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October 19, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 19, 2012

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I~GEm HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2012 (New SA)--Is the cost of homelmid items getting you down. During tongh times, families are forced to cut their spending down to only the bare necesdties. Yet, even the basic essentials can take a big bite out of a financial budgec The key to trimming yotrlmtlmnline doesn't mean skimping on necessities; it means swdng money on them. So when shopping for your must-haves, make your dollar'stretch even further with these money saving tips: Switch to LED lightbulbs. The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandes= cent light bulb costs five to 10 times the original purchase price of the bulb itself. LEDs last up to 10 times longer than the typical bulb, andalthough they're more expensive than others, the cost is recouped over time and in battery savings. Invest in awater filter. Don't like the taste of tap water, but spending wads of cash on bottled water? A quality water filter can cut the costs of your water-drinking tremendously. A Brita filter costs around $20, but you must refill when it runs out. A family of four who drinks two gallons a day combined can save upwards o( $2,500 a year by using a filter. Install a programmable thermostat. This handy device is a crucial addition to your long-term money- saving strategy. Ranging in price from $30 to $130, it allows you'to automatically regulate your home's tem- perature at certain times of the day. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 10 percent on energy costs ayear by setting your thermostat back 10-15 degrees for eight hours out of the day. Skip the grocery store. Amazon.corn helps you save not only on books and mov- ies, but groceries, too. It has a program called "Subscribe & Save," where you sign up to automatically receive grocery staples every one, two, three or six months. That bag of Splenda that costs $10 at your local grocery store is only $6 on Amazon and ships to your home for free--saving you time, gas and money. Don't skimp on household items, save money on them. .wsUSAb--As homeown- ers withthe recession and impact of declining home prices, some are considering whether to continue paying their mortgage or simply walk away from the obligation. As a homeowner, when you con- template the recent decline in your home's value, perhaps belowyonr mortgage balance, you may consider options that normally would never have entered your mincL Regardless of what you might hear from relatives, friends or advisors, yon need to carefully consider the long-term impact of this important decision. Like selling any asset at a loss during a depressed pe- riod, walkingaway from your property may not be a smart move from a longer-term perspective. While the cur- rent housing crisis is severe, past history provides some perspective. Historically, markets have recovered over time. One example of a regional price de- cline and subsequent recovery was in Southern California, which experienced a severe downturn in the early 1990s that'saw home prices decline by 21 percent from their peak. However, prices recovered at an average rate of 6.9 percent per quarter, annualized for the next 14 quarters. Homeown- ers who purchased at the peak of the cycle in 1990 recouped their lost capital 10 years after the downturn began. Appreciation rates vary, and markets recover unevenly with some experiencing rapid price appreciation, making it difficult to time the market. Therefore, it's generally the long-term holder that benefits from appreciation. In many communities, the cost of renting can be more than the after-tax cost of mortgage payments on a house. Renting does not pro- vide the long-term benefits of ownership. These benefits include a forced savings plan (paying down principal and building equity over time) and stability of knowing you will not be forced to move at your landlord's whim. Unlike other financial as- sets, homeownership is also tied to factors that should not be underestimated, such as the stability of a sustainable home for your children and pets, as well as being part of a community. Even if your home's value has fallen significantly, tax benefits and compounding appreciation rates can still be on your side. U.S. tax laws still favor homeownership, par- ticularly for those in higher tax brackets. The tax shelter of deducting mortgage interest and property taxes an reduce the overall tax burden and en- able individuals to keep more of their income. Defaulting on your mort- gage can have implications beyond just losingyour home. The familiar saying, "My bank really owns my home" does not reflect the realities of ownership. Consider this: Regardless of the size of the loan you owe on the property, if you default, the lender must go through a lengthy and public process to take those owner- ship rights away from yotL The process of foreclosure can be particularly damaging to your credit. Your credit ratings are a valuable asset that should be protected. Defaulting on a debt obligation will not only impact your long-term credit ratings but could limit your ability to secure a riew place to live, as landlords often check credit ratings prior to renting. Also, your ability to qual- ify for certain employment, maintain a small business line of credit or obtain finan ing to purchase a car may be im- pacted as well as potentially taking several years to rees- tablish your credit ratings. These are just some of the considerations in evaluating whether to stay in your home. Both economic and personal decisions shoul [ be balanced before making a short-term decision that may not be ad- vantageous in the long term. For more information on foreclosure facts, alternatives, and where to find help, visit: (ARA)-,Gone are the days when hackers were the week- end enthusiasts tolerated on the golf course, when viruses were the things that gave you the flu or a cold, and Phishwas a popular jam band who served as the inspiration for your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry's. With the rise of the Internet and electronic devices has come the rise of cyher-related crime. Cybcrcrime, as it is called, is defined as a criminal activ- ity using computers or other electronic devices