Tips for managing your credit while traveling

When it comes to the excesses and indulgences of vacation, you might like to think that "what happens in Vegas (or wherever you travel) stays in Vegas." Unfortunately, poor spending and credit choices made on vacation definitely come home with you, so it's important to take steps to protect your credit - both before and while you travel.

If your spring and summer plans include vacation, keep these financial considerations in mind:

Prepping for your trip

Planning ahead is one of the best ways to save money on travel. Book air tickets, lodging reservations and rental cars well in advance; prices rarely go down as your travel date approaches. Booking in advance also allows you extra time to shop around for the best possible deals.

Comparison price everything - from airfare to attraction tickets - online. Remember to include Web coupon sites in your search, not just popular travel sites. Online review sites can also help you learn more about lodging and attraction options in far-away destinations.

Shopping around can also help you decide if you're traveling at the best time for you, or if you have some flexibility to travel when prices are lower.

While using a credit card to book online is a smart move - credit cards offer consumer protections that cash and debit cards don't - be sure to pay off the purchases right away. If you know you won't be able to pay off the travel costs immediately, review your credit standing. Consider how credit purchases for travel might impact your credit score. Websites like can help you understand the impact certain credit decisions may have on your overall finances. has a patented Score Planner that lets you see how financial behaviors can affect your credit score.

Prepare for your travel plans by saving money toward that goal. Some banks have revived the tradition of a vacation club savings account, but you can set aside money in any interest-bearing account to fund your travel plans.

While traveling

If you planned ahead, booked in advance and did your homework to find the best deals on airfare and lodging, you've made a good start. It's important to continue making good financial choices while on the road. Take steps to protect your cash, credit and identity while traveling.

Some cash will likely be required on your trip. Never carry all your cash in one place; instead, split it up between multiple bags, or have a traveling companion carry some of your cash. When you arrive at your destination, store cash in the hotel safe and only take out what you think you will need for the day's activities.

When using your credit card on the road, never let it out of your sight. Be aware of "shoulder surfers" who may stand behind you in a ticket line and use a smartphone to snap a picture of your card. Carry just one card for use and store a backup in the hotel safe in case of emergencies. Leave unnecessary cards and identification - such as your Social Security card or wholesale club card - at home.

Never use a public Wi-Fi connection - such as the ones found in airports or hotels - to access your online financial accounts. Enterprising crooks have been known to use special devices to hack account information from unsuspecting travelers.

Once you're back home, take another look at your credit and keep a close eye on financial statements and credit accounts for a few months. Catching fraud early may help mitigate its financial impact.

Courtesy of BPT

A guide for getting through emergency home repairs

A surprise can be fun on some occasions, like your birthday. But when it comes to home repair emergencies, a surprise is the last thing you want.

Unfortunately, this is a situation all too many homeowners find themselves in after a home emergency. Often they discover that a repair they assumed would be covered by their home insurance or local utility is actually their responsibility to fix.

From water and drainage systems to electrical and heating/cooling configurations, your home is a complex network of pipes, wires and electrical components that could require an emergency repair at any time.

An outside water pipe breaking or a sewer line collapsing can easily rank as a homeowners' worst nightmare; however, when an emergency occurs, most homeowners are not aware of who is responsible for the damage. In fact, less than 50 percent of the homeowners in a recent national survey, conducted by GfK Roper Custom Research, knew that they were responsible for repairs to the water line between their house and the street.

This is where companies that offer emergency home repair plans, such as HomeServe, can make the difference between peace of mind and an expensive and time-consuming repair.

"According the results of the survey, one third of all homeowners responding assumed that their local utility was responsible for the cost of a burst water line between their house and the street, when this is usually not the case," says Tom Rusin, chief executive officer of HomeServe. "One of the challenges of home ownership is that the potential for expensive repairs is always out there. In fact, repairing a water service line can cost more than $2,000 and simply clearing a blocked drain can cost upwards of $350."

Rusin suggests that all homeowners do the following things to minimize the potential financial liability and hassle associated with home repair emergencies:

1. Speak to your homeowners insurance agent to get a clear understanding of which areas of your home are covered by your insurance policy and which ones are not. Potential trouble spots include interior and exterior electrical wiring, outside water service and sewer lines, inside plumbing and gas piping, central heating and air conditioning systems, and the water heater.

2. Similarly, speak to your local electric, gas, and water utilities to determine equipment that you may be responsible for. As mentioned earlier, the water and sewer lines that run underneath the lawn are the responsibility of the homeowner in the vast majority of cases.

3. Proper maintenance of home components greatly minimizes the chance of an unexpected emergency. For example, check the air filter on your central heating or cooling system regularly and change it about once every three months during the season. Protect water pipes from freezing with proper insulation or draining them prior to winter. And fix leaky faucets and toilets to save water and prevent bigger problems.

4. Consider a home emergency protection plan that can relieve you of not only the financial burden of a home emergency, but also the uncertainty involved in looking for a repair person on a Sunday afternoon.

