Personal Finance 
45
comments

$250 Social Security Stimulus Check

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about the $250 Social Security stimulus check so I thought a post would be the best way to answer all of your questions. If you’re wondering where your $250 Social Security stimulus check is, wait until June 4th before trying to contact the Social Security Administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gave all social security recipients (SSI included) a one-time $250 payment, so if you are one of the 50 million individuals who get those benefits, the check is in the mail!

Who is eligible? You must be eligible for Social Security, SSI, Veterans, or Railroad Retirement benefits during November 2008, December 2008, or January 2009. If you were not eligible at that time, you will not receive the check. If you are eligible for multiple benefits, you will only receive one payment.

When and how will I receive the payment? You will get it the same way you are getting your current Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefit. If you get it by check, you’ll receive the payment as a separate check. If you get it by direct deposit, you will get it as a separate direct deposit. The government has staggered the mailing of those payments throughout May so if you haven’t received it, it’s likely in the mail or in processing. You don’t have to do anything to receive the check and the Social Security Administration will not contact you for any information.

What if it’s after June 4th and still no sign of a check or deposit? Visit the Social Security Administration’s website for the one-time economy recovery payment information page to find out who you need to contact for more information. If you just want more information, this electronic booklet about the one-time economy recovery payment is also very informative.


 Credit 
27
comments

Lowest Foreign Transaction Fee

In a couple months, my wife and I will be taking an extended vacation to Europe. It’ll be a fantastic trip, one we’ve been looking forward to for months, and with the dollar strengthening and the economy across the world weak, we figured we could take advantage of lower prices to get some traveling done.

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 Reviews 
2
comments

Review: Money Strategies for Tough Times by Matt Bell

Matt Bell is a personal finance writer in Chicago who ran into financial difficulties early on in his adult life and, in turning it around, used his experiences and knowledge to try to help others who may have gotten themselves in a similar situation. His professional career began as a radio journalist, having been featured on NPR, and Money Strategies for Tough Times is his second book, his first being Money, Purpose, Joy.

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 Reviews 
44
comments

F-Secure Internet Security 2009 Review

F-Secure Internet Security 2009When it comes to financial activity, I try to do as much as I can online because it’s much more convenient than driving to a branch. With that convenience comes a risk, with more financial transactions being conducted online, more thieves are looking to the internet for their next scheme. My biggest concern isn’t that I’ll click on a spam phishing email, but that I visit some compromised site that installs spyware onto my computer. If they manage to install spyware on my site, they can collect all my financial information and rob me blind. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened yet, but one can never be so sure.

When Ben from F-Secure contacted me about taking a look at their internet security product, I was a little hesitant. I recognize the company name but they don’t have the brand name that a company like Symantec has (they own the Norton brand). However, I told him I’d check out the software because internet security is very important and, well, it’s an opportunity to find out more about them. So they sent me a copy of their F-Secure Internet Security 2009 package to check out. (and several to give away to you all!)

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 Your Take 
34
comments

Your Take: How Often Do You Check Your Credit Score?

Red LED ScoreboardI’m a numbers guy. I love seeing numbers, trying to find trends, and playing with statistics. That’s probably one of the reasons why credit scores fascinate me so much, they are able to distill a bunch of actions you take as a person and package it up into this convenient three digit number that lenders go nuts over. I’m not saying the system is good or bad, but it’s the system and you have to play by the rules of the game.

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 Personal Finance 
28
comments

Homemade Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Homemade DumplingsDumplings are the bomb.

My sister sent me this article by Nicole Routhier in Cook’s Illustrated titled “How to Make Asian Dumplings,” [PDF] which offers up a good discussion of basic cooking methods, filling recipes, dipping sauce recipes, and wrapper recipes and wrapping technique. It’s really a great tutorial on Asian dumplings and it’s very easy to understand (with great illustrations).

The recipe we really like in the article is for the Sesame Beef and Cabbage Filling. We’ve taken the base recipe Routhier provided and put in a few changes that we really like. For example, we’ve swapped out the beef for pork and pork & shrimp (our favorite). We also have future plans to modify it so that we will use scallops and shrimp, to make it all seafood.

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 Credit 
11
comments

How to Review Your Equifax Credit Report

Equifax LogoIt’s very important that you regularly review your credit history to catch errors and inaccuracies early. Errors can take months to remedy and it’s not something you want to worry about when you are trying to get a mortgage or car loan. So, I recommend that every four months you request a credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website you should use to get your annual free credit report as mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This week, I requested my credit report from Equifax and will take you briefly through the report to explain what the sections are and what to look out for. Each of the three bureaus structures their reports slightly differently, so I’m hoping this guide and walkthrough will help illuminated anything that looks strange.

As with every bureaus, Equifax gives you online access to your report for thirty days. During those thirty days, any changes will not appear on your history, your report is accurate as of the day you requested it. Let’s take a look at my Equifax report.

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 Insurance 
18
comments

Give Local Insurance Agents A Shot

My wife wrote an article last week about how you can save money going local for balloons and flowers, but here’s another reason you might want to go local – superior service.

In working for my how to buy term life insurance post yesterday, I emailed my insurance agent, Deborah from State Farm, to get some updated quotes on term life insurance. I’ve had the need to email her on several occasions and each time her responses were usually back in minutes. She knew me as Jim Wang, a recent new customer, and not as customer #XXXXXXX in a database somewhere.

It really underscored one thing I had missed when I was with Geico and Traveler’s, personalized service with a real person.

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