We are down to the last few days to save on taxes by purchasing energy-efficient upgrades, so don’t delay. The tax experts at the Equifax Finance Blog point out just what it takes to earn the federal tax credits and offer more great tips, as well!
On December 31, 2013, the legislation that gives homeowners a federal tax credit expires so be sure to go out and purchase any energy efficient windows, water heaters, air conditioners, heat pumps and insulation before then. Many cities and states also offer tax credits to homeowners who make energy-efficient home improvements, such as dual-paned windows, solar-powered systems and tankless water heaters. Just like the federal tax credit, you don’t need to have everything installed, but you do need to make the purchase before the year ends and let Uncle Sam finance your future energy savings. Continue reading
With winter fall and winter around the corner, much of the country will be looking at rougher weather as cold approaches and a real test of their home’s energy efficiency. Generally, costs of living rise and new problems are discovered, with everything from the weight of leaves exposing roof leaks to frigid winds exposing airflow issues. This is why it’s an important time to look into efficiency upgrades, and as the new article on the Equifax Finance Blog points out, you can enjoy savings on taxes and monthly utilities by choosing the right upgrades. Continue reading
The recent blockbuster “Identity Thief” made light of a very serious, growing problem in the U.S. and around the world. Identity theft is growing at an alarming rate; and it can wreak havoc on your plans for environmentally sustainable housing, checking account, credit cards and
credit ratings, it can even impact your employment and employability if you are looking for a job. So what can you do to protect yourself? Practice good privacy protection habits first. In the movie, the victim simply gave his personal information over the phone to a caller claiming to be from a company holding one of his accounts. Giving out personal info to someone you don’t know and cannot verify is a major mistake. But if you are already taking all the smart privacy protection steps you can and want to know if there’s more you can do, especially if you feel you are at a higher risk of identity theft (say for example you know that your personal data was recently compromised); you may want to think about identity theft insurance.
While identity theft insurance can’t prevent a theft from occurring, it can make repairing your identity a little bit easier after a theft has occurred. Repairing your identity can be costly; so the insurance reimburses you for certain expenses associated with getting your identity back where it should be. You can be reimbursed for things like phone bills, lost wages, cost for notarizing fraud affidavits or other documents, and certified mail costs, and sometimes even pre-approved attorney fees. If you’re looking to purchase identity theft insurance, comparison shop policies first among multiple insurance companies. Make sure you understand exactly what you are getting; find out about policy limits, deductibles, whether it covers lost wages and attorney’s fees and what the policy will cost, most policies range from $25 to $65 per year.
Get more tips on purchasing identity theft insurance in the article, “
Do I Need Identity Theft Insurance?” on the Equifax Finance Blog, and while you’re there, you can find tons of information to help you protect your identity, as well as manage your personal finances, from retirement to taxes to credit and more.
You can embrace the outdoors and upgrade your home with lots of improvements to boost your home’s outdoors. We often forget about our home’s exterior when we think about home décor, but outdoor upgrades can bring years of enjoyment or improve your home’s attractiveness to buyers while still keeping in harmony with nature. A recent
Equifax Finance Blog article discusses popular outdoor upgrades.
Fire pits – enjoy the glow of an evening fire with a fire pit spring through fall; these can either be built-in and permanent or you can purchase a portable fire pit at a department or home improvement store
Outdoor kitchen – these can get upscale with a grill, sink, stove/oven, bar, refrigerator and more. An outdoor kitchen makes entertaining outdoors easier
Patio – kick your basic patio up a notch with a concrete pavers, which come in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors and add a focal point with a paved walkway or fountain
Landscaping – planting trees or flowers is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to add beauty to your home; a colorful planter filled with seasonal flowers will add to your home’s curb appeal
Paint – touching up or repainting your home’s exterior will not only freshen up your home’s exteriors but it will also help protect your home from the elements
Get more home improvement tips at the Equifax Finance blog, including tons more helpful tips on real estate, as well as other personal finance topics, like retirement, taxes, insurance, credit and
identity theft protection.
