Saturday

Lions Clubs: Service with a purpose

Every day we are inundated with requests for money from charities. In these difficult economic times, most of us are most interested in those charities that are local and help the needy in our own communities. These charities exist, you merely need to find them. This isn't always the easiest endeavor because many charities that help the needy are hidden away and don't have the budgets to blow their own horns. Let's look at a charity that you might not even be aware is in your community.

An International Presence

Lions Clubs International - Founded in 1917 by a group of Chicago businessmen, the goal of Lions Clubs International has always been to serve. Lions serve all of mankind with a focus on those who are in need. By their mandate, Lions Clubs all over the world (located in 205 countries and geographic areas) raise money in their communities for one purpose. For helping those who are in need of their assistance.

Lions serve without a lot of fanfare. Men and woman all with a common goal of helping mankind. Lions Clubs International Foundation is the grant making arm of Lions Clubs International. With donations from private trusts, Lions Clubs and Lions all over the world, grants are offered for building schools, hospitals, rebuilding after national disasters and more.

Since 1925 when Helen Keller appeared at their convention, Lions have dedicated themselves to eradicating preventable blindness. They do this through a variety of programs including Sight First, Eyemobile's that are funded partially by Lions Clubs International and many other sight related projects. But, Lions don't stop there. Let's take a look at some of the things that happen on a local level.

On a local level

Lions Clubs individually are comprised by men and women who feel that they can do something good in their community. These Lions join together and raise money by hosting pancake breakfasts, black tie galas, carnivals and flipping thousands of hamburgers annually. Fund-raising is one of the most challenging aspects of running a Lions Club. All dues that are paid by members are used to pay administrative costs of the clubs. This is because each club agrees that one hundred percent of the money that is raised for charity in the community must be donated to charity.

Food pantries, heating funds, holiday gift funds, food baskets, eye glasses, hearing aids and more. Lions all over the world help those who need their assistance in any way they possibly can. Lions do not just donate money. Hundreds and thousands of hours of service are accrued every year by Lions who help sponsor blood drives, clean highways, build ramps for the disabled, clean yards and install air conditioners for the elderly.

There are many more things that Lions do in the community. Lions Clubs International is one of the charities that help the needy at home and abroad. Consider contacting your local Lions Club and learning more about the various ways they give back to the community.

Regaining financial independence after divorce

Divorce statistics in the United States are staggering.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in 2011 that indicated that marriage rates were 6.8 per 1,000 people and divorce rates were a staggering 3.6 per 1,000. This data was based on results from 44 states and the District of Columbia.

When you consider the emotional impact of divorce, it is not any small wonder that finances are not always at the top of the couples list until the very last minute. Once the divorce papers are signed, both men and women may find that they are having trouble regaining financial independence after divorce. Let us explore some of the financial challenges and some possible solutions.
  • Mortgage/Rent - Unless you sold a home and garnered a profit from that sale as a condition of a divorce, chances are that you have debt from a mortgage.  At a minimum, you will have monthly rent payments.  What once was easy to pay in a two income home suddenly becomes an overwhelming challenge.  Before you panic or ignore a potentially devastating financial setback, you should begin exploring your options. If you are paying a mortgage on a home, it may be time to consider some options if you feel that you will be unable to make your mortgage payments.  These options include (a) selling your home or (b) renting one or more rooms out. Either of these methods can help you regain your financial independence after divorce. If neither of these options are feasible, you may have to consider a part time job to make up the shortfall.
  • Credit Cards - Chances are very high that both the spouses in a divorce have taken on part of the credit card debts that were incurred during the marriage.  The best you can do with credit card debt is pay it off as quickly as possible.  If you believe you cannot make more than your minimum monthly payments, you may want to explore debt consolidation loans that will pay off all of your credit cards and have one monthly payment to deal with. Chances are this single monthly payment will be less than the combined minimum payments. This is another positive step towards regaining your financial independence after divorce.
Typically these are the two main debts that are going to create major financial issues for you after a divorce.  It is important that you sit down as quickly as possible and create an action plan that includes a list of your debts and your income. If your income is insufficient to maintain your current debt levels you will have to explore ways to increase your income.  This may mean asking for a raise, looking for a higher paying job or learning to earn money online in your spare time. It may also involve getting a second job.  None of these options is appealing for many, however they will be necessary if you are working towards regaining your financial independence after divorce.

Does homeowners' insurance protect the valuables of kids at college?

Many homeowners' insurance policies will cover students' belongings away from home. This isn't always true though. Before your child heads off to school, you will want to find out what your homeowners insurance covers. The part of your homeowners' insurance policy that you're gong to want to verify is your Personal Property coverage - however, there are some things that you need to be aware of!

