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.

Saturday

A visitor's guide to Budapest, Hungary


The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is the country's commercial and administrative center encompassing twenty-three districts. Budapest is one of the world's most beautiful cities and perhaps one of the most popular destination spots in Europe. Budapest is split by the River Danube and both sides have an equal amount of sightseeing options for even the most discerning traveler.

Bridges

If you really love bridges, you will get a variety of them in some distinctive shapes, sizes, and construction materials from the Arapad Bridge, which is the longest in Budapest, to the newest bridge Lagymanyosi Bridge with its unusual lighting.

Museums

Museum lovers will not want to miss Castle Museum with its 5 exhibition halls offering everything from the Tomb of Gul Baba to Medieval Jewish Chapel helping to understand the history of Budapest. You also want to stop and check out the Hungarian National Gallery offering medieval carvings, wooden sculptures, alter pieces, as well as baroque art and much more for those who love the arts.

Outdoor Attractions

If you want to be outdoors, there are a variety of attractions for you to explore and still enjoy the mild weather including Acquincym, which is a wonderful open-air museum, Gul Baba Turbeje shrine and statue park.

For a bit of adventure you can head over to the Buda Hills where you can explore major caves, or check out the Buda Hill Labyrinth or check out the Sziget Festival with great acts and a lot of cultural offers for everyone!

Outdoor Theater

Between September and June, you will find a wide variety of theatre and opera events since Budapest is the center of Hungary's theatre scene from the breathtaking opera and ballet at the Hungarian Opera House to Theatre Madach, which offers critically acclaimed shows.

Day Spas

Few tourists will want to miss an opportunity to try out one of the day spas offering you saunas, stem baths and a variety of cafe's, juice bars, opportunity to check out the swimming tubes and open air pools Szechenyi Spa is one of the most popular in the area and open typically the longest hours in comparison to others.

Eating

Whether your tastes in food are Japanese, Korean or Hungarian, you'll find a wealth of restaurants in Budapest, from reasonably prices to very high priced. Wasabi offers the best Japanese and Korean foods for those with big appetites you will want to try out Trofea Grille, which offers an all you can eat buffet and if you are looking for more traditional Hungarian fare you will enjoy Leroy Cafe.

Night Life

When you're searching for an active night life, you will definitely not want to miss some of the adventurous open-air evenings you can spend in Budapest! From A38 which is a boat converted to a nightclub, to Dokk Beach offering six different looks (beach club, club on the bridge, bed themed club, dancers in underwear and a rave club) to Zold Pardon offering live concerts on a nightly basis.

You can tour Budapest on a budget or go all out and splurge on your visit there. Regardless of what your budget it, you'll find a wealth of activities designed to help you enjoy your trip!

Friday

7 Ways to save money on vacation

We all love the idea of getting away after Memorial Day. After all, the children are out of school and many of us have unused vacation time at work. If you fall into this category, you might be wondering if it is possible to take a vacation and still save money. The answer is yes — in fact, here are 11 ways you can save money planning, traveling, and enjoying your vacation.

1. Use a Rewards Credit Card


While you do not want to pile on more debt to go on vacation if you have a rewards credit card, use it to book your trip! The rewards can add up quickly if you pay for your travel with a rewards card and you can use those rewards to save on other items. Make sure you pay the bill in full as quickly as possible.

2. Make the Most of Travel Loyalty Programs


Travel rewards are often available for those who travel via airline or stay in the same hotel chain time after time. Make sure if you are planning a stay you double check the company's loyalty program which can mean upgrades in travel, complimentary hotel rooms or even a complimentary breakfast. These rewards can add up quickly and save you money on your vacation.

3. Consider Camping to Really Save


Many of our National Parks have inexpensive options for camping. In addition to the savings you can realize by camping (no hotel rooms), you can also cook on site in many locations which means a savings in meals as well. Check out the National Parks sites and find out what options you have for camping with your family and you can save hundreds of dollars on a fun vacation.

4. Find the Best Last-Minute Deals


Many travelers think the sooner they book their travel and hotel rooms, the better deal they can get on their travel. However, there are often last-minute deals which can be a bargain if you are traveling. Cars, destination city sights, and hotel rooms which offer discount rates can be identified saving you money if you wait until the last minute.

