Georgia's Own will be closed on Monday, May 27th in observance of Memorial Day.
Monthly Archives: May 2019
Car Wrap/Car Advertising Scam
One of the biggest scams that we are seeing this year at Georgia’s Own Credit Union is the car wrap or car advertising scam.
Here’s how the scam operates:
You receive an email asking if they would like to make some money by having their car wrapped in a well-known brand logo (e.g. Oral B, Dr. Pepper, or Rock Star Energy Drink). The offer sounds good, especially since there is the option of removing the wrapped sticker after a number of months. Once the offer is accepted, the scammers will send a check for a large amount of money, according to the length of time the member wants to be a “mobile advertiser”.
The instructions for cashing the check indicate that a certain portion of the money is to be kept as the member’s payment and the rest is to be sent via wire transfer to the company who will supposedly wrap their vehicle. After wiring the money, the original check will be returned and the total amount of the check will be debited from your account.
Keep in Mind / Ways to Recognize this Scam:
- Remember, no major brand would hire just anybody to wrap their cars with advertising. It’s great to get paid to advertise on your car, but corporations are very careful about their image and typically have large marketing departments in-house.
- The scammers steal images from websites belonging to reputable companies that do professional car wrapping and make the email recipient believe it’s their business.
- Delete the email, not every online job opportunity that comes your way is real. If you receive a counterfeit check, please shred or you can contact ERM Security at [email protected]
Five financial mistakes you might be making with your healthcare
2018 American Household Credit Card Debt Study, medical costs have increased by 33% since 2008. On the bright side, the median income is on the rise, too. However, it’s growing at a significantly slower pace than healthcare costs. How are patients managing? Nerd Wallet reports that up to 27 million adults in the United States are charging medical expenses on credit cards–that’s how.
The rising healthcare numbers are frightening, especially since most medical costs aren’t optional. Maybe patients are paying those charges off at the end of the month, although with the increase in revolving debt in the U.S, it’s not likely. In fact, healthcare costs are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.
Healthcare is a critical concern for many people, and so is managing their finances and making smart financial decisions. So, here are five common healthcare-related financial mistakes that you may be making right now and how you can turn them around.
1. Not comparing healthcare plans
The best way to find the most affordable health care coverage is to shop and compare prices, features, coverage, deductibles, prescription benefits, and provider networks for different insurance plans. We know that sounds tedious and complicated, but there are websites that allow you to compare plans on your own, or you can simply contact a local insurance agent to help.
If you qualify for your employer’s healthcare plan, be sure to review and compare your options there, too. Many employers still pay a portion of the monthly premium, and since your premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars, it lowers your taxable income, too. Those plans are generally hard to beat in terms of pricing and features, especially if you work for a mid- or large-size company, but do your due diligence.
It’s easy to compare plans by their monthly premium, but there’s more to them than just their price tag. A less expensive premium will lower your monthly out-of-pocket cost, but, in the end, you might wind up paying more on claims.
Consider your healthcare needs, the average number of times per year that you visit your doctor, your copay amount, the cost of your prescriptions, and whether your preferred doctors are in-network. Keep in mind that the highest and most expensive plan is not necessarily the best option for everyone, even if your budget can afford it.
2. Not knowing how your plan works
One your insurance plan is in place, it’s important to know how it works. It may be a bit confusing at first, but if you don’t take the time to understand the rules and features, you run the risk of spending far more money than you should.
For example, your physician may be in-network, but their in-house lab may not. Or, the hospital may be in-network, but not the doctor you see. Check with your insurance company before any scheduled service or procedure to make sure you’re utilizing as many in-network providers as possible. It’s also important to know when you need pre-authorization for an upcoming test or a procedure. Without it, your insurance company may not pay any portion of the cost, which can be pretty hefty.
Getting to know your plan isn’t only about discovering the limitations. If you’re lucky, you might find some hidden gems along the way, like reimbursement for your gym membership or a weight loss program, or a free smoking cessation program. If you have questions about your plan, don’t hesitate to call your insurance company’s customer service department. They’ll help you make better, more informed decisions and ultimately avoid unwelcome surprises.
3. Forgetting to compare service costs
If you’re in the market for a new television, want to hire a lawn service, or need to have your home painted, you shop around for the best price, right? Why not do the same when your doctor orders labwork or an MRI? Sometimes these can be big-ticket items, and there’s no standard price across the board.
Whether you’re choosing a doctor, planning to have surgery, or searching for a pharmacy, you should compare costs. Prices for these services vary widely. With a little research, you can really save some cash. To get started, check out these highly regarded online cost comparison tools for the latest pricing on common medical procedures, prescription drugs, and services.
