook, Gmail, etc., can help you nip a hack in the bud before it blossoms into a full-grown breach.

There is not currently a cure-all for identity theft, but taking measures like these can certainly throw a monkey wrench into a cyber thief’s evil plot.

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