5. Saving Money on Food While Vacationing


There are many ways to save money feeding you and your family when you are vacationing. First, consider eating out at lunch time instead of dinner time. If this is not a viable option for you, consider checking out local restaurants for "Early Bird Specials" which often involves eating an early dinner instead of "prime" time for meals. These meals are typically limited in number and served only through a certain time of the evening. However, you can save $5 to $10 per person if you take advantage of these meals.

6. Check Out Popular Cash Back Websites


Cash back websites give you bonus points which can be converted to real dollars. If you check out some of the more popular cash back websites you can find options to get cash back for purchasing suitcases, clothes for vacation, booking hotel rooms and booking travel arrangements. The good news is the extra cash can be used to pay off other bills reducing your debt or for extra spending money while you are traveling.

7. Make the Most of Multi-Attraction Passes


Another great way to save money on vacation is by searching for passes that will allow you to see multiple attractions over the course of two or more days for a discounted rate. There are many cities which offer multi-attraction passes that are ideal for families on vacations. Whether you are interested in museums, parks, or other attractions, you may be able to find a pass that is right for your family vacation.


While you may be working hard to pay down your debt, that does not mean you have to avoid vacationing with your family. With a little planning, and some smart spending, you can enjoy vacation and still continue to save money.

Tuesday

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget Starting Today


We know eating healthy is important for everyone. Not only will it help you focus at work, it can improve your overall health which means less money spent on medical bills. You should think about healthy eating as a three-step process: Planning, Purchasing, Preparing. Following these three "p's" you too can find healthy ways to approach your meals while keeping within your budget.

Planning for Healthy Meals

While some of us are faithful about making a list, if you're going to save money at the grocery store, a list is a necessity. Planning for healthy meals begins before making shopping lists however, it starts with developing a menu. Whether you shop once a month, once a week, or every two weeks, the first step you should take is creating a menu.

Your menu can be created on note cards, online in the cloud, or you can use a meal planner app.  Whatever method you choose, you should include breakfast, lunch and dinner menus initially. If it's something new for you, consider starting off with only a single week until you get into the habit of planning a menu. Don't forget to account for leftovers when creating your menu: Even if you use leftovers to make an omelet, or for lunch, it will reduce your grocery budget.

Once you've created your menus, check your cupboards for staples which can be eliminated from your shopping list. If you are short on spices, or other necessities, consider traveling to your local dollar store to stock up at a cheap price. If there are specific items on sale which you can make a healthy meal from, you may want to tweak your menu a bit.

Purchasing Items for Healthy Meals

From your menus, develop your shopping list. Arrange the list by "type" of foods, for example, list all the meats together, list all dairy products together, etc. This will help you stay focused while shopping and may help curb impulse buying. Remember, the fewer aisles you must visit, the less likely you are to give into impulses. Before heading to the market, make sure you have something to eat: A hungry shopper is more likely to overspend on items not on their list.

Just because you've been going to the same grocery store for years doesn't mean you're getting the best deal. Scour your local advertisements for items on sale, check online for grocery coupons, and identify the store where you can save the most money. Once you're there, verify unit pricing of items — just because it has a name brand on it does not automatically mean it's a better product. Generic or store brand items often cost far less than their name brand counterparts and can save you tons of money.

Bulk purchases can also save you a lot of money. For example, even if your menu only calls for rice one night, you may save more money purchasing a five-pound bag than a one-pound box. This means you must be aware of "use by" dates so use your best judgment.

Preparing Healthy Meals

One of the biggest challenges most of us face is time — you can save time if you prepare meals on a day like Saturday or Sunday when you can spend time cooking the "major" items like roasting a chicken or cooking a roast. This will save you time during the week and help you avoid last-minute takeout orders because you don't feel like cooking. The other option is to make the most of a slow-cooker — you can put your meal into the cooker before you leave for work in the morning and let it cook while you're away.

These are just a few tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget. As you grow more accustomed to planning ahead for meals, chances are high you will spend less. Remember to use extenders like frozen vegetables, store your leftovers properly so they can be reused and take advantage of sales and coupons.