Consider too, the day of the week and the facility you choose when you need medical attention. Without question, in the case of an emergency, you should go directly to the nearest Emergency Room. If, however, you visit the ER every time you come down with a cold or the flu, there’s an opportunity to lower your costs significantly.
If it’s after business hours or over a weekend, consider whether your condition can be handled by an Urgent Care Clinic. During the week, a visit to your primary care physician is a financially smarter choice. Minor illnesses can even be handled through a virtual visit with an online physician if your insurance plan allows. All of these solutions are more cost and time effective than an Emergency Room visit, so if it’s not a true emergency, you might want to explore another option.
4. Not inquiring about generic brands
According to the FDA, a generic medication works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version. It’s the same in dosage, safety, effectiveness, strength, stability, and quality, the way in which it’s taken and used.
Generic brands have the same active ingredients, works in the same way, and come with the same risks and benefits as its brand-name counterpart. So, if a generic medication delivers the same result and is less expensive, why not use it?
The main difference between generic and a name-brand drugs comes down to cost. Unlike brand companies, generic manufacturers compete directly on price, which results in a lower cost for patients. How much lower? Generics have saved Americans $1.67 trillion over the last decade.
Any time your doctor orders a prescription, be sure to ask if there’s a generic alternative. You’ll feel better both medically and financially!
5. Neglecting to negotiate a payment plan
Sometimes an unexpected illness, an accident, or a hospital stay brings costly medical bills that your insurance plan won’t cover. Or, maybe you don’t have a medical insurance policy to help offset some of the cost.
While it’s easy to see how a situation like this could wreak havoc on your finances, there are ways to make the cost somewhat more palatable. Contact the billing department and ask about any discounts you may qualify for, especially if you’re able to pay a lump sum or a portion of it up front.
Some hospitals, nonprofits in particular, have financial assistance programs designed to help people pay for medical care that they couldn’t normally afford, and there are others that offer a 0% interest repayment loan. Neither you nor the provider wants the bill to go to collection, so you both have a vested interest in working together to find a comfortable solution.
How compound interest can change your life–really!
Nobel Prize winner and renowned physicist Albert Einstein is rumored to have called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world. Regardless of whether he said it or not, it might actually be true, at least in the mathematical world. Compound interest is a powerful income-generating, wealth-building tool that can substantially impact your financial future.
If you don’t know what compounding interest is, or better yet, how it works, don’t worry—you’re in good company. According to ValuePenguin, who asked 2,000 Americans if they could accurately define some financial terms like net worth, credit score, and compound interest, nearly 70 percent of Americans had to ask Siri for help. Let’s see if we can fix that.
Simple vs. compound interest
There are two different types of interest: simple and compound. Simple interest is interest earned on only the principal amount of your investment. Consider a certificate of deposit (CD), for example. At the end of the term, you’ll receive your initial investment amount plus a fixed amount of interest.
Compound interest, on the other hand, is interest earned on interest, and it’s the quickest way to bump up your balance. Each period’s interest (daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually) is earned on the initial amount of your investment plus all the previously accumulated interest.
Here’s an example:
If you invest $10,000 at 7% simple interest, $700 in interest will be added to your account after Year 1. In Year 2, another $700 in interest will be paid to your account… and again in Year 3, Year 4, and so on. As long as the interest rate remains the same, you can count on earning the same $700 amount year after year.
If your $10,000 investment paid 7% compound interest, you’d see the same $700 interest in your account after the first year. However, in Year 2, your interest will be calculated on the new balance of $10,700, not your original investment of $10,000. The interest payment for Year 2 will be $749, which is then added to the $10,700 in order to calculate the interest for Year 3, and so on.
The effect of compound interest is extraordinary. At 7% simple interest, your $10,000 investment would be worth $27,500 after 25 years. With compound interest, the value would have grown to more than $50,000. It’s easy to see which one puts your money to work, and makes the biggest difference.
Invest sooner than later
You don’t need to be a mathematical whiz to benefit from compounding interest.
When you’re saving or investing money, compound interest will continually give you a financial boost. The more time your investment has to run the cycle of earning interest, adding it to the investment balance, and then earning interest on the new balance, the better. Want to see how much a specific investment amount could grow with compound interest? Check out this compound interest calculator.
Put your money to work
Compound interest works the same way, regardless of the amount of money you invest, and it adds up faster than you think. At 6 percent compound interest, your money should double in about 12 years and be worth four times as much in 24 years–that’s the Rule of 72. Simply take the interest rate and divide it into the number 72, which will estimate the number of years it will take for your money to double in any one investment.
Compounding interest can be an important component of your overall financial strategy. It’s ideal for investors with longer time horizons, but it also works for investors who’ve gotten a late start saving for their future. Whatever your situation, don’t wait another day. Put your money to work now and take advantage of the power of compounding.