Buying a home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll make. What should first time home buyers know before getting started? The Equifax Finance blog real estate pros came up with a list of four things every first time buyer should know to help avoid common first time buyer pitfalls/mistakes, in the recent article, “
First-Time Homebuyers: The Four Mistakes You Need to Avoid.”
- Know Your Credit Score: If you have a bad credit score, you’re wasting time (unless of course you have the funds to buy a home in cash — which is unlikely). Without a decent score, you won’t be able to get financing for a mortgage. Knowing your score in advance will set you up for making decisions about whether or not to buy, and what kind of lending terms and interest rates you can expect. Check your credit for free three times a year from the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) and make smart credit decisions, like paying bills on time to keep your score up.
- Get Pre-Qualified: Getting pre-qualified early in the process will not only let you know how much you can afford, it will set you apart from other buyers who are less serious and/or may not be able to get the financing that they want. Getting pre-qualified not only helps you, but it helps your agent and sellers, as it signals to them that you are ready and able to buy.
- Know Home Values and Prices: Knowing the home values and prices in the areas you’re looking will arm you with the knowledge to be a savvy shopper and get the best deals. You can and should look up prices of homes for sale online, but you should also ask your real estate agent to provide you with some recent sales statistics. He/she can pull recent figures that will help you in your search, and will help provide perspective about pricing on homes that you’re interested in.
- Assemble the right team: Find an agent that is knowledgeable about your area, experienced and trustworthy. You need an agent that you can feel confident in, and you’re likely to find the best fit through word of mouth as opposed to finding someone online. Ask your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc., for recommendations on an agent. Then, meet him or her and find out how long they’ve been working in your area, how many clients they have, if they have expertise with first time buyers, etc.
Get more real estate tips at the Equifax Finance blog as well as tips on retirement, insurance, taxes,
credit score, identity theft protection and more.
Which is better for you? Credit or debit cards? The Equifax Finance Blog gives the pros and cons of each in their new article, “
Tips For Choosing Between Paying With Debit or Credit.” This key information can help you live a cash-free lifestyle, as well as help you remove the need for paper bills and statements by knowing which plastic to use for your credit score.
- Pro – When you use and pay down a credit card, you help build your credit history.
- Pro – Less risk of major financial and credit file damage from an identity thief.
- Pro – Higher likelihood of being able to contest fraudulent charges.
- Pro – Rewards can help buy things or pay down your balance.
- Con – It’s easy to over spend using credit cards; since payment for your purchases is delayed.
- Con – Using a credit card to earn rewards could cause you to spend more than you really can afford.
- Pro – The money is taken directly out of your checking account, so no interest and no late payment fees.
- Pro – Having debit cards has no negative impact on your credit.
- Con – Having debit cards has no positive impact on your credit.
- Con – If stolen, the thief can wipe out your bank account.
- Con – Many banks offer little protection against fraudulent use; some do, they just may require a fee
- Con – If you or a thief overdraws, you will be hit with substantial fees.
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both credit and debit cards, and which you use, and when, and how often, is up to you and what works best for your financial lifestyle.
If you’re looking for more tips on building credit, saving money, financial management,
protection from identity theft and more, visit the Equifax Finance Blog!
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to decorate your green home this Spring, while helping protect the environment, is with second-hand shopping. Second-hand shopping is a great way to reuse; you’ll save money and add charm to your home that you will take your design to a personalized, humanitarian and eco-friendly way. Now is the time of year when families declutter by donating or consigning their belongings and having garage and yard sales, so you can come across some great items on the cheap.
