Hurricane Financial Toolkit

Natural disasters create a need for unique actions.  After physical safety is assured, some of the activities related to finances include:

  • contacting your insurance company – request a copy of your policy, take photos and videos to document your claim.
  • registering for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
  • talking with your mortgage lender and credit card companies since you may not be able to make upcoming payments on time.
  • contacting utility companies to suspend service if you will not be living in your home due to damage.

Beware of various scams that surface after natural disasters.  These frauds can include phony repairs, deceptive contractors, requiring up-front fees, fake charities, and misrepresenting oneself as an insurance company agent or government representative to obtain personal information.

Assistance for the personal and financial chaos created by a hurricane or other natural disaster may be obtained from these organizations:

For additional information on financial actions for disasters, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students role play situations that might require actions such as those described in this article.
  • Have students create a video with suggestions to take when encountering a natural disaster.

Discussion Questions 

  1. How might the advice offered in this article be communicated to people who are victims of a natural disaster?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when encountering a natural disaster.

Phantom Debt Collectors

Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive for amounts they do not owe.  Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect them.

The FTC is warning consumers to be alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors.  It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one.

A caller may be a fake debt collector if he/she:

  • is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
  • refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • asks for personal financial or sensitive information; or
  • exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to make a list of protections provided by the Fair Collection Practices Act.
  2. Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if the harassment continues.

Discussion Questions

  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, why is it important to ask the caller for his name, company, street address, or telephone number?
  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, should you stop speaking with the caller? Why or why not?

Vending Machines for Cars?

Believe it or not, you can buy a car from a vending machine.  Carvana has created an eight-story high glass structure holding 30 cars. The online auto retailer opened its first vehicle vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee, and also has locations in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas. Payment, financing, and trade-ins are arranged online.  Free delivery is offered in the areas served.  However, buyers have the option of receiving an oversized Carvana coin to drop in a slot to automatically move the car to the delivery bay ready to drive.

For additional information on Carvana, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for a website or app related to car buying services that was not available a few years ago.
  • Have students talk with others about their car buying experiences. Ask students to propose an app or website that would improve car buying activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What benefits are associated with this type of motor vehicle buying process?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when buying a motor vehicle?

Investing in Collectible Coins

Collectible coins have some historic or aesthetic value to collectors.  The value of many collector coins exceeds their melt value because the precious metal content is so small.  Coin collectors refer to this collectible value as numismatic value, and it is determined by factors such as the type of coin, the year it was minted, the place it was minted, and its condition—or “grade.”

Dealers who sell collectible coins often have valuable coins graded by professional services.  A grader examines the coin’s condition based on a set of criteria.  Then the grader assigns it a numerical grade from one to 70, and places it in a plastic cover for protection.  But factors like “overall appearance” and “eye appeal” are subjective, and the grade assigned to a particular coin can vary among dealers.

Expect to hold your investment for at least 10 years before possibly realizing a profit.  That’s because dealers usually sell collectible coins at a markup.  In addition, the market for numismatic coins may not be the same as the market for precious metals or bullion coins.  It’s possible that the price of gold can increase while the value of a gold numismatic coin decreases.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask Students to make a list of the risks and rewards of investing in collectible coins.
  2. Ask students how they can protect themselves from fraudulent practices in the collectibles market.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some important questions to ask before you invest in collectible coins?
  • Is it possible to make a practical decision about buying a particular coin based on a photo or conversation with the seller?
  • Why is it important to get a second opinion about the grade and value of the coin you are considering to buy?

Tiny House Living-Is it for you?

Tiny houses (usually 400 square feet or less) have become popular with many people, as they offer these benefits:

  • quick access to a comfortable home with probably no mortgage payments.
  • you can learn from your home-building mistakes if you decide to build a larger home.
  • lower home ownership costs with the possibility of living off-grid.
  • an environmentally-friendly design with little or no toxins.
  • a simpler, less cluttered life with creative ideas to effectively use space.
  • potential for better communication with family members as a result of close quarters.

However, common drawbacks of buying and living in a tiny house include:

  • limited privacy, no place for solitude.
  • limited living space; little room for entertaining guests and family.
  • limited kitchen and storage space.
  • more trips to the store-no buying in bulk, and usually driving further to stores.
  • tiny houses may be on wheels or on a foundation, restrictions may exist as to where you may park or build.

For additional information on tiny houses:

Link #1

Link #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for online videos about tiny house living to obtain additional information on benefits and drawbacks.
  • Have students design a tiny house that would fit their life situation.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What personal factors should be considered when building a tiny house?
  2. Describe life situations of people who might be appropriate for tiny house living.

New Medicare cards are on the way

Changes are coming to your Medicare card.  By April 2019, your card will be replaced with one that no longer shows your Social Security number.  Instead, your card will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status.

