Avoiding Home Improvement Scams

Wednesday, January 30 at 02:00 PM
Category: Arvest News

Signs of a Home Improvement Scam

Finding a capable and reliable contractor is important — a home improvement project gone wrong can cost you more than money; it can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems.

A good ad isn’t proof a contractor does quality work. Find out for yourself. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve had improvement work done. Also check out a contractor’s reputation on online ratings sites you trust. Get written estimates from several firms, keeping in mind the lowest bidder may not be the best choice.

How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? Don’t do business with someone who:

  • Pressures you for an immediate decision.
  • Only accepts cash, asks you to pay everything up-front, or tells you to borrow money from a lender the contractor knows.
  • Is not licensed. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area.
  • “Just happens” to have materials left over from a previous job.
  • Knocks on your door for business or offers you discounts for finding other customers.
  • Asks you to get the required building permits.
  • Tells you your job will be a "demonstration” or offers a lifetime warranty or long-term guarantee.
  • Doesn’t list a business number in the local telephone directory.

For more tips, check out Hiring a Contractor.

The Home Improvement Loan Scam

Here’s how it works: a contractor calls or comes to your door and offers a deal to install a new roof or remodel your kitchen. He says he can arrange financing through a lender he knows. After he starts, he asks you to sign papers; they may be blank — or he might hustle you along and not give you time to read through them. Later you find out you’ve agreed to a home equity loan with a high interest rate, points, and fees. What’s worse, the work on your home isn’t done right or isn’t completed, and the contractor — who may already have been paid by the lender — has lost interest.

To avoid a loan scam, don’t:

  • Agree to a home equity loan if you don’t have the money to make the payments.
  • Sign a document you haven’t read or that has blank spaces to be filled in after you sign.
  • Let anyone pressure you into signing any document.
  • Deed your property to anyone. Consult an attorney, a knowledgeable family member, or someone else you trust if you’re asked to.
  • Agree to financing through your contractor without shopping around and comparing loan terms.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education
 

How to Protect Your Retirement in Volatile Times

Wednesday, January 30 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

The volatility of the stock market over the past few years has resulted in many investors seeing their retirement accounts shrink in value. While the stock prices may rise over time, many individuals are being forced to re-examine their retirement plans. For older individuals with less time until their planned retirement, a serious review of their financial future may be essential.

Within the current environment, here are some options to consider as you refine your retirement plan:

Save more while you are working

Be sure to take full advantage of any company offered retirement plan. If you participate in a 401(k) plan, contribute as much as you can and at least enough to earn the entire match the company may offer.

Set up an automatic savings plan. Have a set amount deducted from each paycheck and deposited into an account you earmark for retirement.

Examine your monthly household spending to see if there are ways to spend a little less. Refinancing your mortgage, increasing your insurance deductibles and reducing spending on discretionary items can add up.

Earn more on your retirement assets before you retire

Examine how your funds are invested and how your "cash" is employed. A well thought out asset allocation for your investments, one that incorporates your time horizon and risk tolerance, can provide diversification and some peace of mind. Generally, the younger you are, the more of your long-term investments should be in equities. Over time, high quality stocks have produced greater returns than bonds and cash investments.

Your cash should be working hard too. Take advantage of higher interest rates on accounts that provide less liquidity and on longer term CDs if you can leave the money in the accounts or CDs for longer periods.

Work longer until you retire

Delaying your retirement enables you to have more for retirement in several ways:

  • While working, you can save more in your retirement plan and through regular savings.

  • Especially with your tax-deferred retirement accounts, leaving all your funds within the account enable them to grow faster. For example, if you delay retirement for five years and earn just 5% on the funds, you will have about 27% more just from the earnings.

  • Delaying when you start collecting Social Security will increase your monthly benefits. If you are currently 55 years old, you can start collecting full Social Security retirement benefits at age 66. If you start at age 62, you will only get about 75% of that amount and if you wait and start collecting at age 70, you will get about 130% of that amount.

Spend less during your retirement years

Everyone wants a "full and active lifestyle" during retirement. Perhaps you should consider changing exactly what the "full and active lifestyle" means. Less travel, less expensive cars or foregoing a second home (or opting for a smaller one) will make a difference. Anticipating and setting sensible spending priorities will probably be part of many individuals' retirement.

 

Tags: Financial Education, Retirement
 

6 Tips to Sleep Better and Save Money

Wednesday, January 30 at 02:00 PM
Category: Arvest News

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep is good for your health, but did you know it can also be good for your wallet?

The average person spends about 1/3 of their life sleeping – that adds up to around 25 years! Studies show that poor sleeping habits can cause long-term medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Sleep deprivation can also affect your brain functionality, leading to mental exhaustion and impaired decision-making. Any of these consequences from poor sleep can have a hefty impact on your bank account, whether it be from increased medical bills or poor financial decisions made while tired. By adding a few healthy habits to your daily routine, however, you have the opportunity improve your health and your savings.

To maximize your sleep, The National Sleep Foundation offers these tips for healthy sleeping habits:

  • Establish a sleep routine. Try to go bed and wake up at the same time every day – including weekends.
  • Exercise. Staying active during the day will help you sleep when your head hits the pillow.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals at night. Wait at least two to three hours after eating before going to bed.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Shop around and test products until you find what is right for you.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime routine. Calming activities like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to soft music can help ease you into sleep mode.
  • Create a sleep haven. The ideal sleeping environment should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees, quiet, and free of light. Consider a fan, ear plugs, or eye masks to obtain the optimal setting for sleep.