Homeowners' insurance policies often place limitations on what personal property may be claimed. This is especially important if your child is heading off to school and taking valuable computer equipment with them. Check your homeowners' insurance and see what the limitations are on electronics. If the limitations are in fact restrictive, you may want to consider renters insurance for your child.
  • Find out location limitations - each homeowners' insurance company is allowed to put different limitations on their homeowners' policies (and personal property). Some may state specifically that only items that are kept in the home are covered by the homeowners insurance. If you find this is the case, you're going to want to look into the possibility of renters insurance.
  • Sufficient Coverage - If you have 2 or 3 children in college at the same time you probably need to verify with your insurance agent if your homeowners insurance personal protection coverage applies to each of them. While it's highly unlikely that all 2 or 3 will have a problem at the same time, there's no point in taking that risk. If only one child is covered you might want to consider renters insurance for the other child (or children).
Nearly all homeowners' insurance has limitations on what it will and will not cover - whether it's in your home or in a child's dormitory. Make sure that you find out all of the restrictions and the potential problems that you might run into. Do not make the assumption that your homeowners insurance covers things, always verify them!

Homeowners' Insurance versus Renters' Insurance

If you're trying to decide what's best for your child using your existing homeowners' insurance (increasing personal property limitations) or renters' insurance the best option for you is to speak with your homeowners insurance agent and find out the cost of the two types of insurance. In some instances it might be more cost beneficial to you to increase your personal property amounts on your homeowners' insurance.

If you decide that renters' insurance is the most beneficial carefully review the renters' insurance policy for all limitations. You may find out that things you anticipated would be covered are not. Remember that both homeowners' insurance policies and renters' insurance policies will have specific limitations on values (especially for jewelry, furs, and other luxury items). If your student is going to have a large screen television for example you may need to show proof of purchase to the insurance company before they will agree to increase your personal property coverage on your homeowners' insurance policy (or renters' insurance policy).

Tuesday

What to do when a foreclosure notice arrives


Foreclosure - this single word can strike fear into the heart of any person regardless of their status in life. Society tends to think that if a person is facing foreclosure, they are deadbeats who lack motivation and refuse to pay bills on time. However, the reality is that many homeowners who are facing foreclosure are hard-working people who have fallen on hard times during a financial crisis.

While the primary cause of foreclosure is failure to pay a mortgage or tax bill on a home, the underlying causes are far more complicated. Those who have been laid off from good paying jobs, people who have gone through a costly divorce or those who have had medical issues that have weighed down their financial abilities all may be facing foreclosure. Combine this with the less than scrupulous mortgage lenders and brokers who preyed on unsuspecting homeowners and told them they could help them get out from under homes they could not afford, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Regardless of the reasons that a person is facing foreclosure, what is more important is to understand what to do once the foreclosure notice has arrived in the mail. Although the initial reaction may be to ignore it, this is not only lacking in sense, but it will not make the problem go away.  Here are some things that a homeowner can do when they receive a foreclosure notice.

Evaluate current financial position

The first thing that a homeowner should do when they receive a foreclosure notice is to sit down and honestly evaluate their current financial status.  Before taking any additional steps, a homeowner must be certain they can continue to pay their mortgage, taxes, insurance and continue to maintain the home.  Once a homeowner determines they can resolve their finances to maintain the home then they can proceed to the next step.

Contact the lender

It is important that a homeowner contact their lending institution when they are facing foreclosure. This is especially helpful if there has been a financial crisis that has been resolved. Many lenders may be willing to work with a homeowner to bring their mortgage current without needing to pay all of the arrears at one time. Past due amounts may be divided up over a twenty-four-month period (or longer) depending on the lender and added to the current mortgage payment.

Most lenders have a loss mitigation department. Remember, lenders are not in the business of property ownership. Many feel it is in their best interest to work something out with the current homeowner to continue paying their mortgage.

Homeowners who cannot afford their mortgage

For a homeowner who has determined it is not financially feasible for them to continue living in the home, the lender should still be contacted. The homeowner should review their loan documents and see if there is a "deed in lieu of foreclosure" clause in their mortgage.  If there is such a clause, the homeowner should negotiate with the lender regarding any potential deficiency judgment (provided the state allows such a judgment).

While the end result will be the same (e.g., the homeowner gives up their home and their credit is negatively impacted), the drawn out process of foreclosure does not have to be a burden to the homeowner or to the lender.
When lenders refuse to negotiate

While it may be less common, sometimes a lender refused to negotiate. A homeowner may contact FNMA and ask about the programs that are available to help them save their home from foreclosure. Never accept any offer from a person contacting you about saving your home from foreclosure that involves paying a fee. The programs that are legitimate are free to all homeowners and this help should not require payment of any fees.

While it may be tempting to ignore a foreclosure notice, it is very short-sighted. Deciding if there is stable income that will allow a homeowner to keep their home is the first step in deciding what steps to take.  Negotiate with the lender, work with the approved government programs and if all else fails, a homeowner may consider filing bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure process. None of these methods will be effective if the homeowner does not have a stable income.

