Extension Educator, Consumer Economics
Extension Specialist, Consumer Economics
Extension Educator, Consumer Economics
October 27, 2011
Stroll down a light bulb aisle at your local hardware store and you may be amazed at the choices. And, you may be confused! I know that I have been. Well, after reading several articles and spending time wandering around the light bulb aisles, I have some suggestions that may help you choose light bulbs.
First, shop for lumens rather than watts. Watts are a measure of how much energy a light bulb requires to work. Lumens are a measure of how much light a bulb produces – the brightness of the bulb. Most of us typically shop for light bulbs by wattage, but lumen is the more useful measure when looking at different kinds of bulbs. For example, if you are accustomed to a table lamp light that used a 100-watt incandescent bulb, you will want to shop for a light bulb that produces about 1600 lumens. Other equivalents for traditional incandescent bulbs to keep in mind are:75 watts, 1100 lumens; 60 watts, 800 lumens; 40 watts, 450 lumens.
Carefully read the label of the light bulb when shopping. Look at the Kelvin (K) on the label that describes the color of the light. Some bulbs produce a blue-white, cool color while others look more yellowish and produce a warm color. Depending on where you plan to use the bulb, you may prefer one color tone over another.
Next, consider the cost of using the different bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs are expensive to use because they waste energy; compared to other bulbs, they produce heat instead of light. To produce about 800 lumens of light, a traditional incandescent 60-watt light bulb will cost about $4.80 per year, based on two hours per day of usage. A halogen incandescent light is a little better; it costs about $3.50 per year. In contrast, a ENERGY STAR CFL costs $1.20 and a ENERGY STAR LED only costs $1.00. How many light bulbs do you have in your house? Multiply this cost savings by the number of bulbs and you likely have a lot of money saved!
Finally, remember the convenience of using long-lasting light bulbs. CFLs last about ten times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs, and LEDS last 25 times longer. Think about how nice it will be to have lights that need replacing much less frequently.
Want to know even MORE about energy-efficient light bulbs. A good source is the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Savers: Lighting and Daylighting website. Let me know your thoughts about all of our new light bulb choices! What's working for you?
October 26, 2011
When the leaves start to change color, it seems as though the holiday season starts up and keeps going into the New Year. While the holidays can be a wonderful time, it also can be a time of high expenses. This year, start the holiday season by deciding how much you can comfortably spend and set-up a spending plan. Enjoy the holidays by planning your spending wisely.
Traditionally we talk about saving money in terms of gift-buying. But for many people costs include many things beyond gifts. Consider the results from a recent PriceGrabber's survey: household costs for Halloween include brand-new costumes (48% of respondents with children), home decorations (70% plan new purchases), and 18% of respondents plan to dress up their pets. Halloween has always been a fun holiday at our home, and I know that many years my Halloween expenses included candy, party treats, and adult costumes too.
Perhaps you're thinking, "Sure, I have Halloween expenses, but they really aren't much." Well, you might want to consider tracking your expenses this year. According to a Savers, Inc. survey, the average family is expected to spend $300 on Halloween this year.
After Halloween comes Thanksgiving (food, travel, and decorating expenses) and then winter holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa with other expenses. By the time the credit card bills arrive in January, we will have New Year's celebration expenses too. While I look forward to all the good times to come in the next few months, I also want to be sure that my January is not depressing!
To avoid a January with too many bills, plan now how much you want to spend in the next few months. Then stick to your plan.
The holiday season is a good time to stay organized. Make a list of all your expenses for each holiday and estimate how much you will spend. If you need help thinking of expense categories, University of Illinois Extension's worksheet, "Control Your Holiday Debt," at http://ow.ly/6JaZO is useful. For example, don't forget flowers and holiday plants -- and did you remember postage and shipping costs?
October 12, 2011
This question frequently comes in my workshops, so it is obviously an area of confusion.
The short answer is, No, making a payment on an old debt does not re-set the seven year clock for being reported on your credit history. However:
Most negative information can only be reported for seven years. A debt cannot be "re-aged" or given a new start date because you made a payment. Even if the debt is sold from one debt collector to another, the original delinquency date does not change and the seven-year clock does not reset.
If you see a debt on your credit history that is more than seven years old, you should dispute that information with the credit reporting agency to get it removed.
There are some exceptions to the seven-year rule. That time limit doesn't apply for certain kinds of information or to credit reports provided for certain purposes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, which is the regulatory authority on this subject:
A credit reporting company can report . . . bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you've applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.
Each state has laws that limit how long a creditor can sue you for nonpayment. These rules are statutes of limitations. The number of years varies from state to state and depends on the type of debt. Several sources that I read indicated that making a payment, or even agreeing to make a payment, could re-start the statute of limitations and re-start the clock for how long lenders could sue you. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, you still owe the debt, but the lender cannot sue you to collect.
The best overview of this subject that I found online was done by msn.com.
As I said at the beginning, the short answer is "No,' making a payment on an old debt does not change the seven-year period for being reported on your credit history.
Since it could re-set the statute of limitations check with a credit counseling organization or get legal advice if you're wrestling with this decision. To find a credit counselor, try the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or check the list of credit counselors approved by the Department of Justice to provide the financial counseling required for people filing bankruptcy. http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved.htm). For legal assistance in Illinois, check Illinois Legal Aid to locate an agency that can help you. Just make sure you understand how the rules apply in your particular situation and location.
October 6, 2011
How do you evaluate your sources of financial information? How do you "investigate" a person teaching a financial workshop? I recently received an email from a library that I have partnered with in the past. They were contacted by a man offering to teach a series of workshops about retirement planning at the library. He would charge participants a registration fee, which would be passed through to the library. Essentially, he was offering to teach the classes for free. The library wanted to know whether I had heard about this program before, and what I thought about it.
I started to reply with my gut reaction after reading the description. But then I realized that this was a great opportunity to practice what I preach, to evaluate this person and this workshop the way I tell consumers to.
First, I simply read over the information provided by the would-be presenter. The language was pretty vague and somewhat alarmist. I was concerned about several things – mainly what was not said. The email and attachment repeatedly referred to "conservative investing" as if it were an accepted investment strategy like diversification or dollar cost averaging. It isn't. And nowhere was the term explained. The presenter was described as a financial planner with extensive client experience, but there was no mention of any qualifications such as registrations, licenses, or certifications.
A book was listed as the course material. I googled the title and found it for sale, but I could find no comments or reviews about it. The table of contents and the pages I was able to view see were just like the syllabus – vague, alarmist language, not much concrete info.
Then, I investigated the presenter using what I learned from developing the website, Choosing a Financial Professional, with my colleague Kathy Sweedler. The results? The presenter is not a registered investment advisor. Neither is he is a registered representative (broker). Therefore, he cannot give investment advice (there are some exceptions) or sell any securities (investments). But he is licensed by the State of Illinois to sell life insurance.
Taken together, these issues raised a lot of red flags for me. My best guess is that program is about selling certain types of annuities that are regulated as insurance products and not as securities.
I get invitations to various kinds of financial workshops as a private individual. I read them with a critical eye, but I've never attended any of them. I'd be interested in your experiences How did you decide whether to attend? Did you feel you got education, or a sales pitch? What suggestions do you have about how to pick the good ones? Please click "Comment" below to share your thoughts. I'll look forward to hearing from you.