Seven things to do to jumpstart your spring cleaning this weekend
Oddly enough, spring cleaning is something most people—ok, some people–look forward to each year. Perhaps it’s because it includes the word spring. Otherwise, it’s just cleaning and who really enjoys that?
Maybe it’s about returning all the odds and ends to their rightful place and restoring order in your house, or the time-honored ceremonial cleansing of all the gray winter dreariness. Regardless, there are warm, sunny days ahead and we need to greet them with a clean house!
Some people do all their spring cleaning in one day—that’s their superpower. Others break it down into several days of mini projects. It all depends on how big your house is, how much deep cleaning it needs, and how much time and energy you have. Either way, here’s a list of seven things you can put on your to-do list and get done this weekend. Well, six things because number one doesn’t require any elbow grease.
So, roll up your sleeves, gather your supplies, and let’s go!
1. Choose a room
The most efficient way to clean your entire home is room-by-room, regardless of the time of the year. Why? You stay in one location instead of ping-ponging between rooms, you’ll gain a real sense of satisfaction when an entire room is finished, and it can serve as a good stopping point for the day, if necessary. As a general rule of thumb, you should work from top to bottom, so head upstairs if you have one.
2. Clear the clutter
This is where we get started! All that clutter you’ve accumulated during the year must go. Clutter is a problem that develops and grows gradually, so you probably don’t even realize how much it’s weighing you down—or maybe you do. Either way, when it’s back in its place, off to your favorite charity, in the recycle bin, or in the trash, you’ll experience a whole new freeing feeling. Yes, it’s that magical. Check out this four-step approach to organizing your clutter here!
3. Clean your curtains
Curtains decorate your windows all year long and probably barely move. Unless of course, they’re the functional kind. Still, it’s easy for dust, dirt, and odors to accumulate. And, since they’re often overlooked in routine cleaning, your curtains eventually look dull and dingy. Use a brush attachment to vacuum them gently. Then either-dry clean, steam clean, machine wash, or hand wash them, depending on the fabric. In some rooms, this might seem like a big project, but it’ll be well worth it when the sun can shine through!
4. Wash the windows
While we’re on windows, it’s time to clean them, too. Yes, inside and out—no cheating, please. Clean the inside of the windows with soap and water, and for best results, use a squeegee. Want to know how to clean those panes like an expert? Check it out here.
For the outside, we highly recommend a professional service. They do a fabulous job, they’re quick, don’t leave any streaks, and know how to multitask safely on a ladder. Best of all, they have insurance–or at least you’ll make sure they do before you hire them, right?
5. Make it light and bright
For the brightest light, be sure to clean your light fixtures, too. Whether it’s a chandelier, pendants, a wall sconce, or a table lamp, they’ll need some spring cleaning love. Did you know that built-up dust and grime can make bulbs appear up to 30 percent dimmer? If the shades or covers are dirty too, you reduce the amount of light even more. How’s that electric bill doing now?
Different types of light fixtures require different care, but if you take the time to make them shine, everything will seem a little brighter. Check out some helpful light fixture cleaning tips here.
6. To dust is a must
Dusting seems like the most basic part of keeping your house clean. But, with all those particles settling in every nook and cranny of your home, on every knick-knack you ever purchased, and for every day of your life, it can be a lot. Most hard-to-reach places are easy to skip but don’t give in to the temptation. Spring cleaning is about deep, thorough cleaning, so no shortcuts.
Dust ceiling corners, furniture, fans, molding, HVAC vents, shelves, décor, plants…if you see it, dust it! You might want to check out these seven common dusting mistakes before you tackle this one.
7. Steam clean your carpets
It’s recommended that you have your carpets professionally steam cleaned once a year, so why not make it part of your spring cleaning routine? You could also rent your own steam cleaner and go DIY instead, but you might want to check out this article first.
Some people think it’s nonsense, but carpets aren’t our specialty, so you decide. Either way, make sure you move the furniture and vacuum the carpet first. This will remove the top layer of dust and dirt so the steam cleaner can concentrate on deeper stains and grime.
Some area rugs can be steam cleaned, too, but check the manufacturer’s recommendation. If not, Atlanta’s own Sharian Rugs, Inc is a local and longtime expert in the fine rug business. Drop off your rug instead of having them pick it up and wait for one of their rug cleaning sales for the best price.
If you have hardwood floors, steam is not an option—ever. A damp mop works best. Check out other dos and don’ts for hardwoods here.
Spring cleaning is a time for renewal, a brand new start, a celebration of sunny, warm days to come, so get the whole family involved. The more, the merrier, and the quicker you get the job done!