Monday, October 26, 2009

Avoiding Holiday Debt


By: Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

I know it’s only October, but it’s not too early to start thinking about holiday gift-giving. As a matter-of-fact many financial experts advise holiday shopping all year long. That’s one way to stay within your budget and reduce holiday stress.

Everyone is feeling the money pinch these days and with the holidays just around the corner that pinch is going to hurt a lot more. Here are a few suggestions to help relieve the pain and let you enjoy the holidays a little bit more.

  • Send email greeting cards instead of spending money on paper cards and postage.
  • Ask your dinner guests to bring a dish and have a potluck holiday dinner. You’ll save money and time and everyone will get to sample some new dishes.
  • Create a holiday budget for gifts. Decide on a total dollar amount you are going to spend then determine how much you will spend on each individual. Remember to include the tax in your total.
  • Shop at discount outlets and closeout stores instead of the malls.
  • Create a coupon book. Coupons can be redeemed for things like cleaning duties, car washing, meal preparation, etc. Everyone likes a helping hand and it’s the gift that keeps giving all year long.
  • If you haven’t started shopping yet, get started. Look for those bargains and grab them while you can.
Keep in mind that the holidays are supposed to be about family and friends, being together and creating memories. Don’t get caught up in the spending trap and enjoy your holiday debt free.

Join us for our free Webinar “Reducing Financial Stress During the Holidays” on December 9, 2009. To register go to:

For more helpful hints on surviving the holiday season click on the links below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Job hunting-have you reviewed your credit report lately?


Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences

What does your credit history have to do with your chances of landing a job? More than you would expect, especially in these tough economic times. With unemployment at an all time high, the job competition is very stiff. In this “employer’s market”, many companies are able to take their time and evaluate job candidates with increasing scrutiny. Some companies are basing their search for the right candidates not only on resumes and qualifications but may also be reviewing the credit reports of those potential hires.
There are some stipulations though. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that an employer must get your permission to look at your credit report. If you don’t get a job because of information in your report, the employer must show you the report and tell you how to get a copy from the consumer reporting company. There is no charge for the report if you request it within 60 days of getting notice that you did not get the job
Since your credit report is a map of your financial history and how you handle finances, some employers view it as an indicator of how well you may handle your job responsibilities. Perhaps you have defaulted on a loan or have unpaid credit accounts. These situations may raise a red flag. If a potential employer asks you to sign paperwork allowing them to review your credit report you may want to discuss any negative information that may be on the report. If you have been unemployed for a long period of time, and unable to pay bills because of reduced income, employers may empathize with you. As long as you are up front and honest about your history, you still have a shot at getting the job.
Request a copy of your credit report. By thoroughly reviewing your report you can identify any problem areas or errors that may be negatively affecting your credit score. The FCRA requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You can order your free annual credit report online at, or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Also view the free presentation on credit reports and scores at the link below.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is a Reverse Mortgage?


By Karen Saley, Extension Specialist

A reverse mortgage is a loan secured by your home that lets you receive payments from the lender. As you receive payments, these amounts are added to your loan balance. Generally to obtain a reverse mortgage, you must be a homeowner at least 62 years old.

With health care costs rising and people living longer lives, many older folks are considering reverse mortgages to help them with their financial needs. These types of mortgages may be beneficial to some, but there are some pretty important issues to consider before making the leap.

Interest and fees
Just like any other type of loan, interest and fees are charges with a reverse mortgage. Even when you are no longer receiving payments, interest is charges on any outstanding balance until the loan is paid off.

Taxes and insurance
With a reverse mortgage even though you are no longer making payments on your home loan, you are still responsible for the property taxes and insurance on your home.

With reverse mortgages you generally do not pay back the loan, but keep in mind that when you pass away your heirs will be responsible for the repayment of the loan in order to claim the property. This also applies if you should move out of the home or sell it.

If you find yourself in need of some extra cash you may want to explore other options before taking a reverse mortgage. Selling the home and downsizing or possibly drawing from a retirement fund may be better options depending on your circumstances. Talk to a financial advisor or housing counselor before making the decision.

For more information contact these agencies.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
AARP Foundation, Reverse Mortgage Education Project
National Association of Reverse Mortgage Lenders

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Managing in Tough Times-Dealing with Job Loss

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences

You just got word that you are being laid off. Your initial reaction is shock. There is often a period of adjustment and transition that people must go through when dealing with a job loss. People feel and experience a number of emotions. Disbelief and denial, anger, sadness and depression, and eventually acceptance are often the phases people must work through as they deal with a job loss. It can be difficult to navigate this process. You may sometimes feel out of control or overwhelmed by the stress of it all.

Some of the stress that people experience is due to the fear of the unknown. Not knowing what will happen to the retirement plan you have invested in, understanding what your rights and responsibilities are with respect to maintaining health care coverage and wondering how you will deal with the unknown financial challenges ahead are just some of the issues that you may have questions about.

To help you navigate through some of these challenges, the University of Florida, IFAS has developed a website called Managing in Tough Times-Downsized! It has a wealth of information on financial resources, including calculators and worksheets to help you develop a spending plan and answer some of those questions you have about retirement and health insurance.

The website can be found at

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Company and product listings do not represent endorsement by either: Pinellas County Extension, Pinellas County or the University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.