"The more prepared homeowners are for a home repair emergency, the more peace of mind they'll have and the more time they can spend enjoying their house with their families," says Rusin.

Courtesy of BPT

How to make moving easier for military families

Military families frequently relocate from base to base all over the United States. Even though these moves aren't unusual, they can cause some stress for all members of the family, especially if the relocation happens without a lot of warning.
Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and Personally Procured Moves (PPM) come with military assistance to help soldiers and their families make the transition. Families can also take advantage of the do-it-yourself (DITY) option offered by the military, which could make the overall transition much smoother.
No matter how quickly the move happens, or what kind of moving assistance your family requests, here are some moving tips from Penske Truck Rental to keep in mind to help keep everything in order.
* Planning - PCS notifications can come without a lot of warning, or families may know about a potential move far in advance. For both instances, getting a plan in place is a good start. Gather important information into one folder, containing phone numbers, contact names, dates, receipts and checklists in this folder so you can easily track everything about your move. For some planning tools that focus specifically on military moves, visit the U.S. Department of Defense website.
* Moving - Many families choose the DITY option because it gives them more control over the move, and they can also potentially make some money in the process. The military provides an allotted cost for moving, and if you can come under that cost through your own planning, the military will pay you the difference. For example, Penske Truck Rental offers active military personnel a 20 percent discount for every truck rental, and will price-match any competitive offers on one-way truck rentals as well. Visit to learn more.
* Weights - Military rules require soldiers to certify the weight of the rental vehicle when empty and after it's fully loaded. Weight limit reimbursements are set depending on a soldier's rank and dependents, but the traditional weights are estimated at 1,000 pounds per room, excluding bathrooms and storage areas. Then add in the estimated weight of large appliances, garage items and items in storage. Compare this number to what is allowed and determine if you can reduce the load in any way to avoid paying overweight costs. To help with weight certifications, Penske offers a Certified Public Scale locator tool online to help DITY movers in finding weigh stations.
* Contact info - File a change of address form at your local post office so mail can be forwarded, and also make certain your new information is updated with your specific branch of the military.
* Explore - Get to know your new neighborhood, both on and off base. If you have children, explore the schools and the after school activities available. Learn a bit about the city's history and gather information on the services the city offers so that on moving day, your water and electricity will be available when it's needed.
When in the military, a move is practically inevitable, but the process can be much less stressful on both emotions and finances with a little organization and planning from the get-go.

Courtesy of BPT

How to Evaluate an Offer on Your Home

How to Evaluate an Offer on Your Home

Multiple offer situations have become the norm in our market today: over the asking price, under the asking price, cash offers, etc. As a seller it can be hard to decide which one is best for you.

The first mistake many sellers make is choosing the highest offer without doing any research. Does that buyer have the funds or financing to make such an offer?

Find out which buyers are preapproved. Preapproval is different than a prequalification letter. When someone is preapproved, they have worked with the lender, given the proper documentation, filled out an online application and income has been verified. Prequalification is when a lender tells a buyer what they would qualify for if the information given, such as income, assets, etc., is correct and verified.

Once you know they are preapproved, what type of loan is it? How are they making their down payment? Some buyers will have contingency, where they must sell their home first in order to close with you.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to know you could face potential problems if their home doesn’t sell.

Another thing to consider is the closing date. Is it long period or short period and why is this? Closing a home typically takes 30-45 days. Is there a reason they need more or less time?

What about cash offers? Just as you want to make sure someone has the financing by preapproval, find out if the seller has the funds. This can be done by seeing a bank statement.

If you have any questions on multiple offer situations or how to get preapproved, please call me 502.220.4663 or email me at

Too many good ideas, not enough resources

One of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today is sifting through all the potential projects that cross their desks and deciding which initiatives are worth pursuing and which aren't.

Recently, I got a wild hair and decided I wanted to build a boat. I've searched the Internet for the last several weeks looking for the right "project." I found a builder in Maine who's website convinced me that I wanted to buy the plans to build one of his boats. I measured my garage to see how much space I had to work with and narrowed my choice down to two styles.

Late last night I wrote him, explained my level of experience, and asked him if he had any advice. His reply came early this morning. He described the characteristics of each boat, including building and sailing, and asked me questions about what I wanted to accomplish with my boat. What was I looking for in the building process as well as what I wanted in sailing the boat later?

Basically, he presented the business case for each boat including:

1. My goal for building and sailing

2. The unique characteristics of each boat

3. The costs associated with building each boat

Business leaders today often face the challenge of too many good ideas and not enough resources to act on them all. Sometimes difficult choices need to be made by organizations doing project based work. Work management tools should facilitate the evaluation of potential projects to help make those decisions based upon something more than whether or not a project is a good project. In today's economy the decision must be based upon whether or not the project is the best project, or will provide the most value. And doing that requires decisions based upon predetermined metrics that include:

1. Alignment to strategy and vision

2. An understanding of the potential risks along with any risk mitigation plans

3. The rewards of the potential project

4. The costs, including the opportunity cost of not doing a project

5. The resource requirements

How does your organization evaluate potential projects for execution? Does your project management software help facilitate those decisions?

