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When's the Best Time to Take Social Security?

Money experts agree, the longer you can wait before starting to takew Social Security beneits the better off you'll be.

If you can afford, wait until the maximum age of 70 (when you must start receiving your benefits). Your payout will be 76% higher than if you had started drawing them at the minimum age of 62.

Managing Your Money Manager

A few years back, the Department of Labor issued new rules to help protect consumers from money managers who were acting in their own best interest first and your interests second.

Now those rules may be repealed. Here are the steps you should take with anyone to whom you’ve entrusted your money:

  1. Ask that person to state in writing that they will act as a fiduciary at all times. The term “fiduciary” is a legal one. It means, under penalty of law, the fiduciary must always put your interests before any other in their financial dealings.

Just because someone calls themselves a “financial advisor” or “wealth manager,” it doesn’t mean they are legally a fiduciary. Often, the people will place your money into funds that pay them a higher commission or a bonus. It’s good for the advisor’s bank account, but my not be good for yours.

  1. Always ask your advisor to provide you with all of the costs and fees associated with any given investment. And again, make them do this in writing. What you want is a good faith estimate of what you’ll wind up paying in direct fees or sales commission.
  2. If you can find one, choosing an advisor who simply charges a flat fee may be preferable. Of course, always consult with your lawyer or other financial professional before taking any steps. And be advised that advisors who charge a flat fee or set percentage of the assets they will be managing can be more expansive that paying those direct fees and/or sales commissions. But the idea here is that a flat fee advisor has no financial interest in recommending one investment over another, besides helping you to get the best return so they will remain your advisor.

Don't Make an ATMistake!

We’ve all heard about “skimming.” That’s when you use your ATM card and some scam artist has inserted an additional piece of card-reading hardware that will steal you ATM card information. The people that monitor this sort of thing say incidents of skimming were up 500% in 2015 over the previous year.

Here’s how you can reduce the risk of someone getting you valuable information:

  1. Stick with the Chip – Digital chips are harder to hack (not impossible, but harder). Try to avoid using card readers where you still have to swipe the card's magnetic strip.
  2. Use a Bank Machine – While not perfect, bank ATMs are more secure. They are better maintained and have 24/7 surveillance cameras. Machines at gas stations and convenience stores account for the majority of card information theft.
  3. Inspect Before Swiping – If the machine doesn’t accept your card smoothly, walk away. Newer machines also have a flashing light in the card slot. If you don’t see one or it’s partially obscured, you might want to find another machine.
  4. Always Check Your Card Statements – Make there are no unusual or unfamiliar charges.
  5. Talk with Your Bank about Alternative Solutions – You might open a separate account with a smaller amount of money just for ATM purchases or you can lower the daily limit for ATM withdrawals.

The Top Phone Cheats of the Year

It would be a rare person who has not had at least one attempted scam via phone (cell or land line) this past year.

Law enforcement says these are the top scams of the year gone by:

  • Phone numbers on your caller ID that are very close to your own number. Scam artists know you're more likely to answer an unknown number that's close to your number. If you don't recognize the number, let it go to voice mail.
  • “The IRS” claiming they’re about to take you to court or have you arrested unless you make immediate payment via wire transfer or debit card. Tip: The IRS NEVER makes phone calls. Official business is always conducted by mail.
  • “Tech support worker” claiming they need access to your computer remotely to remove viruses. What they’re really going to remove is your personal information.
  • “Utility bill collectors” looking for immediate payment or else your utilities will be shut off. Again, real utilities do not operate this way.

When in doubt, get off the phone and make contact yourself with the agency the original caller claimed to be from.

The Cheap Way to Stop Going Buggy

Getting bugged? As in, those creepy, crawly things you don’t want around you or the house. Here’s the cheapskate’s way to combat them.

For ants in the home, just spray vinegar along your baseboards.

For mosquitoes when you barbecuing outside, put a little rosemary or sage over the coals. The mosquitoes don’t like that and will stay away.

You, however, may feel an overwhelming urge to go to Scarborough Fair.

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