Don’t lose money on prepaid debit cards!


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Prepaid cards are popular because they are easy to get, you can avoid cash and you don’t need a bank account to get one. Plus, because they are debit cards and not credit cards, you only spend up to what is loaded on the card. They are popular for everything from gift cards to paychecks — and re-loadable prepaid cards are increasingly popular for travel and as a funding source for kids going away to college.

But – and there is a huge butnot all prepaid cards are created equal. If you are not careful, you can wind up paying outrageous fees and charges to buy the card, to use the card, to add money to the card, and more. Plus, not all prepaid cards are backed by the FDIC, so if they are lost, tough luck (although you might check with your agent to see if your Homeowners policy will cover a cash loss up to a limit – typically no more than $200). To make matters worse, prepaid card scams are proliferating so you need to be on the alert.

While prepaid cards can be a good choice in some circumstances, It’s really important to be a smart consumer and to educate yourself about the pros and cons before you buy. Here’s a quick video from consumer.gov that talks about how you can lose money.

And here are a few good resources to educate yourself about prepaid cards and how to be an smart consumer.

Kudos to RI kids and their awesome coach for a great life lesson


The nation has been riveted by the spectacle of Little League pitching phenomena Mo’ne Davis this past week – quite the sporting story indeed. But while all eyes have been on Ms. Davis, here in New England, we’ve had our own reason to be proud.

A big hurrah to the kids from Rhode Island’s Cumberland American Little League who represented New England so well in the recent Little League World Series. Kudos also to their stellar coach, David Belisle, who offered the kids a moving lesson in sportsmanship and how to handle loss. The team will be welcomed home today – expected arrival at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland at 5 p.m.

The speech is a little more inspirational than this classic one!

Deferring Social Security can yield higher monthly benefits


Waiting to take Social Security benefits after your full retirement age will increase your monthly benefits as much as 76 percent, according to the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). This short video explains why.

Here’s an example of how claiming benefits earlier or later would affect  someone who would be earning $1000 at the normal retirement age.

social security exampleNASI says offers this advice:

  • If you need Social Security to make ends meet, take it. You’ve earned it.
  • If you can wait, even a year or two, your monthly benefit will be higher – for the rest of your life.
  • If you are married, you have two lives to plan for. If you are the higher earner, waiting to take Social Security means a higher survivor benefit for your spouse if she or he outlives you.

You can visit Social Security to get an estimate of your retirement benefits. Once on Social Security, can you expect benefits to go up? Most years, there is a small increase called a cost of living adjustments (COLA). To see how much Social Security benefits have increased over the years, see this chart on COLA increases from 1975-2013.

Small business insurance: Learn the basics


There’s a lot more to business insurance than getting the lowest business insurance quotes. It means understanding your business’s unique needs and the potential hazards that can threaten its success. The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers a good primer on Small Business Insurance Basics, which outlines and explains the major coverages: Property, Liability, Business Auto and Workers’ Compensation. The article also offers a brief explanation of other common business coverages, including coverages for various types of liability.

Many small businesses opt for BOP coverage or Business Owners Policy. This packages several common business coverages in one package, but note that III says:

“BOPs do NOT cover professional liability, auto insurance, worker’s compensation or health and disability insurance. You’ll need separate insurance policies to cover professional services, vehicles and your employees.”

Explore more business insurance basics

Celebrate World Lion Day (but don’t try this at home)


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Sunday is World Lion Day, a global campaign to celebrate the importance of the lion and to help prevent these majestic creatures from going extinct. If you’d like to learn more about how to support lions, click for a list of organizations active in lion conservation and research.

And we have a few amazing videos to get you in the spirit.

This clip is a fun & fascinating clip of lions interacting with a robotic camera buggy -like any cat, they were most curious and photographer Chris McLennon got some truly remarkable shots – up close and personal. If you can’t access the video, see some photos and animated gifs here.

The next is an 11 minute clip on Kevin Richardson, called the Lion Whisperer due to his unique bond with these terrifying but majestic predators. Incredible!

If these videos remind you of their domestic counterpart, the housecat, you may be inspired to adopt a slightly tamer cat from your nearby shelter!