Search Icon
header-learningCenter

MEDIA CENTER

The Money Minute - March 2014  

In this Issue




March Madness Brackets

March Madness

Even if you’re not a college basketball enthusiast, you have heard about March Madness; sixty-eight of the nation’s top teams vying for the national title. Avid fans research team’s stats and players capability before filling out their brackets. They examine strengths and weaknesses and rank their teams accordingly. You can look at your personal finances in the same way. There are areas where you are doing well and other areas where you might want to focus.

Read the entire article

Collections.jpg

When Dealing With Debt Collectors, Know Your Rights

A debt collector calls you every day, sometimes multiple times in the same day. He leaves you threatening messages at home, and tries to contact you at work. His messages threaten legal action if you don't make an immediate payment on the debt. The worst part? You don't even recognize the debt that the collector is trying to collect. What can you do to take control of the situation, find out if the debt is real, and prevent further harassment by the debt collector?

Read the entire article

iphone-5-screen-top2

Apprisen Now Fits in Your Pocket

Apprisen DMP clients can now access their account information, update balances, make payments, and more with Apprisen’s new mobile app. Available for Apple iOS and Google Android phones and tablets, the FREE app is the perfect tool for keeping you connected with Apprisen services while you are on the go.

To get the app click here

 

   
 Stress Meter

Financial Stress- Do You Suffer From It?

Struggling with finances can lead to emotional and physical distress. As a result, you might experience elevated blood pressure, sleepless nights, and weight gain.  But, is your situation really as bad as you think? Apprisen now offers a tool for you to gauge your financial stress accurately. It will help you identify areas in your money management plan where you are doing well and others where you might need to focus on. Upon completion, you will be given an assessment and some advice on how to proceed.

So, take the Financial Stress Test www.apprisen.com/fst today and let Apprisen help get you and keep you on track with your finances.

 

MSW-2014-Flyer

Money Smart Week Webinar Series        

Apprisen is partnering with Money Smart to offer daily webinars that will give you the tools you need to make smarter financial decisions for you and your family. Learn how to set up a spending plan, improve your credit, pay down debt, and how to have the conversation with your aging parents regarding their finances. Take this opportunity to become “Money Smart”, register today.

  • Make the Most of Your Income
  • Understanding Credit Reports and Scores
  • Addressing the Needs of Your Senior Parent
  • Handling Credit and Debt Wisely
  • Financial Foundations 101

 

Attend these free webinars: Monday April 7, 2014 through  Friday April 11, 2014.

To find out the date and time for each webinar or to register, visit: www.apprisen.com/msw



 

MM FST Ad



 

March Madness – How it can Help Prioritize Your Finances  

Even if you’re not a college basketball enthusiast, you have heard about March Madness; sixty-eight of the nation’s top teams vying for the national title. Avid fans research team’s stats and players capability before filling out their brackets. They examine strengths and weaknesses and rank their teams accordingly. You can look at your personal finances in the same way. There are areas where you are doing well and other areas where you might want to focus.

Sometimes, finances can be overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin. Apprisen developed our own Personal Finance Championship Brackets to help you prioritize 8 areas of personal finance to help you get started. As you move through the brackets, choose between the options the area that you feel you need more improvement in.  At the end, you will know where you need to focus to get your financial situation in a better place. Once that is under control, take a look at the previous bracket and start working on those items. Before you know it, you will have all 8 areas of your finances working together to help you achieve your financial goals. 

Areas of Personal Finance

Long Term Savings- Start small, think big. What are some of your long term goals? College education for your kids? Home ownership? Don’t let the prospect of the amount you need to save overwhelm you and prevent you from doing it. Through the magic of compound interest, even depositing small amounts over a period of time can add up. So next time you get that pay raise or that tax return put it in an account designated for your long term goal. You might be surprised at how fast you can get there.

