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During a frigid night in January, volunteers visited shelters, roamed the streets and explored "tent cities" to count as many homeless people as they could over the course of 24 hours in Camden, N.J.
Shopping spree sweepstakes & contests are some of the most popular online giveaways today . . . and more stores are learning that it’s a great way to attract new customers and publicity.? In fact, the reason why shopping sprees are such a common type of promotion is that the companies who put them on [...]
How to Gift an iPad App is a post from: My iPad GamesThe iTunes store has a lot of entertaining, useful apps and awesome games in store for everyone, but did you know that iTunes also has an built in app gifting tool where you can pay for someone’s download and send them a link
Ferrari. Lamborghini. Corvette. When we hear these awesome, expensive sports car names, the first thing that comes to most of our minds is how we will never be able to afford one.  The thought that often follows is a common one: how cool would it be to win a brand new, expensive car or truck [...]
Bischoff: Unless Congress takes action, it's not just the "rich" who will see higher tax bills.

Even though the economy is showing signs of improvement, they aren’t large signs, and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Additionally, some companies are still planning layoffs, and you never know when you might lose your job.

Unemployment benefits have been extended a few times in an effort to help those who are unable to find work. If you lose our job, unemployment benefits can help you through the tough times, but you do need to be aware of the requirements that might be placed upon you to qualify.

Are You Eligible to File f
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or Unemployment Benefits?

Your first step is to figure out whether or not the way you left your job qualifies you for unemployment benefits. In order to qualify, you have to meet wage and time period requirements. Most states have an unemployment office, or you can get information from your state’s Department of Labor. In either case, find out what qualifications you have to meet in order to receive unemployment benefits.

Realize, too, that the way you leave your job matters. For the most part, you need to be laid off in order qualify to receive unemployment benefits. Generally, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits if you quit your job. Quitting for school, marriage, self-employment, or even illness are not considered good enough reasons for quitting and collecting unemployment benefits. Additionally, if you are fired for misconduct, or if you are involved in some other dispute, you probably won’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

There are exceptions to this rule, though, if you can prove that you quit for a “good cause.” This usually includes situations of a hostile work environment, or for some other reason. Your state’s unemployment office will decide what constitutes a good cause, and you can usually plead your case.

How Do You Maintain Unemployment Benefits?

Once you begin receiving unemployment benefits, you generally don’t continue to just receive them by virtue of the fact that you are out of work. Indeed, most states require that you meet certain qualifications to receive continued benefits. Generally, you need to be reading, willing, available, and able to work. You are expected to be ready to accept a job, and be physically able to perform work.

Many states also require that you check in with a case worker periodically to ensure that you are actively looking for a job. You may be required to update your resume, and submit it to various jobs. You may be asked to account for which job openings you applied for, as well as other actions you are taking in order to look for a job. Some states even set certain standards for work, and require that you accept jobs that meet those qualifications. If you balk at trying to find a job, or if your contact doesn’t think you are doing enough to find a new job, you might not be able to receive your unemployment benefits, or the amount you receive might be cut.

As you receive unemployment benefits, it’s also important to remember that you are taxed on them. You will need to figure that into your plans; in many cases, it’s important to get off the unemployment rolls as quickly as possible.

(Photo: Sean MacEntee)

Do You Qualify for Unemployment Benefits? from personal finance blog

This week’s Personal Finance Hour will feature a chat with Jeremy from In his day job, he’s a retirement planning specialist for a large 401(k) provider. Participants of the plan that he services usually come to him for advice on what to do and today we, despite not being participants of the plan he services, will turn to him for advice on how to plan for a successful retirement.
The Personal Finance Hour is a riveting one hour online radio show
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broadcast live every Monday starting at 6 PM Eastern, 3 PM Pacific. At that time, you can listen to it by clicking on this widget below:

We invite you to listen in, call in (the number is (347) 327-9144), and join us in the chat room where we usually have a good time. If you are unavailable, we also offer the podcast on iTunes or through the BlogTalkRadio website directly.
We hope you’ll be able to join us!
PFHour #24: Discussing Retirement Issues from personal finance blog

In another move to simplify my personal finances, I closed by HSBC online savings account today. At the current interest rate of 1.45% APY, it was in the bottom half of the online banks listed on my high yield savings account rates table; simply not worth keeping around anymore.

HSBC Account Closing Process
Closing the
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HSBC online savings account was simple. Log into your account and find the BankMail button in the left navigation menu. It will be one of the last buttons at the bottom. When you click on it, another window will pop up (disable pop-up blockers if you don’t see the window appear) for you to create a new BankMail.
For the subject of the BankMail, select “Other.” For the message, you will need to provide three pieces of information:

  • What you want them to do (close the account);

  • Why you want them to do it;

  • How you want the remaining funds to be sent to you.