Having your Social Security number removed from your Medicare card helps fight medical identity theft and protects your medical and financial information.

Here are some common Medicare scams relating to the new cards:

  • Someone calling, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for your Social Security number or bank information.
  • Someone asking you to pay for your new card.
  • Someone threatening to cancel your benefits if you don’t provide information or money?

For more on the new changes to your Medicare card, visit Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  And report scams to the FTC.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. How do you think this change will affect patients? You?
  2. Replacing Social Security number with Health Insurance Claim Number will cost millions of taxpayers dollars. Do you think it is worth the expense?

Discussion Questions

  • What is the biggest reason the Social Security is taking the Social Security Number off of Medicare cards?
  • How will the new system affect people with Medicare?
  • Who will be the affected stakeholders?

Could usage-based car insurance save you money?

  1. How does it work?

Most usage-based car insurance policies have you plug a small device into your car’s diagnostic port, which is usually under the dashboard.  Others use cell phone connections or apps.  All of them send information about your driving to your insurer.

  1. Is it a good deal?

It could lower your premium if you drive safely and don’t drive lots of miles.

  1. How about my privacy?

There are many privacy issues to consider related to these types of policies.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to find out if their car insurer offers usage-based insurance.
  2. Under what circumstance will you consider purchasing usage-based car insurance?

Discussion Questions

  • What might be the purpose of using global positioning systems and other technology in determining the car insurance premiums?
  • Will younger drivers embrace the monitoring devices, especially when car chips allow parents to monitor the speed and braking habits of young drivers?

Financial Plan – Silent Killers

CPAs and financial advisers point out five “silent killers” that create barriers for the successful implementation of estate, retirement, and investment plans.  These common mistakes are:

1. Unrealistic Expectations. A valid financial plan must be based on practical assumptions, such as an appropriate forecast of rate of return, inflation, and future cash flow needs
2. Emotional Decision Making. Feelings and personal sentiment must be identified and minimized when setting goals and planning financial projections.
3. Inflexibility. A useful financial plan must take into account unexpected events. Creation of an emergency fund and contingency plan is vital.
4. Inaction. Without a plan for action, the perfect financial plan is worthless. Common results of inaction can be not having appropriate of property and casualty insurance coverage, financial hardship of dependents due to inadequate life and disability coverage, failing to address how assets are to be distributed in an estate plan, and overlooking a tax strategy.
5. Unclear Values and Priorities. Being on the wrong path will result in an undesired financial destination. Reflection of areas of importance and priorities is fundamental for implementing a financial plan and achieving financial goals.

For additional information on financial planning silent killers, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with others about barriers they have encountered in their financial decision making.
  • Have students create situations that reflect each of the five situations. Ask them to suggest actions to overcome these difficulties.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Explain which of these financial planning barriers you believe is the most dangerous.
  2. What are possible actions a person might take to avoid these financial planning barriers?

Innovation for Improved Financial Health

Mobile start-up companies and other organizations are working with financial institutions to assist consumers with apps and websites that address various financial tasks and concerns.  These include:

  • Albert (www.meetalbert.com) is a mobile app to guide your financial decisions with the assistance of various financial institutions.
  • EARN (www.earn.org) is a national nonprofit to help low-income families create a habit of saving and break the cycle of financial instability.
  • eCreditHero (www.getcredithero.com) is designed to fix errors that appear on an estimated 80 percent of the credit reports of Americans.
  • Scratch (www.scratch.fi) helps borrowers to better understand, manage, and repay loans.
  • WiseBanyan (www.wisebanyan.com) is a free financial advisor that suggests and manages investment plans for various financial goals, such as savings for retirement, creating an emergency fund, and buying a home.

For additional information on innovative financial planning apps, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for a website or app that would be of value of improved personal financial planning.
  • Have students talk to others about the financial concerns they face. Ask students to propose an app or website that would address a personal finance concern.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What personal financial planning areas provide people with the most difficulty?
  2. Describe potential apps or websites that might be created to assist people with their personal financial planning activities?

Financial Literacy Survey

Based on an online survey of personal finance knowledge, 40 percent of Americans earn a grade of C or worse. Financially literate people possess a fundamental understanding of money management activities, and are able to apply them for their financial well being.

The Wallet Literacy survey is available to assess your financial literacy. This test covers a wide range of topics, including credit scores, paycheck deductions, emergency funds, car insurance, home buying, inflation, and investment risk. Respondents are encouraged to use a calculator and other resources when taking the survey.

For additional information on the financial literacy survey, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students take the financial literacy survey to determine the areas where additional learning is needed.
  • Have students encourage others to take the survey, and then have students talk with them about their results.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What items on the survey are topic areas for which most people need additional learning?
  2. How might people be encouraged to learning more about various personal finance topics?