Manage Debt- Take the time to sit down and add up all your debt obligations. Separate them out into categories: mortgage debt, installment debt (something you are paying off – student loan), revolving debt (credit cards), and other debt (payday loans, personal loans, etc.). Did that number surprise you? The best way to manage your debt is to create a spending plan and allocate any additional money to debt repayment. Apply that amount to the account with the lowest balance, or highest interest rate, and when that balance is paid off take that whole payment and apply it to the next account. If there is no additional income you might need to prioritize your debt. Your house payment should be the first thing you pay, followed by your installment debt – credit cards and other debt are at the bottom of the list. There are other options also. You can make an appointment, at no charge, with one of our financial specialists who can review your personal situation and create an action plan just for you. 

Improve Credit Score- A low credit score can cost you hundreds of dollars. Not only will you be paying a higher rate of interest on loans and credit cards, many services and insurance companies look at your credit report to determine your premiums or deposits. You might even get denied housing if your credit is poor. But the good thing about your credit score is what you are doing today has more influence on your score than what you did in the past. So, most importantly, pay your bills on time and keep your balances low, and your credit score is bound to go up.

Retirement/401K- Regardless of your age, you need to be planning for retirement. Start by figuring out what you want your retirement to look like and how much it will cost to maintain that lifestyle. Once a year, you receive a statement indicating what your expected Social Security benefits will be. However, be cautious when planning your whole retirement on that amount, some experts predict this benefit won’t be around forever. If possible, consult a financial planner to help manage your plan. They can evaluate your situation and guide you to meet your financial goals.  

Monthly Spending Plan- That is a fancy way of saying “budget”. However, “budget” implies that you are either on it or off it.  Having a spending plan is something that is changing as your life changes. Start by tracking your spending for a month. After that you will have a good idea where you are spending your money. Then, take your total household income and allocate it to a specific expense. Make sure you are setting money aside for your irregular expenses like car repair, gifts, clothes, etc. There is only so much money so you need to prioritize your expenses. What are the things you have to pay, (mortgage, food, insurance, etc.) and what are the things lower on the list that you can cut back on, (cable, cell phone extras, clothes)? If you are having a hard time making it balance, there is only two things you can do – increase income or decrease expenses.

Savvy Consumer- Being a savvy consumer means knowing what you don’t know. For example, when buying a car, researching the best vehicle that meets your needs and shopping for the best price and loan.  It also means being aware of people who are trying to take advantage of you and taking precautions to protect yourself from identity theft and scams.

Frugal/Smart Spender- To be a frugal spender you need to know what you have to spend and find the best way to get it at the lowest cost.  That might be shopping sales, cutting coupons or knowing what restaurants the kids eat free at. There are many apps and websites that offer discounts or can assist you in comparison shopping. But the best thing that you can do is shop with a purpose. For example, when you go grocery shopping, know what you have at home that you can use, and shop with a list.

Emergency Savings- Most experts agree that you should have 6 months of living expenses saved up for an emergency. Don’t let that dollar amount intimidate you. Start by saving your change and gradually build on that. Don’t spend your change, only use dollars so you can have more change. Transfer a realistic amount into your savings account monthly, if it is only $20 and you don’t withdraw it, that amount will add up over time. Don’t have access to your savings account via online or ATM, make it difficult for you to access those funds. You will be surprised how fast your savings can grow if you add to it a little at a time.

 

Return to the top


When Dealing With Debt Collectors Know Your Rights

A debt collector calls you every day, sometimes multiple times in the same day. He leaves you threatening messages at home, and tries to contact you at work. His messages threaten legal action if you don't make an immediate payment on the debt. The worst part? You don't even recognize the debt that the collector is trying to collect. What can you do to take control of the situation, find out if the debt is real, and prevent further harassment by the debt collector?. 

If you want to resolve the situation, you need to know your rights as well as the limitations placed on the debt collection companies by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) The FTC is the government agency in charge of enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. Never heard of the FDCPA? You are not alone and every year, thousands of Americans are taken advantage of or treated unfairly because they don't understand their rights under the FDCPA. 