Make these tips a part of your routine to enjoy the benefits of a good night’s sleep – and maybe some extra savings too! For more information about the importance of sleep and tips on how to catch more Zzz’s, grab your pillow, put on your PJs, and check out The National Sleep Foundation.

Tags: Financial Education
 

Cyber Monday Tips for the Best Savings

Wednesday, November 21 at 09:00 AM
Category: Arvest News

After a few days of food, family and football, Cyber Monday caps off the long Thanksgiving weekend. Grab your computer and wish list and check out these tips for making the most of your paycheck this holiday shopping season.

Start With a List

Before you begin typing anything into a search engine or browsing your favorite online retail catalogs, be sure to make a list of what you are looking for. Even the most seasoned shopper can get carried away with the surplus of deals and the frenzy of the hunt. Before too long, the online shopping cart may be overflowing with frivolous, unnecessary purchases.

Avoid the over-spending trap by knowing ahead of time what you plan to buy and where you plan to shop.  Money Crashers* even suggests bookmarking your favorite retailer’s websites prior to the big day. If you organize the bookmarks in a folder, and stick to those sites, you will be less tempted to stray from your list or impulse buy.

Enhance Savings

The money-saving opportunities on Cyber Monday are already extensive, but if you sign up for an Arvest Consumer Credit Card you could earn up to $100 in additional rewards points. After you sign up, continue to use your new card on everyday purchases to earn even more rewards to redeem later.

In addition to credit card rewards, Overstock* recommends looking for coupons and promo codes ahead of time. Your favorite retailers may even send coupons via email or text message in the days leading up to Cyber Monday. Put those promo codes to use and make your purchases even more affordable.

Strategize your Time

Make sure to do plenty of research before picking a website to start scanning. Most retailers host sales at varying times and stagger discounts. If you plan ahead and decide which websites to scour first, you will not miss out on any great deals.

MoneyTips* encourages shoppers to be aware of limited time offers—especially those offered early in the morning. Being mindful of when the best deals will be offered, and spending a little extra time planning accordingly will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.

Double-Check Deals

Pay attention to product prices in the days leading up to Cyber Monday, and familiarize yourself with normal retail prices. This will help to distinguish between a truly great deal and a rip-off. According to Retail Wire*, a few years ago Amazon initially lowered their prices for Black Friday, but raised them again for Cyber Monday. Be a savvy shopper and train yourself to recognize true bargains. Plus, remember to use your credit card at checkout to earn rewards on almost every purchase.

Additionally, The Balance Everyday* reminds customers to factor in shipping costs when ordering online. Even though the items in your online cart may seem like a great deal, the cost for shipping could elevate the price. If you want to avoid unexpected expenses, opt to shop exclusively on websites that offer free shipping.

The views of this article are for general information use only. Please contact and speak with a subject expert or your banker when specific advice is needed.

*Link is a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

 

 

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education
 

Shop For More Than Back-to-School Deals

Thursday, July 19 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Late summer and early fall are great times to save on the essential supplies for schools and offices, with deals on everything from paper to personal computers. It’s also a great time to make end-of-summer, stock-up and big-ticket purchases that don’t involve the school books. Here are some items you may want to consider purchasing within the next few months.

Big-ticket items. As companies prepare to unveil new models for the coming year, they’re also more than ready to offload the current year’s inventory. This can mean savings on big purchases such as:

  • Vehicles
  • Appliances
  • Mattresses
  • Cell phones
  • Lawnmowers
  • Tools
  • Bicycles

Do your homework on which dealerships, brands and stores are offering the deepest discounts and don’t be afraid to ask about add-ins or additional features that normally cost extra. Dealerships and even big-box stores are typically happy to discuss price options in order to quickly switch over inventory.

Stock up for next summer. Take the time to anticipate what you may need next summer, while being cautious about buying certain items or sizes that might not work out - such as for rapidly growing children. Here are a few ideas:

  • Warm-weather clothing
  • Summer accessories like hats and sunglasses
  • Swimsuits
  • Footwear
  • Summer home gear: air conditioners, dehumidifiers and fans

These summer favorites will see significant discounts to make room for fall attire and items for the holiday season.

Traveling soon? Speaking of the upcoming holiday season, it’s time to begin booking airfare for out-of-state and international trips. A good rule of thumb is to purchase your tickets two months in advance and compare prices on multiple well-known travel sites. Be sure to read the fine print for blackout dates, cancellation options and other special policies.

School and miscellaneous supplies. It’s called back-to-school shopping for a reason. Watch for deals on supplies for the kids, your home office and similar items. Dorm room sales are great for basic home purchases on small kitchen appliances, linens, storage containers and more. Consider using coupon and other cash back apps to help boost your savings even more. Similar to airfare, read the fine print to ensure you aren’t spending more to only save a little.

Be prepared. Write out ahead of time what you’re hoping to purchase and your ideal budget. It’s easy to get caught up in the deals and promotions and you may end up overspending and buying items you have no real use for.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage, when possible, of your state’s tax-free weekend.

Tax free weekends by state:

Arkansas will begin on Saturday, August 4 and end on Sunday, August 5

Missouri will begin on Friday, August 3 and end on Sunday, August 5

Oklahoma will begin on Friday, August 3 and end on Sunday, August 5

 

 

 

Tags: Financial Education

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