Many of us, for reasons both environmental as well as financial, are contemplating “going off the grid” and installing solar panels on our homes.

Before you take the plunge, you should be aware of a potential scam that has popped in this field. It involves companies that offer to install solar panels on your home for free. The deal is, they own the panels and they will bill you every month, just like the power company.

Now, these companies promise that your bill will be substantially less than what you’re currently paying, but there have been reports of people actually paying more.

So before agreeing to anything, do your homework. Find out if other friends or family members have done business with the company. Research them online with the Better Business Bureau and things like Yahoo reviews. Finally, read your contract carefully and make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Reputable businesses are always glad to do business in the sunshine.

No-Cost Ways to Keep Safe from Scammers

Security Freeze – If you are over 65 or have been a past victim of identity theft, you can contact the major credit reporting agencies and request a security freeze. This restricts access to your credit history. If businesses can’t see your report, they won’t approve new financial accounts in your name. But beware, if you apply somewhere for credit, they won’t be able to see your report either.

Before you pay money to monitor your credit, check out these sites which promise to do the job for free:
CreditKarma.com
CreditSesame.com

And this site that will monitor your SSN and up to 3 credit cards:

TrustedID.com.

If you live in a big city or are visiting an unfamiliar city, finding a parking space can be a hassle.

It doesn’t have to be.

There are a variety of parking apps for your smartphone that can help located and in the case of paid parking, even help you reserve open parking spaces while you’re still on the road!

Here are just a few:

  • Parker (TheParkerApp.com)
  • SpotHero (SpotHero.com)
  • ParkWhiz (ParkWhiz.com)
  • BestParking (BestParking.com)
  • ParkMe (ParkMe.com)
  • Parking Panda (ParkingPanda.com)

Thank us later. Right now, you’ve got a parking space to find!

Many smartphones and tablets are preset to find and join networks automatically. This may seem like a good idea as it could save you on data fees, but be careful.

Many public networks are unsecure and can easily be breached by hackers.

You can solve this problem in two ways.

First, turn off the option on your device(s) to automatically connect to networks and turn on the option to ask you first. Second, simply make sure your phone or tablet is off when you’re not using it. Hackers can’t access a device if it’s off the grid.

While most of us live on a budget, there are those emergencies that require cash quickly.

Here are a few ways to raise extra money in a hurry:

Sell Your Old Stuff: Not only can you get extra dough, you're also reducing clutter. Most of us know about Craigslist, but there are also new mobile apps that allow you to list what you want to sell for free. Those include LetGo and OfferUp.

Join a Focus Group: Helping market researchers by participating in a focus group can put $50 to $250 in your pocket for up to two hours of your time. To be considered for a focus group, check online for companies like Schlesinger Associates or Fieldwork.

Access Your Life Insurance: Many life insurance policies has investment components that lets you borrow or withdraw cash. But make sure you check with your financial advisor because policies differ. Some may require you to repay the money at a later date and withdrawing money from others may lower that policy's death benefit.

Just a reminder that yu can register your smart phone as well as your land line (if you still have a land line) on the National Do Not Call registry.

There are 2 ways to do this:

1.) Visit donotcall.gov

2/) Call 888-382-1222

Keep in mind that it takes 31 days from the day you register for your registration to become effective and that charities and political groups are still legally allowed to contact you.

During our working life, most of us change jobs. Many times. If you had a retirement account at a former employer that you lost track of, we may have good news.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Steve Daines have sponsored a bi-partisan bill to create a searchable online “lost and found” for abandoned retirement accounts.

In the meantime, the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation operates a searchable database of pension accounts and expects to have 401(k) accounts added to it by 2018. The catch with the PBGC is the information is incomplete. It relies on companies voluntarily forwarding retirement account information to it. The Senate bill will create a comprehensive database.

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.

Repair shops have a bad reputation. One reason why is most of us don’t really know much about our vehicles. When a repair person tells us our framastat and carburatic overgloid needs replacement, we just nod and sign the repair order.

One of the most common cons is the Oil Change Add-Ons: Many repair shops advertise a very low price on oil changes. Once they get your car in their service bay, they’ll tell you about all the other things you need – like a new air filter or a coolant flush. Unless you know and trust your repair shop, treat these tactics with skepticism, especially if your car has been running just fine.

BTW – Many of the coolants used in today’s vehicles are good for 100,000 miles.

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.
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