My message:
I would like to close this account because the interest rate is too low. I would like to receive the remaining funds as a check sent to my address on file. Thank you.
I had $35 in my account so I requested a check. If I had more, I would have electronically transfered out everything and then requested that by check. You probably could transfer it down to $0 as there is no account minimum but you could leave $1 just to be sure.
I received the follow within a few days:
Dear Jim Wang:
Thank you for contacting HSBC Bank USA, N.A., the world’s local bank.
We regret to hear that you want to close your Online savings account. However, we respect your decision and will forward your account closure request to the Online Processing Center. Please allow 2 business days for the account to fully close. The amount in your account will be mailed to the address on record. Please allow 7 to 10 business days for delivery.
It’s easy to reach an HSBC associate to answer your questions. To send a secure BankMail, use the BankMail link conveniently located in the left gray navigation menu while you are logged into your Personal Internet Banking service. Our Customer Relationship Center is also available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to meet all of your HSBC banking needs.
Internet Banking Specialist
That’s it, another account consolidated. One step closer to a simpler financial life.
How to Close an HSBC Online Savings Account

I hate insurance.
Actually, I take that back, I don’t hate insurance. I hate paying for insurance.
Every time I get an email from GEICO or a mailing from Traveler’s, I think about how I pay them every six months and, in the nearly ten years of driving and four years of living in this house, I’ve never filed a claim. At least with medical and dental, I get some regular checkups and routine cleanings (I hate getting a teeth cleaning but I love getting stuff for “free”). Don’t get me wrong, I’d still get insurance even
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if I wasn’t required to by law, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy paying for it!
So, once a year or so, I have an insurance review day. I get a little antsy and start asking for quotes from other insurance companies to see if I’m getting the best price. (Well, I’ve been more in the “or so” category, I haven’t done this in two years)

Auto Insurance
First, the baseline: We pay GEICO $462.30 every six months to cover my 2003 Toyota Celica and my wife’s 2005 Honda Civic. I have no comprehensive or collision insurance and she has $1,000 deductible coverages on both. Other than that, we have pretty standard coverages otherwise as required by Maryland law (100/300 Bodily Injury Liability, $100k Property Damage Liability, uninsured motorist, etc.). It’s pretty tough to beat that price because we also have a long time policy holder discount and a discount for being a member of an affiliated organization.
Candidate One: Allstate Insurance: I fire up the browser and point it to Allstate Insurance. One thing I don’t like about Allstate is that they have five different “packages” with a variety of add-ons like accident forgiveness and deductible refund. I really just wanted to know the basic stuff, so I selected the standard package. After entering a slew of information, the estimated 6-month premium was $548.48, or $86.18 more than my current coverage. Boo!
Candidate Two: Kanetix Insurance Search: I totally forget about Kanetix, some insurance search website I used back in the day when i was playing around with driver characteristics to see their affect on auto premiums.
Sadly, there was only one instant quote, a firm called Amica that was a whopping $123.83 a month, or $742.98 (a far cry from $462.30). A few more email quotes came trickling in like Unitrin Direct at $698 and Erie Insurance at $1,092 (with multi-policy discount) but nothing came within spitting distance.
Candidate Three: State Farm: I kind of fell into this quote after quoting homeowners insurance with them through NetQuote system. The agent, Debrorah, and I talked about a whole bunch of things but the end result was that State Farm would charge me $439.36 every six months, a savings of $22.94. Part of the reason for the lower price was because it would include a multi-plan discount because I would get homeowners insurance through them.
Normally, twenty bucks alone wouldn’t be enough to entice me because there’s a bit of hassle in changing your insurance. However, as you’ll see in a minute, the discount on homeowners with them would provide the real icing on the cake.
Homeowner’s Insurance
Right now we have our insurance through Traveler’s, which is the insurance company affiliate with GEICO, but they don’t offer any multi-policy discounts, which is a real bummer. We have $246k coverage on our dwelling, $24k on other structures, and some other items like $300k of personal liability coverage too, which is all pretty much standard. Our annual premium is $797.
The NetQuote system was a lot like LendingTree, they collect your information and they try to match you with insurance agents. Once I completed the application, I was immediately matched with an agent from State Farm Insurance Company and one from Allstate Insurance Company. My chat with the Allstate agent, Deborah, was great, we went through all sorts of information and arrived at a price of $610 a year for homeowner’s insurance - a discount of $187.
I got a deluge of phone calls from a variety of insurers. I talked to all of them, gave them all the information they needed to get me a quote and many came close but Allstate won out in the end. What was funny was that it took around two months between when I submitted my information to when I actually changed my policies over because of some career decisions we had to make, but the price of our quotes never changed (and only a couple of agents were persistent enough to continue).
See The Savings!
In the end, by changing over my policies, which in effect consolidated them into one account, we were able to save $220 a year. $40 in auto insurance premiums and $180 in homeowner’s insurance premiums, all for a total of a couple hour’s of work! Not bad.
If you haven’t shopped around for insurance in the last two or three years, I highly recommend it because you could be saving big money.
(Photo: bookgrl)

Review Your Insurance Policies Annually

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