The first step you need to take is to determine if the debt is valid or not. You have the right to demand the collector send you a written "validation notice" within five days of your first contact with them. The notice must tell you how much money is owed on the debt, the name of the original creditor, and what steps you can take to correct the problem if you don't believe that the debt is valid. If you don't believe that the debt is valid, you have thirty days to respond in writing to the debt collector. You should explain why you don't believe the debt collector’s information is correct and you can request that the collector stop contacting you. You should make the request in writing and send it return receipt requested so you have proof that they have received it. However, the debt collector can continue to contact you if they are sending verification of the debt, such as a copy of the bill. Be sure to talk with the collector at least once so that you can get as many facts about the debt as possible.

You should be aware of a debt's statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time that must pass before a debt collector can no longer take legal action against you. Although the collector can’t take you to court over the old debt, be aware that not paying a legitimate debt could have a negative impact on your credit rating. Laws vary by state on the time frame that the statute of limitations begins, depending on the type of debt. You can check on your state’s Attorney Generals website for information pertaining to your state or seek legal advice regarding your debt. Worth noting is that student loans, taxes and child support do not have a statute of limitations. 

You should also know that most state laws reset the clock if you make even a partial payment on an old debt. Some states also reset the clock if you even acknowledge the debt. That means the statute of limitations starts all over again and the collector can sue you for the debt. 

The second thing you need to do is to take control of the debt collector's communication with you. The collector must follow certain guidelines when communicating with you. For instance:

  • The debt collector can't attempt to contact you at work if they are told that you are not allowed to accept calls at work.
  • The debt collector may not discuss your debt with other third parties. However, they do have the right to contact others in trying to determine your home address, phone number and place of employment.
  • If you have an attorney representing you, the debt collector must communicate with you through your attorney and may not contact you directly.
  • Debt collectors can only contact you between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM.
  • You can request that the debt collector only contact you in writing or not contact you at all. Send your letter return receipt requested so you have proof that they have received it. If you only want them to contact you in writing, then you need to respond in writing as well.
  • Be sure to keep a record of the communication that you have with the debt collector. If you find yourself in court, having good records of conversations and copies of letters, receipts, etc. will be very helpful. Your third area of action is to understand what the debt collector may and may not do. The FDCPA tightly controls the activities of the debt collection industry, and gives you options to report abuse and to seek recourse when a debt collector breaks the law.
  • Debt collectors may not engage in harassing, oppressive, or abusive behavior. For instance, the collector can’t use profane or obscene language. The collector can’t make threats of violence or physical harm.
  • The debt collector may not make false statements. This means that they must not lie by falsely telling you that you have committed a crime or that they are attorneys when they are not.
  • Debt collectors may not use unfair practices. For instance, they may not deposit a postdated check early. They may not take or threaten to take your property without doing so in a legal process.

Lastly, your fourth priority is to understand what the debt collector can do. Debt collection is a legitimate business, and collectors do have the right to collect on your debts. You are obligated to pay your personal debts.

Debt collectors can go to court to seek legal action against you. This can lead to a judgment, garnishment of your wages or of your bank account. Keep in mind, that if you are a joint owner on a bank account, 100% of the money in that account is subject to garnishment. Be sure to respond to any legal actions taken against you. Obtain the aid of an attorney if necessary. The only way to have a voice in court is if you show up.  Make sure you have with you all of your receipts and written and verbal correspondence with the creditor to present to the court.

If you believe that a debt collector is breaking the law, you should report them to the FTC at www.ftc.gov and to your state’s Attorney General’s office. You also have the right to sue the debt collector when they have broken the law. You can win damages that you have suffered. Just remember that even if the collector breaks the law in trying to collect on a debt, the debt does not go away. Ultimately, you still need to pay a valid debt.

For more information about your rights in dealing with a debt collector, visit the FTC at www.ftc.gov/credit or by calling toll free, 1-877-FTC-HELP. Apprisen can be a valuable resource in helping you deal with your creditors before or after they get into collections.

Return to the top


 

  


 

Apprisen BBB Business Review United Way