Image credit: By respres (http://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/2539334956/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday

How to locate unclaimed insurance policy benefits


There is significant evidence that shows that billions of dollars in life insurance benefits go unclaimed on an annual basis. In fact, in February of 2011 the New York Times indicated that millions (and perhaps billions) of dollars in unclaimed insurance benefits are turned over every day to states. When a policyholder dies, the insurance company must be notified of the death in order for them to begin the process of redeeming death benefits and paying them to the proper beneficiaries.

However, all too often, beneficiaries are not aware that there is an existing policy. When an insurer does not hear from a policyholder, they will eventually turn the property over to the state as unclaimed property. This means that beneficiaries need to know how to located unclaimed insurance benefits.  Here are some tips for making sure that life insurance policies are not overlooked.

Review checkbooks and mail

Dealing with the loss of a loved one involves high levels of stress and often little things get overlooked. One of the first things that can be done to help prevent unclaimed insurance benefits is to review bank statements, checkbooks and recent mail. Policyholders are often paying a monthly or quarterly premium for life insurance that may be identifiable from either bank statements or from cancelled checks. Insurance companies may also send an annual statement or mail a premium due notification.  It is generally a good idea to have all mail forwarded to a responsible person immediately after death as this would help identify any premiums due.

Contact insurance agents

Many people have their homeowner’s policy, life insurance policy and other insurance policies with the same agent. This can be very helpful as the agent may be aware of life insurance policies that were in effect. Many life insurance companies ask on applications if the policyholder has additional policies. The agent may have an original application on file with other information that could be helpful. It is important to note that in these cases, the agent may request a copy of the death certificate as well as proof that someone is authorized to find this information (e.g., copy of will, appointment of executor etc.).

Contact place of employment

One of the many overlooked insurance policies are those that are purchased through payroll deductions. Calling the last place of employment of the deceased may result in the discovery of an active insurance policy that may otherwise go unclaimed. Typically, the Human Resources department of a company will be able to advise someone of there was a life insurance policy in place. They can also provide information on how to claim the benefits.

Safe deposit boxes

Some people have safe deposit boxes that are used specifically for holding important documents. Heirs should carefully review all of the documents that are contained in safe deposit boxes to determine if there are any life insurance policies. When (if) they are found, contact the company directly for information on how to redeem the benefits from the policy.

While there are limited resources for tracking life insurance policies, even if no evidence is found that shows that a policy exists, there still may be unclaimed insurance policies. It is important for heirs to realize that there is no time limit on collecting life insurance benefits that may be due to them. For heirs who believe there may be unclaimed policies, it is often beneficial to try to locate these policies through asset searches.

Each state has laws called “escheatment” laws (e.g., unclaimed property laws) that require all financial institutions to turn over assets to the state after specific periods of time. The time period is between three and five years depending on the state. If policies are turned over to the state, they can be located free of charge from the states Unclaimed Assets Division or by using the free services offered by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Sunday

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes


Type 2 diabetes affects between 90 and 95 percent of all the people who have diabetes (estimated to be 21 million people). This means that their body does not effectively use the insulin that they produce. This results in a buildup of glucose affecting other parts of the body.

Dehydration is one of the most significant risks that diabetes patients face. This is caused by the kidneys attempting to rid themselves of built up glucose. The kidneys work harder creating more urine and the results can be devastating. In some patients, unchecked dehydration can trigger a diabetic coma. Other issues include nerve damage, potential heart problems and also the potential for diabetic retinopathy caused by damage to the blood vessels in the eye.

Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes

It is true that nearly anyone can be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. However, some people have more risk factors than others. These include those who fail to eat a proper diet and people who fail to get enough exercise. Women who had gestational diabetes may also be at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Genetics also play a role, and those with a history of diabetes in the family may be more prone.

Understanding the symptoms

Not everyone has the same symptoms when they are diabetic, however there are some common symptoms which should be monitored. They include unexplained thirst which occurs frequently, unexplained hunger, excessive cases of dry mouth, unusual urination frequency to name a few. The more pronounced the symptoms, the more likely that you need to have them checked. It is a good idea to review all of the potential symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, especially if you are at risk for developing this disorder due to a family history.

Associated diseases

Those who suffer with Type 2 Diabetes may also be at higher risk for other diseases. These may include (but are not necessarily limited to) diabetic retinopathy, kidney disease and gastroparesis.  These potential problems can be minimized by working with your medical professional to make sure that you have a solid plan in place to maintain your blood glucose levels at normal levels.

Minimizing the risks

There are several ways that diabetic patients can manage the risks associated with Type 2 Diabetes including a proper diet, plenty of exercise and keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure within normal limits. Type 2 diabetes management is critical to your overall health.

The health risks of type 2 diabetes can be devastating to your overall health. However, with proper care and management, you can overcome many of them. Working with your physician to understand how to best manage your Type 2 Diabetes is critical to your overall health and well-being.

Image credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons: Pre-filled insulin syringe ("insulin pen"). Picture taken by PerPlex.