Repurposed design items are often the best. They’ll make for great focal points and conversation pieces of a space. The Equifax Finance Blog shares some tips on savvy second-hand shopping in one of its newest blog posts, “
Shop Second-Hand Stores and Garage Sales Like a Pro.” Here are a few:
- Haggle happily, but know when to stop – don’t be the customer that shop employees hate; be friendly and respectful when bargaining for a deal; know your reserve price and walk away if a shop owner can’t go any lower
- Carry cash – Consignment and thrift store owners will often times be willing to go a little bit lower on items if they can avoid paying merchant credit and debit card fees
- Check condition – give items thorough inspections before deciding to take them home; examine things carefully for holes, tears, nicks, missing pieces, etc. If the item has only minor damage, decide if it is priced where it’s worth repairing. Don’t be scared to ask to plug in electrical items; and the article even recommends carrying a few spare batteries to test any items that might need them
There are more savvy second-hand shopping tips on the Equifax blog, visit it to read the full article and get other financial management tips, as well as tips on insurance, retirement, credit,
identity theft solutions and more.
Advances in technology increase every year, making some consumers a little more nervous about the digital identity theft types. However, a recent article on the Equifax Finance Blog remarks that internet identity theft still trails the older, tried and true methods of thieves.
In the recent article, “Top Causes of Identity Theft? Not the Internet—Yet,” Joe Reynolds, an identity fraud product manager at Travelers, presents identity theft information from a study of claims made to Travelers in 2011. In the article he remarks that stolen and misplaced wallets and pocketbooks are still among the most frequent sources of identity theft.
Other causes of stolen identity include stolen identification cards (Social Security card, driver’s license, student ID, employee badge, etc.), burglaries, cyber breaches and forgeries. As you can see the internet does come to play at the number four spot on the list but it’s still surprisingly far away from being the top cause of ID theft.
The Equifax Finance Blog is a great resource for any
identity theft information you may need. It is also a wonderful place to gain knowledge about understanding credit scores, ID protection and much more. Visit the Equifax Finance Blog for more information.
With the holiday season just behind us, some people will open their credit cards statements in 2013 and be in shock because they suddenly need an identity theft solution for items they did not buy!
If you find that you are suddenly the victim of identity theft, the finance experts at the Equifax Finance Blog have a great article for you called, “What to Do if You’re the Victim of Identity Theft.”
In this article, the experts review six steps for people to take action on after they have had their identity compromised. Although prevention is always recommended for ID theft protection first, you may find yourself needing an emergency plan.
The experts suggest taking these steps to begin fixing the damage done by identity theft:
- Fraud Alerts – File a fraud alert with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three main consumer credit reporting agencies.
- Close Accounts – Be sure to contact each individual company and close any fraudulent accounts if you find any. You will need to give them proof of your idenitity and sign fraud dispute papers in order for the accounts to be closed.
- Alert/Monitoring – Check out the various credit monitoring services offered today. Equifax offers this service and will alert you of certain changes in your credit history, if you want to keep an eye on your credit report.
Be sure to see the full article to learn about the next three steps which continue the critical first aid process. For more great
identity theft information, please read the Equifax Finance Blog today!
Today’s smartphone users have a variety of mobile apps to choose from that will check your credit score, file a claim with your insurance company, and even connect you to websites that discuss
ID theft protection. All of this can now be done from the palm of your hand without having to waste paper, make trash or be delivered by mail.
An article from the Equifax Finance Blog called, “
Access Insurance Resources from Your Smartphone,” offers excellent tips to consumers for using some of the available mobile apps.
For example, homeowners can quickly and easily use their insurance app to file a claim for stolen or damaged goods. This could help during sudden disasters at your home, such as the unfortunate events of Hurricane Sandy this past October, because in that situation multiple claims were being filed and time was of the essence.
Mobile auto insurance apps are also a useful choice for smartphone users, although some features of the ‘free’ apps may require you to pay for help, depending on your policy. Auto insurance apps vary per business, but generally offer a means to file minor accidents using a simple checklist, take photos of automobile damage and record the details of your wreck. Some apps, like the one from Allstate, even use GPS to offer their clients 24-hour roadside assistance.
For more information about useful mobile apps, ID protection or to answer question such as, “what is a credit score?” please visit the Equifax Finance Blog today!