By: Ty Kiisel

Tenant screening: Check those tenants out!

The usual landlord/tenant relationship goes something like this. The tenant rents an apartment, pays the rent, the landlord maintains the property and all is well. The times that the landlord/tenant relationship goes sour can often be traced back to the tenant screening process.

Bad tenants usually do not just develop overnight, they have been bad tenants for a while and they leave a trail. Your job as a landlord is to sniff out this trail before you allow them in your property. You can save yourself many headaches by rigorously screening your prospective tenants. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that tenant screening is the key component to being a successful landlord.

Bad tenants may present themselves very well. They may dress and speak well. They will say all the right things. They may even have cash in hand and be ready to move in. When someone is holding $500 in front of you to move in, it can be very tempting. Do not do it! Screen them! Screen everyone thoroughly. Check every reference and verify everything on their application. Oh, you don't use a written application?!? Well there is your first problem.

Here are some tips when screening tenant applications:

Pull credit and criminal history on everyone. This is your first line of defense against the bad tenant. Compare the data in the reports you receive with what is stated on your application. Does it match? If it does not, dig deeper. Why is the info different? If we discover lies, that is immediate cause for disapproval.

Verify their work history. Do not do this by calling the number they have listed on the application if you can help it. A friend may be waiting for your call on the other end. Instead, call the main office and get transferred into the department where the person says they work. In this way you can avoid the "friend" set up.

The current landlord may want them out and will therefore lie to you. It is best to talk with the previous landlord or to get an accurate view.

People forge documents. It has happened to us. Do not believe the paycheck stubs, letterhead, whatever. Verify everything with the issuer.

The old adage is true; do not judge a book by its cover. We had a well dressed, well spoken man fill out and application, say all the right things and pay the application fee in cash. He must have assumed we would pocket the fee and not check. He had never paid a bill in his life. Even the phone company was after him! There are professional scammers out there, be vigilant. It would have taken us at least 4 months to get him out. I know that time frame could be a year or more in some parts of the country.

Ask their place of employment if there are any planned layoffs. We had a tenant get laid off the day he was approved to move in.

Most people are good, tell the truth and try to do the right thing. Your job is to weed out the bad ones by finding the lies. And they will lie to cover up their past, and get into your property. Evictions are neither fun nor cheap. So save yourself some hassle, set up a rigorous tenant screening process. Also, be sure to treat every applicant in the same manner by using the exact same screening process. Don't set yourself up for a discrimination lawsuit because you treated one perspective tenant differently.

Author: Kevin Perk

Kevin's Website:

Help for teaching kids money management skills

Even though financial education courses for children are proven to contribute to improved savings rates and other financial measures, only 12 states require a personal finance course for high school graduation, according to the Council for Economic Education's Survey of the States.

In classrooms, studies show teachers want to provide personal finance instruction, but only 20 percent believe they have the capability to teach the subject, according to a study by the National Endowment for Financial Education. The benefits to students are real: Treasury Department research shows that high school graduates in states that mandate financial education have higher savings rates and a greater net worth than graduates from states without financial education.

As a result of the growing awareness about the importance of financial education, more resources are becoming available to teachers and parents. To help with funding for schools, a program called Pathway to Financial Success (, from Discover Financial Services, recently announced thousands of dollars in grants to public high schools to implement financial education curriculum and test students to make sure they are learning the content. Schools can apply for the grants via the website, and Discover will fund the grants up to a total of $2 million annually. Additionally, nonprofits like The Council for Economic Education are training teachers around the country, helping them teach children from kindergarten through high school about personal finance topics, such as saving and investing.

At home, parents can help reinforce what children learn about money. Unfortunately, these conversations are often not happening, as experts say parents are often more comfortable talking about sex, drugs and alcohol than they are about money - usually because parents do not trust their own financial acumen.

Indeed, it can be an awkward conversation, as the issue of money raises other concerns and priorities. But a number of resources are available to help parents talk to their children about money, such as the Jump$tart Coalition (

Pathway to Financial Success also offers an online resource center for parents, providing tips on how to talk to their kids about how to manage money effectively. Additionally, through the site parents can identify their school district contacts and find resources to reach out to their school administrators and teachers about bringing financial education into their children's classrooms.

For teachers, also provides sample lesson plans and other resources they can use in their classrooms.

Parents can start helping ensure their children are financially savvy by talking to their kids about money using a few simple steps at home:

* Use everyday experiences to talk about money. With tax season around the corner, talk to kids about the process, or engage them in the discussion of purchasing a large item and weighing the "wants" versus "needs" of the purchase.

* Talk to your kids about saving for a special purchase, and set small, manageable goals for them to reach.

* Be honest about your financial situation or poor financial decisions you have made in the past, and then talk to your kids about how you could have handled the situation differently.

* Make it fun by playing online games that teach common lessons of budgeting and saving.

Talking about money may not be fun - or even comfortable - but it is an issue that all families and young adults should confront with as much information as possible. There are resources available to help for all situations.

Courtesy of BPT