to victim- ize people, organizations or businesses. "Despite a global reces- sion, improved security and international crackdown ef- forts, cybercrime has thrived overthe last decade, growing by double digits year after year," says Clint Kirkwood, a professor of Criminal Justice at Argosy University, Orange County and 28-year veteran and retired commanding officer of the vice section of the narcotics division of the Detroit Police Department. While estimates of the cost of cyber crime to businesses and the private sector vary, a 2011 publication released by Javelin Strategy and Re- search, the annual cost of identity theft alone was $37 billion. "Today, some of the most successful criminals do not have to leave the comfort of their own homes to pull off crimes bigger than ever. All they need is an Internet connection, a little tech savvy and a lot of bad will," says Kirkwood. The Internet Crime Com- plaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints in 2011, which included such crimes as FBI-related scams, identity theft, advance fee fraud and a host of romance, work-from-home, auto auc- tion, loan intimidation and other scares. - "Since the take-off of social networking and the paperless way of conducting business, cyber-based driminal activ- ity has sky 'ocketed in many corners of the world," says Gary Gonzales, a professor in the Criminal Justice program at Argosy University, San Diego and police detective in his 16th year of service with the San Diego Police Department. ',Criminals are masking themselves as potential customers, clients or even professionals to lure innocent people into a web of deception and greed. From copyright infringement and cyber bullying to child por- nography and spamming, the impact is enormous." Knowing the threats you face online and the tools available to help you keep a watchful eye is critical in protecting yourself in the digital world. There are simple precautions that computer, mobile phone and other digital users can take to ensure their safety. D.o not open emails/attachments from unknown or suspicious sources, nor answer email messages that ask for your personal information. "The widows of Nigerian generals desperately seeking you financial assistance and notifications thatyou've won a European lottery are obvi- ous scams but some email fraud can be much more difficult to distinguish," says Arabinda Banerjee, senior vice president of Technology Infrastructure at a leading bank in Tampa, Florida and faculty member at Argosy University, TaTnpa. "In general, if it seems too good to be true or requires you to send money in to receive a reward, be sure to avoid it. Emails with vague but feel-good subject lines like 'Congratulations!, or the name of a friend and the message 'has shared a picture/video,' can be mali- cious emails, even when apparently sent out by one of your friends." Do an Internet search using the term 'scam' and some of the key words from the message, advises Ba- nerjee. If it's a known scare, you'll likely see it pop up in your search engine results. Invest in a good anti-virus software and firewall, the experts suggest. While this will not guarantee 100 percent protection, they will definitely reduce your risk greatly. Be sure that any WiFi connec- tion you are using to conduct financial business is locked and protected and any stores you are making purchases from are reputable. In addi- tion, be sure to monitor your financial accounts monthly to determine any fraudulent charges and report suspicious activity 'immediately. Change your passwords frequently and create pass- words that are difficult to guess. Do not use the same ID/password in all websites. While,keeping track of mul- tiple logins and passwords may be an inconvenience, it's a necessary protection against hackers. (StatePoint)-,Driving is getting more expensive. Ac- cording to a recent study by AAA, the cost of owning and operatir a car rose nearly 2 percent on average over the past year. That's why so many consumers who are in the market for a new vehicle are putting a premium on fuel efficiency. "Whether you're looking to go green for the sake of the planet or for the sake of your pocketbook, you're in luck," says Andrew Stoy, digital editor for the Au- toweek Media Group. "Fed- eral mandated efficiency standards are becoming more stringent." The experts at shopau- have .identi- fied the top fuel-efficiency performers in each vehicle category. So before driving that car offthe lot, consider those cars that top their respective categories: Two-Seaters: Honda CRZ HEV--37 MPG Mini-Compact: Scion iQ---37 MPG Subcompact: Mitsubishi i-MiEV (electric)--112 MPG Compact: Focus BEV FWD (electric)B105 MPG Midsize: Nissan Leaf--99 MPG (electric) Sedans: Hyundai So- nata-28 MPG Small Station Wagon: Audi A3--34 MPG Midsize Station Wagon: Toyota Priu V Hybrid- --34 MPG Small Pickup Trucks: Toyota Tacoma 2WD--22 Standard Pickup Trucks: GMC Sierra 15 Hybrid tied with Chevrolet Silverado 15 Hybrid--21 MPG Minivan: Mazda 5--24 MPG Sport-Utility Vehicle: Lexus RX450h--30 MPG No matter what vehicle you purchase, you'll save some pain at the pump with proper maintenance. Increase your fuel efficiency with these great tips: Give your engine a tune- up: If your engine is in need of a tune-up, chances are you are compromising your fuel economy. It could mean you have a more serious problem such as an electronic one. Replacing a faulty oxygen sen- sor for example can improve your MPG. Maintain proper tire pressure: You can't just set the correct tire presSure and forget it. The volume of air in your tires is constantly changing due to the pas- sage of time and shifts in environment. Kee[3 your tires inflated to the recommended tire pressure found in your owner's manual to improve your gas mileage. Use the recommended grade of oil that is energy conserving: Using a different grade than is recommended by the manufacturer can lower your gas mileage. To get the maximum fuel economy, the Department of Energy recommends using motor oil designated as "energy conserving," as it contains friction-reducing additives. Don't carry extra gear: Extra weight can greatly reduce fuel economy. Take a The 2012 GMC Sierra Hybrid is a top performer in fuel efficiency. look at what you are carrying More automotive tips and around and remove anything advice can be found at www. you don't need on a daily basis,